Addiction impacts the family in many ways, including emotional distress, financial strain, relationship challenges, and health consequences. Family members may experience guilt, shame, anger, and sadness and struggle with trust and communication. Family members need to seek support and resources to cope with the impact of addiction and support their loved ones in recovery.
How is Addiction a Family Disease?
Genetics is the most prominent risk factor for developing the chronic disease of addiction. The effects of addiction, while devastating to the individual living with an addiction, often reach other family members. Drug or alcohol addiction can cause severe short- and long-term effects, significantly impacting each family member’s growth and development.
Alcohol use disorder and substance use disorder are both often considered a family disease. It is not only because it typically impacts the whole family but also because each person in a codependent family has a role to play. This means that addiction can affect the family’s dynamics and relationships, making it challenging to recover from the addiction without the family’s involvement. The changes in emotional development and the dysfunctional relationships that addiction causes often create what is known as The Codependent Family.
The Family Dynamics of Addiction
Addiction has massive impacts on those in the family and household. Over time, these effects can mold certain family members into archetypal roles.
The Codependent Family
The codependent family is all members of the household unit in a home affected by chronic drug or alcohol use disorder. In many cases, all roles may be filled, though not always. Also, having one family member hold more than one role isn’t uncommon in smaller families.
The addict is the person in the home abusing drugs or alcohol; in some homes, there may be more than one. In some cases, this role is also called “the victim.” Still, this terminology diminishes the struggle and trauma often endured by addiction-free family members. The addict often feels guilty about their role, though they often become defensive or angry when confronted.
The enabler, or chief enabler, is often the family member emotionally closest to the addict or addict. They will often serve as the family protector. They will appear very responsible, self-righteous, sarcastic, alternatively passive, frequently sick, or martyr-like.
The Hero and the Mascot
The hero and the mascot are roles often combined into one. The hero is the constant rescuer of the addict or the family in general and will often lie or help cover up the problem so the family can stick together. The mascot often uses their sense of humor to keep the family laughing or distracted. The mascot is crucial for family comfort.
The scapegoat is the family member often found to have behavioral issues. They are usually younger family members but frequently not the absolute youngest. The scapegoat will often be in trouble at home, school, or work. In adulthood, they’ll risk getting involved in criminal activity or other legal problems.
The Lost Child
The lost child is often a very young household member who considers themselves alone and generally isolated. This manifests as physical isolation from them, which is seen to cause relationship troubles later in life. The lost child will often feel awkward in public or social situations and try to avoid or leave the rest of the family gatherings. They hide from their problems, and the family comprises most of them.
What These Family Dynamics Can Mean for Recovery
The family dynamics of the codependent family can mean a much more complicated recovery for those who remain in that environment. If a family member were to enter recovery and there were other addicts in the household, it would lead to an almost inevitable relapse.
If the entire family seeks addiction help and engages in family therapy to reverse addiction’s effects, it creates a supportive environment. It is more effective in combating addictive behavior and the harmful effects of drug addiction.
Addiction Impacts on Family
Financial Hardship – Financial hardship is often one of the most significant impacts on the family from addiction. It is the root of many other issues.
Loss of Trust – The family’s children lose trust in the adults supposed to protect them, and other household members lose trust in the addict.
Increased Risk of Abuse – With substance or alcohol abuse comes an automatically elevated risk of abuse due to the emotional and cognitive instability of the addict. This includes abuse or neglect of children in the home.
More Addiction Within the Family Unit – Suppose one addiction is present and goes unaddressed. In that case, it can lead to other addictions in the same or with other family members.
Broken Families – A family’s biggest overall risk of addiction is becoming a broken or dysfunctional family beyond recovery.
How can Family Therapy Help?
Family therapy is one of the most prevalent addiction treatment components. It combines psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, with the entire family. It often consists of individual sessions for each family member and group sessions where communication and coping skills are created and strengthened.
Some therapy types, like structural therapy, will allow the family dynamic to heal and enhance its resilience. There are even treatment methods for those who want to recover without their family’s involvement, like Bowenian family therapy.
Where to Start with Help for Addiction
Suppose you or someone living with you is facing addiction, and it’s starting to affect your family members. In that case, working with a professional could be a good idea. They can help diagnose the addiction and begin the recovery process. Family therapy can also be beneficial to assist in healing the entire family unit.
The initial step in the recovery process is to contact a professional addiction counselor or a treatment center nearby. Select a facility offering the appropriate treatment program and methods required for your needs. Additionally, ensuring the facility accepts your current insurance is crucial to avoid unexpected costs. Start down the road to recovery today.