How Does Addiction Affect Families?

By The Fix staff 10/31/17

A Better Today treats each and every family differently, since their needs, problems and concerns are never the same from situation to situation.

troubled family
Addiction can wreak a heavy toll on every member of the family, children in particular.

Alcohol and drug addiction can rot families from the inside. Many people never see it coming, either. Strong, seemingly unbreakable bonds can suddenly (and without warning) become soft, brittle and broken.

Addiction isn’t something that happens once and then it’s suddenly over and done with. Sadly, that’s just not how it works. It’s not isolated to one event, nor is it tied to a single person. Addiction can smolder or simmer for years, hidden and unacknowledged. Then again, it can also be a shockwave in how it destroys families, reverberating for many years to come. It’s important to understand not only the devastating effect that addiction has on families, but what options are available for family members to cope, survive and persevere. When someone is struggling with an addiction, they aren’t moving forward with their lives. They’re stuck in the same place. Truth be told, everyone around them is stuck, too. Addiction affects every single person in the family in different, unpredictable ways.

“When my drinking was at its worst, I had completely lost sight of who I was hurting,” Samantha, a woman in recovery from alcoholism, said. “It hurts me to say this now, but at the time, I really didn’t care about my husband or kids. I just cared about getting my next drink.”

Addiction is a disease that doesn’t just affect the person who has it, but absolutely everyone it comes in contact with. It’s as swift as it is patient. Addiction causes instability and uncertainty at every turn, and it can be maddening to try reaching a sense of normalcy. A Better Today Recovery Services, a treatment center with facilities in Scottsdale, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Portland, is dedicated to putting families back on the path to healing and long-term recovery. With a wide range of comprehensive inpatient treatment programs, A Better Today also offers family therapy sessions to help mend damaged relationships and educate family members of all ages about addiction.

More often than not, addiction has taken up a lot of time, energy, and attention—so much so that (like in Samantha’s case) the family becomes a distant priority. As a result, family members can feel resentful, angry, neglected, hurt or, sometimes, jealous of the drug or the drink. Unfortunately, addiction can have the greatest effect on children, damaging them psychologically and emotionally. The effects of alcohol and drug abuse on children can last the rest of their lives, which has a direct impact on everything from their education to their social stability. Homes hit with addiction are unhappy homes. There can be no rules and little to no consistency. Children raised by parents with alcoholism or addiction aren’t just confused and hurt: studies show that they often turn to substance abuse in order to escape their own lives, which only serves to make the problem worse. In other words, addiction can be a never-ending downward spiral for everyone involved.

Marriages don’t escape the blast zone of addiction, either. Many spouses find themselves neglected and ignored when their loved one is drinking or using. It doesn’t help that many people with addiction tend to isolate themselves from everyone and everything. They also sometimes find connections, relationships and satisfaction outside the marriage, which only complicates things—often leading to separation and divorce.

“My wife lived in fear of where I was and who I was with,” Roger, a patient at the Scottsdale campus said. “When I was using, I’d shut my cell phone off and nobody could get ahold of me. I can’t even imagine what I was putting my family through. That’s no way to live.”

Despite vows to work “through sickness and health,” many marriages just can’t survive the destruction of addiction. For many people, there’s no going back to the way things were before the drinking and drugging started. In those cases, it’s about picking up the pieces and figuring out what there is left to work with, if anything at all.

Addiction also has a very literal cost, too, in that families usually experience great financial strain due to the disease. People in the grip of alcoholism or addiction won’t let anything stand between them and a drink or a drug, so the financial toll can spiral out of control until there’s no coming back. It’s also common for families to be torn apart when someone loses their job thanks to an addiction. Many families get caught in bankruptcy, foreclosure or losing their life savings in order to support a loved one’s addiction.

“Nothing stopped me from getting what I needed,” Rachel said, a former patient at A Better Today’s Portland facility. “I spent everything my family had and, at the time, I didn’t care.” Thankfully, now she does. With the help of A Better Today’s unique, customized treatment programs, Rachel and her family have begun to enjoy a life they originally didn’t think was possible. A Better Today designed a program that worked specifically for them, ensuring not only long-term success, but peace of mind. Her family knows the warning signs as well as they know how to support Rachel when she needs it the most. Better yet, Rachel knows, too, how her actions impact others.

When it comes right down to it, it’s staggering to discover the negative impact one person can have on so many people. And it’s also important to consider that someone else’s addiction doesn’t affect everyone equally. A Better Today treats each and every family differently, since their needs, problems and concerns are never the same from situation to situation. Family therapy focuses on educating everyone in the family, both young and old, about the disease of addiction and how they can address the problems so they can move toward a place of healing. If nothing else, family therapy isn’t about becoming normal again. It’s about finding a new “normal” and reaching a collective place of calm, peace, and surrender.

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