Addiction and Family Dynamics: What You Should Know

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Addiction and Family Dynamics: What You Should Know

Understanding the complexities of addiction and family dynamics can aid in helping people know how to respond to the situation.  Addiction can wreak emotional and physical damage on the user, but those effects can also extend to impact the person’s entire family.

It’s a complex and confusing relationship.  On one hand, the family wants to provide love and support to their addicted loved one.  But, on the other hand, they may lose their patience or feel resentment or anger toward the person.  Whether they acknowledge it or even realize it, a person’s addiction can disrupt or challenge their family members in many ways.

Ways a Person’s Addiction Affects the Entire Family

Stereotypes of the American family portray a happy household full of loving individuals who support and respect each other.  However, in many families, it’s the complete opposite.  In many of those cases, substance abuse by one or more family members inflicts a level of despair that is hard to escape.

Sadly, addiction and family dynamics is not something most people think about.  We tend to focus mainly on the person who is struggling with an addiction.  However, more attention needs to be paid to the impact of a person’s addiction on family members.

The negative emotions family members experience about their loved one's addiction can manifest in several unhealthy ways. For instance:

Impact on the children:

Studies show that about one in five children grows up in a home with a parent who has SUD (substance use disorder).  When a parent is addicted, they are either high or sleeping it off and aren’t meeting the child’s basic needs.  These children are often left hungry and unclean.  Secondary needs of the child are also neglected such as their social life or education.

Research also shows that the neglect and abuse these children experience can increase their chance of becoming substance abusers themselves later in life.

Also, there is a correlation between parental addiction and a child’s self-confidence, physical and emotional health, and social development.

Broken promises = broken trust:

Somewhere deep inside, an addicted person may mean to keep their promises, obligations, or commitments.  However, the effects of the substance they abuse render them unable to do so.  After repeated instances of broken promises, family members, especially children, lose trust in the individual.  This lack of trust can lead to broken marriages and dysfunctional children.

High levels of stress:

Most substance abusers leave it for family members to take care of daily responsibilities.  Things like paying bills, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the kids are left for the spouse to perform.  Taking on all of these responsibilities in addition to taking care of the addicted child or spouse can cause stress-induced issues such as high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and other health problems.

When this added stress puts family members on edge, physical abuse can occur in addition to the emotional abuse.  This behavior can cause children or adults to act out in unexpected ways.  Eventually, it becomes a cycle that no one in the family knows how to break.

Financial distress:

Financing a drug or alcohol addiction is costly.  It becomes even more of a financial issue when the person loses their job due to the SUD.  Eventually, he or she depletes the savings account, if there was one.  Family members have to begin paying for basic needs such as food, utilities, clothing, or rent.

Fear and confusion:

Substance abusers often display unpredictable behavior.  Family members never know what to expect from one day to the next.  Their fear of being physically or emotionally abused leaves them walking on eggshells so as not to upset the addicted individual.  This culture of fear and confusion keeps everyone living a joyless life.  Addiction and family dynamics often include these negative emotions that often affect a person’s life outside the family.

Are You Struggling With Addiction and Family Dynamics?

Whether you are the addicted one or are dealing with the fallout of having an addicted loved one, there is help.  Contact us at A Forever Recovery to learn how our evidence-based treatment program can help you or your loved one overcome the addiction and return a sense of normalcy to the rest of the family.


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