Family & Recovery: Addiction as a Family Matter

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC for Addiction Hope

feet-316978_640Addiction, whether it be to drugs or alcohol, are mental health illnesses with far-reaching consequences. Perhaps one of the more dangerous aspects of addiction is the manner in which behaviors can be disguised.

Many individuals who suffer with addiction may attempt to maintain their behaviors as long as possible without being discovered. Not only are addictions isolating, but also an addict may feel shameful, scared, or guilty about admitting or sharing their struggles.

Seeing the Changes from the Outside

From a family’s perspective, it may be confusing to observe a loved one undergo the changes they may be experiencing as a result of an addiction. You may notice several red flags, or indicators that your loved one is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, but you may feel uncertain about what to do with this information.

Perhaps you have seen your loved one decline in their physical health or overall appearance. Or maybe you have seen a drastic change in their personality or mood. There is also the possibility that your family’s finances have been jeopardized as a result of addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Whatever the signs may be, you are likely able to discern that something is not right in the person you love and care for.

Negative Emotions from Both Sides

How can these differences be reconciled between the addict and their family in a way that is productive and helpful? As an addict, you may feel like your family members are against you or that they do not understand the position that you are facing.

On the other side of things, family members may feel betrayed, or uncertain about how to approach their loved one about destructive behaviors.

Getting Professional Help

In these types of situations, it is critical to have the assistance of a trained addiction specialist who can help intervene between family members and the individual struggling with an addiction. Because addictions are complex and multifaceted, many painful emotions can be triggered throughout this process, for all parties involved.

In addition, there may be many aspects about the addiction that the family members do not understand. For example, on the surface, it may appear that their loved one cares about nothing more than maintaining their addiction, even at the expense of destroying family relationships, finances, and more.

However, the reality may be that the addict is suffering through difficult circumstances, and “being high” is the only way in which they know how to cope through their struggles.

Having the outside perspective of a trained health professional can be invaluable through the process of addiction recovery, not just for the addict but also for the family members involved. Starting from the intervention process through the various stages of treatment, addiction specialists can help support families through the overwhelming process of addiction.

Remembering the Bonds that Tie You

friends-438438_640No matter the uncertainties you may be facing as a family as a result of an addiction, it is essential to remember the love and devotion you have for each other. Seek out the many resources that are available to you to ensure that you come out through this stronger and united as a family. This includes:

  • Family-based therapy for addiction treatment
  • Support groups
  • Group therapy

By choosing to be an active and integral part of your loved one’s treatment and recovery, you will find that you can better understand how to support them through this process.

An Ongoing, Lifelong Process

It is also important to remember that addiction recovery is an ongoing process, one that will require family support for a lifetime. While the journey does get easier, your loved one will need accountability and encouragement from those closest to him or her.

Above all else, it is essential to keep your hope alive. Find the support you need as a family to keep going, even in the most difficult and bleakest times. Find ways to rejuvenate yourselves and healthy ways to cope with any stress you may be feeling.

The process of addiction recovery will challenge your family, but you will also grow and be strengthened in ways you never thought possible. In a situation that would destroy your family, know that hope, restoration, and renewal are possible.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What is your experience with family support in addiction recovery?

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 5th, 2014
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.