Family Dynamics of Addiction and Recovery
Understanding the family dynamics of addiction and recovery is an important part of the recovery journey. Many people who are in the throes of an addiction often have a hard time seeing how their actions are affecting those around them. But the fact remains that addiction doesn’t just affect the addict – it also has a big impact on the family unit as a whole. That is because, as a person’s physical, mental, and emotional state degrades due to substance abuse, family members also experience it. This experience leaves many people unsure of what to do, how to help, or how to process the emotions that it creates.
When someone with an addiction does decide to seek help, it often isn’t enough for them alone to participate in treatment. Because of the impact that their addiction has undoubtedly had on their family, they would all benefit from therapy to help process their experiences and negative feelings.
Family Roles With an Active Addiction
For most families who have a member with an active addiction, the influence of substance abuse ends up changing the entire family dynamic for everyone. No matter what the age of the family members in an addict’s life, they all end up taking unhealthy habits or “roles” to cope with the stress caused by substance abuse. These roles typically fall under a few different categories, including:
This member of the family works to compensate for the shortfallings of the addict. They work hard, are high-achieving, and work to not let the family down. They may also cover for the addict so that the family does not look bad, and may even be in denial about the addict’s problems. All of their work to make the family appear normal is to try and compensate for the pain or emptiness they feel as a result of the addict’s problems.
The jokester is the one who provides comic relief for the often very stressed family. Sometimes the humor is even aimed at the addict as a way to help the jokester blow off steam. This habit of making fun of serious situations often spills over into the jokester’s everyday life, and can even become a life-long coping mechanism.
The Quiet One
This member of the family avoids confrontation by hiding themselves as much as possible, both physically and emotionally. They do this to try and take any attention away from themselves, ensuring that they do not take any of the family’s emotional resources.
The scapegoat may also be thought of as the troublemaker. Their problems often serve to deflect the attention away from the addict. The addict may use the scapegoat to draw attention away from the real problem: the addiction.
This is the family member who prevents the addict from having to deal with the repercussions of their actions. They are either unwilling or unable to admit that the addict has a problem. The enabler often works to smooth issues so that the addict either doesn’t have to address them. These actions often stem from a desire to avoid feeling the shame of openly dealing with the addict’s issues.
The Impact Addiction Has on Families
The impact of addiction on families is much more serious and wide-spread than you might think. Living with an addict disrupts routines, impacts finances, disrupts routines, and much more. Substance abuse an impact of the family dynamics of addiction and recovery. Children with parents who are addicted to drugs or alcohol often see things that are not appropriate for their age. This exposure increases their chances of developing their own substance abuse issues in the future. The negative effects of addiction can include:
- Negative emotions including anger, anxiety, depression, embarrassment, guilt, and resentment.
- Children taking on inappropriate responsibilities, like caregiving or paying household bills
- Poor communication, which can lead to frequent conflicts, as the needs of the addict often overshadow everyone else’s.
- Unsafe living conditions, from altercations with the addict or their friends to drugs being within easy access to young children.
- A lack of structure or boundaries for children. This often leads to them missing a lot of school or participating in age-inappropriate behaviors.
- Damage to relationships due to stress caused by the addict’s actions, or even their absence.
Resetting Family Dynamics of Addiction and Recovery
Decades of research has found that family counseling is a very important part of helping addicts and their families heal from the emotional damage of addiction, as well as help the addict be more successful in their sobriety. Family therapy:
- Helps families learn to function in healthier age-appropriate roles
- Strengthens the family bond
- Provides a safe environment to express difficult feelings
- Helps create a supportive home life
Family therapy also provides a chance to have underlying mental health concerns, like anxiety or depression, addressed and treated.
Family therapy is especially important for families in which a child or adolescent is the one with an addiction. Addicted kids have a harder time getting sober and staying sober — often even more difficult than it is for adults. Without adequate help, adolescent addicts are far more likely to struggle with frequent relapses.
Seek Help at MD Home Detox
If you or your loved one is finally ready to seek help for an addiction, MD Home Detox is here to help. With services ranging from detox to addiction counseling, we are able help with every stage of the addiction treatment process. For addicts with families, we highly recommend utilizing our family therapy services to help address the emotional toll of addiction. Let us work with you to design the best possible treatment plan to address your needs, and help your family build a path to years of health and happiness.