When one person is suffering, the entire family suffers too. This is true for most diseases, including heart disease, dementia, and multiple sclerosis – but it’s especially true for substance abuse.
Substance abuse is a far-reaching disease that can impact family members in various ways. Everyone in an addict’s immediate family will be affected. Unfortunately, no one can escape the effects of drug addiction. It can impact the family’s finances as well as their emotional and physical health.
The severity of addiction does factor into the overall impact, but there are some common ways that addiction hurts the family system.
Addiction Changes Family Roles
Whether we realize it or not, we all have a role to play in our families. Maybe you’re the organizer or the one who brings the family together. We each play our part in creating balance within our homes. Naturally, when one family member suffers from addiction, that balance is disturbed.
It’s as if there’s another family member and everyone must adjust to accommodate the addiction.
Here are some common roles that family members take on:
Children suffer the most when the addicted family member is one of their parents. Unfortunately, the impacts are deep and long-lasting. Having an addicted parent can lead to emotional scars that the child will carry with her into adulthood. Children of parents who struggle with substance abuse are more likely to suffer from:
Children of alcoholics are four times more likely to develop alcoholism and are more likely to marry an abusive spouse later in life. Parents who suffer from substance abuse are also more likely to get divorced, and that comes with another its own set of common issues.
How Having an Addicted Child Impacts the Family
When a child suffers from addiction, it can take a serious emotional toll on everyone, especially the parents. They worry about their child’s safety and well-being, and they also may begin to question their own abilities as parents. Parents of addicted children can feel hopeless, but they do have some financial power. This may not end addiction in itself, but parents can cut funds to children who are abusing substances. From here, it may be easier to get the child to agree to a treatment program. If they no longer have access to drugs or alcohol, they may be forced to admit they have a problem.
How Having an Addicted Partner Impacts the Family
Unfortunately, there is a strong link between substance abuse and domestic violence. People who abuse substances are more likely to abuse their partners, and people who are victims of abuse are more likely to abuse substances. It can be a vicious cycle.
How to Handle Addiction in the Family
Regardless of which family member is suffering, parent, spouse or child, the first thing you should understand is that you’re not alone. While no one has had your precise experience, many have had very similar experiences.
If you are in an abusive situation, get help for yourself right away. There are organizations that can help abused partners find safe refuge from abuse in order to rebuild.
If you want to help a parent, child, or spouse who is suffering from substance abuse, start the conversation. Talk to them about the problem and the need to get help before it takes an even bigger hold on the family. Talk about how it is impacting every family member and how you need to heal together as a family unit. From here, you can help get that person into rehab and begin your long path to recovery.