Every person who struggles with addiction is connected to a circle of family and friends also struggling through the effects of their loved one’s substance abuse.
The likelihood of an individual developing an addiction is often influenced by genetics, home life or environment as well as epigenetics—an area of DNA studies in which DNA can adapt or change based on experiences like taking drugs.1 In all three categories of substance abuse influences, family heritage is represented. Family heritage is certainly a key factor in developing an addiction; however, the family is likely the group most affected by an individual’s addiction, too. Thankfully, there are great ways for families of addicted individuals to help their loved one overcome addiction as well as begin to heal as a family from the effects of the addiction.
Addiction in the Family
Addiction affects family members of all ages; however, children are particularly susceptible to lasting challenges because of a parent’s substance abuse. For instance, children of alcoholics are three to four times more likely to become adult addicts themselves compared to children from non-alcoholic households.2
The family dynamic only worsens when more than one addict is in the picture, which is often the case. The effects of addiction are compounded on families when multiple people are fighting addiction.
Helping the Family
Addiction certainly takes a toll on family members. Every day people suffer emotionally, financially and even physically due to their loved one’s addiction. It also can be difficult to know the appropriate line of helping a loved one and inadvertently enabling their addiction, like wondering if you should loan the money for rent or if you should wait up for the daughter who is out late again.
In theory, it sounds easy to avoid enabling an addict. No one wants to help a loved one abuse drugs or alcohol, but often we do it indirectly and unintentionally.
Although some family members are directly responsible by providing others with the drugs, particularly with opioids,3 enabling behaviors can be much less clear to detect and correct. Often loaning money—even for seemingly valid reasons—becomes a way to enable an addiction.
Enabling comes in the form of excuses, too, such as, “It’s his mother’s fault he ended up this way,” or “She’s been through a lot. She needs to drink to cope.” Rather than explaining away a loved one’s substance abuse, it is better to set boundaries and stick to them.
It is important to communicate these boundaries with all members of the family so that you can together help your loved one seek treatment. By deciding together the best course of how to love your addicted family member and being firm in carrying out those decisions, you ultimately protect your family from further hurt.
Groups to Support Loved Ones
There are many resources to help families who are working to overcome the effects of a loved one’s addiction. Some common resources available through many community programs include:
- Al-Anon and Alateen – These two groups are branches from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) focusing on helping loved ones of an addict and particularly juvenile family members respectively. Both are peer based support groups, much like AA.
- SMART Recovery Family & Friends – By providing material for family and friends of addicts, this organization helps an addict’s community better understand the nature of addiction.
- Family therapy – A more traditional approach, family therapy seeks the care of a therapist to help family members heal through individualized treatment plans.
- Families Anonymous – Families Anonymous is another support group approach intended to help each other cope with addiction in the family. The focus is on group members, not the related addicts.
Community-based support groups are a great way to start the journey to healing as a family.
Interventions and Treatment Options
An intervention is one of the most successful methods of urging addicts into treatment when they aren’t readily willing to go. Some addicts don’t want to admit or accept that they need help, and a skilled interventionist can help you encourage the addict in your life to find the courage to get better. An interventionist can help you properly plan for the event by choosing the best model or style of intervention as well as other details like timing, location, writing letters to your loved one and determining appropriate consequences if treatment is refused.
Another way an interventionist can serve you is by helping discern treatment needs and understanding different treatment options available. When the addict in your life says it’s time to get help, it’s important to act quickly. Therefore, choosing a treatment admission plan beforehand is important so you can get your loved one into care promptly to begin the healing process.
Some options to consider include residential or outpatient treatment, detox needs, travel plans, financial constraints and co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders.
Co-occurring disorders are extremely common and may be previously undiagnosed — in 2014, 7.9 million Americans had co-occurring disorders.4 These individuals need specialized care that is geared toward treating not just their substance abuse issues but their mental health struggles as well through integrated treatment. For families, the reality of co-occurring disorders may be unsettling; therefore, it is important to choose a treatment facility that can also help family members in the healing process.
After the intensive portion of treatment is complete, recovering addicts and their family members must decide the best way or them to return to normal life. Sober living homes are a great option for many people because they offer a safe atmosphere to practice the skills learned in treatment in a home-like environment. Whenever your loved one does make the leap into daily life at home, aftercare is essential — both for the individual and the family. Many facilities will help you connect with ongoing care through 12-Step groups or other community programs and will continue to offer support and resources, too.
If you or a loved one is fighting addiction and ready to get help, please call our toll-free, 24-hour helpline today. Located in Memphis, The Oaks at La Paloma can help your family and your loved one begin the healing process. Please call now.
2 “Effects of Parental Substance Abuse on Children and Families.” American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. 2014.Web. Accessed 20 August 2017.
3 Morgan, D. “Prescription drug abuse abetted by family, friends: study.” Reuters. 24 April 2012.Web. Accessed 20 August 2017.