A drug or alcohol dependency can have a tremendous effect on an addicted person’s family. Understanding those impacts is key in moving the whole family towards recovery.
Addiction, like any major life event, touches the lives of not only those struggling with dependency, but their families as well. Living with an alcohol or drug dependent person can result in a variety of social and psychological effects to family members, some of which may be difficult to change. To mitigate lasting impacts of addiction on the addict as well as the family, it is extremely important to seek professional help as soon as possible.
Generally, the impacts of an addiction on family members vary as to the relationship and role of the dependent person within the family. Additional factors, such as the structure of family, are also important in understanding the indirect effects of addiction. Knowing if you or your family members are being affected by a dependent loved one is critical in promoting a healing environment that will benefit all members.
When a Parent Is Dependent
There are numerous ways in which a parent’s addiction can impact the family. Here are a few common scenarios:
In a two-parent household, the other parent is often put into a hero role, where they shoulder the responsibility for making sure that the children are taken care of, and attempting to help the dependent parent. This double burden often creates tremendous stress and anxiety, and can impact the depth of communication within the family as the parent strives to create a sense of normalcy despite the addiction.
In a single-parent household, or a family where both parents are struggling with addiction, often a child must assume the hero role, emerging as a caretaker at a young age and reversing traditional roles of parent and child.
Though in either case this person is often perceived as responsible and successful, they may also feel very insecure about the stability of the family, and internalise feelings of confusion, hurt, and anger.
Other children may act out, either in positive ways such as attempting to create humour or entertainment, or in negative ways, such as skipping school, or even experimenting with drugs or alcohol themselves. In some families, a child or parent will become a scapegoat in an effort for the family to distract themselves from the real issue of addiction. In either case, attention-seeking is mainly recognised as another way of dealing with the uncertainty and fear surrounding a parent’s dependency.
The Quiet One
Some children may retreat into their own world in order to deal with the stress in the household. While some may seem withdrawn, others are characterised more as “dreamers,” seemingly unaffected by what is going on around them. However, this should be recognised as a coping mechanism, and addressed as such.
When a Child is Dependent
When a child, no matter the age, becomes dependent on drugs or alcohol, it is normal for parents to devote familial resources towards helping that child. However, particularly in cases where the dependent is an adolescent and there are other children in the house, this can mean that other children lack the attention they need, and may look after themselves in ways that are not age-appropriate. This can also result in siblings acting out, which can create snowballing behavioural issues throughout the family unit.
When a Partner is Dependent
In a household where there are no children present, but one partner is drug or alcohol dependent, the other partner generally assumes the role of the provider, which can cause financial stress and difficulty. Some may do whatever they can to protect their partner, whereas other will fall into denial over the addiction. Additionally, the partner may experience psychological effects such as shame, anger, guilt, and isolation.
Where to Turn for Help with Addiction
As the impacts of addiction spread far beyond the person with the dependency, it is critical to seek help not just for the person struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, but also for the family as a whole. Though the effects of dependency on the family are both significant and serious, they can be transformed through professional support and rehabilitation.
Rehab Asia can connect you with the kind of care you and your family need to begin the first steps towards a successful recovery. With a broad range of world-class outpatient and inpatient facility options, Rehab Asia can suggest proven treatment programmes that help families understand and beat addiction. Contact us today to learn more about how we help families make full recoveries.