05 Oct Addiction: A Family Affair
Supporting an addiction is expensive. Funds that typically would be spent on food, shelter, clothing, etc. are often channeled into the addictive substance. This can put great strain on a spouse, children, or parents. Addiction leads individuals to steal, lie, or lose their jobs. Studies show that addiction can cost up to ½ of a person’s income. That financial strain causes stress, tension, and often unmet physical needs.
Family members, especially children, tend to develop dysfunctional characteristics in an attempt to cope with the family member’s addiction. They can develop learned helplessness, depression, anxiety, trust issues, hypervigilance, engage in high risk behaviors, or become addicted themselves. These conditions can prevent individuals from living a healthy life. For example, a person who develops hypervigilance as an attempt to cope, will always be looking for danger in every situation, preventing them from connecting with people or even focusing effectively.
When a family member is struggling with addiction, it is easy for other members of the family to experience shame, self-pity, resentment and worry. Families of an addict start to withdraw from friends, neighbors, etc. in an attempts to hide the addiction from them. It is common for family members to feel shame or to blame themselves for the life choices of their sibling, parent, child or spouse. This can lead family members to attempt to become perfect, thinking that maybe if they were just a little better, the addict would change their behavior. This negative pattern can lead to feelings of failure, exhaustion and depression. These negative emotions start to become almost like a drug to the family members, and they can become stuck in patterns of negative self-talk.
Family members need to recover from the effects of addiction just as much as an addict needs to recover. Trying to help a family member with addiction is an exhausting task. With help from support groups and therapists it is possible to recover and learn positive ways to cope with the addiction.
Kris Groves is a Advanced Substance Use Disorder Counselor and has been working in the field of substance abuse since 1996. Kris is the Program Director for Renaissance Ranch. She has worked in general outpatient and intensive outpatient programs. As a volunteer for the Family Home Evening Program at the Utah State Prison, Kris educates women about addiction and recovery. As a family systems specialist, Kris works specifically with the shame-based family system model that addresses the family needs as well as the needs of the client. Kris’s passion and commitment for people and assisting them in their healing and recovery is a great joy for her.