Addiction: The Family Disease

18 September 2018

Addiction is a family disease – it is often passed down through generations and can turn the lives of family members upside down when a loved one is suffering. Watching your husband stumble through the house in a blackout, your mother scrounge the carpet for dropped pills, your daughter deteriorate from her meth use, or your brother develop track marks is traumatizing to say the least. Not only do we have to witness the physical effects of addiction in our loved ones, we also see their behaviors change and watch them become completely different people, void of any light behind their eyes. The grief experienced of losing your loved one to addiction, even though they may still be alive, is very real.

As their addiction grows worse, it begins to directly affect those of us in their lives. Families are usually the first victims of an addict’s desperation – they will steal, lie, and manipulate to achieve that next high.  You go to purchase lunch during your break and find that your wallet is empty. You cry and beg them not to drink tonight and get in a physical altercation. You get home from school and the piggy bank that you’ve been stuffing your allowance in is empty and shattered on the floor. You wait up all night for them to come home. You stop by the mall and see your great-grandmother’s ring perched in a display case of the jewelry store. You confront them about stolen items and they storm out of the house and go on a bender for days. Anyone who stands in the way of an addict getting their drugs and alcohol are subject to great financial, physical, and emotional abuse.

These are the realities of being the family member of someone ensnared in the tight grip of drug and alcohol addiction. As the loved one of a person who suffers from alcohol or drug addiction, you are entitled to heal just as much as the addict themselves. Bearing witness to someone’s active addiction is challenging and takes a massive mental, emotional, and physical toll on us that needs to be dealt with properly.

Fortunately, there are many resources available to help families heal and cope with a loved one either active in, recovering from, or deceased because of their addiction. Many substance abuse treatment centers offer family therapy sessions to reconstruct the relationships damaged due to addiction. Individual counseling is an option for family members so they may gain coping skills, peace of mind, and motivation to take care of themselves. There are free mutual support groups such as Nar-Anon, Al-Anon, Alateen, and Adult Children of Alcoholics which provide a space for people to connect with and gain hope from others who have dealt with loved ones in active addiction and/or recovery. Also, the internet is a wonderful resource where you can search for articles or engage in forums about healing from addiction.

Through the recovery process, addicts get better and families reconcile the past every day. If your loved one is still struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, please reach out today to get them help. As for you, take care of yourself and utilize the resources available so that you may cope, rebuild, and grow through this process. Just as the addict is, you too are worthy of healing.