Addiction's Effects on Families
According to five years of data from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, one in eight children under the age of eighteen has lived with a parent struggling with a substance use disorder. This includes 7.5 million kids who had at least one parent with alcohol addiction in the last year and 2.1 million kids living with at least one parent struggling with illicit drug use disorder.
See our latest infographic on families and addiction here.
When a person develops a substance use disorder or any type of addiction, the entire family system often feels some sort of ripple effects. The intensity of theses ripples can differ based on a variety of factors. These include, but are not limited to:
- The closeness of a family member to the addicted loved one
- A family member's own family-of-origin history and any related trauma
- Length or intensity of the loved one's addiction
- Addiction-related stressors or issues like legal issues, financial strain, housing or homelessness, etc.
When we contemplate solutions for addiction or recovery from substance use disorder, it's easy to focus on the individual with the substance use disorder. Their struggles feel severe and urgent. Because of the nature of substance use disorder, it is common for the addicted person to enter treatment when life dysfunction has come to a head or a rock bottom has been reached. It is clear that change is needed and that the current way of life (which includes substance use disorder) is detrimental and unsustainable.
A supportive family system (or even a broader support system beyond the family) is nowhere near a given for those battling substance use disorders. The absence of a cohesive and supportive family unit may be a trigger for substance use disorder, a consequence of substance use disorder, or some combination of both.
In the presence of a supportive family system, it is often a family member who first reaches out to a treatment center or interventionist for help. The family's concern is rightfully on their loved one, who is spiraling or stuck in dysfunction. Though families may opt to pursue an intervention with their loved one on their own, interventions that occur under the guidance and with the support of an intervention professional can be more successful, up to 90% effective.
Though many families primarily focus on getting treatment for their loved one battling addiction, it must not be the sole concern. No matter the apparent health of the family unit or individual family members, addiction takes a toll. It is critical for the family members to take a look at their own physical, mental, and relational health too, even when it doesn't feel nearly as urgent.
Once the family members have a moment to breathe, it's time for them to consider what may be going on in their own hearts and lives. Questions to consider may include:
- How am I handling the addiction of my loved one?
- What issues does their addiction stir in me or bring up from my past?
- What are my fears, and how am I handling them?
- What is my attachment style?
- How are my relationships?
Self-reflection for family members is a critical part of their own healing process. Working with a certified and licensed therapist for even deeper work and healing can be lifegiving. Even on "easy" days, therapy reflections and assignments can help build healthier habits and course-correct any dysfunction.
At All Points North Lodge, we utilize a family focus to help key family members enter into a parallel process with their loved one in treatment. We believe that family members should not just work on their relationship with the loved one in treatment but also on themselves. So we offer a virtual family support group each week for families of current and past clients. For families of clients who are on-campus in trauma therapy or substance abuse treatment for at least 28-days, a key family member or two will be assigned a separate therapist for weekly therapy calls for themselves.
Are you a family member of someone struggling with addiction, trauma, or mental health? Give us a call or chat with our team for a free consultation or to find out how we can help you and your loved one.
References & Resources
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