Coping With Addiction: Sibling Perspective

Jul 9, 2022

Do you have a sibling battling drug or alcohol addiction? Do you find yourself wondering how this could happen? It can be confusing and difficult to understand how a sibling can be struggling with addiction while you, having grown up in the very same household and environment, do not share those battles.

It is important to understand that although you and your sibling may have had the same environment to grow up in, everyone experiences things differently. Have you ever looked at a painting and interpreted it to be one thing, while someone else saw something else completely? Perhaps you have had lunch with a peer at a new spot and each left with opposing opinions about the experience. Everyone has their own individual perspective on things.

This is one of many ways to explain how siblings can grow to have different struggles in adulthood. Other explanations might include things such as family history, different peer groups, or co-occurring disorders. 

Understanding Addiction

It’s important to understand how addiction starts, evolves, and the effect it has on the brain. It can be easy to assume your sibling can overcome this disease by reflecting on lessons learned in childhood or by exercising a little self-control.

Unfortunately, it is not quite that simple. The effects of substance use on the brain are numerous and can interfere with many brain functions, as well as disrupt chemical balance. This is what leads to dependence and repeated use, making willpower irrelevant.

So, how does addiction begin? It can be different for everyone, but those who experiment with substances at a younger age are more likely to develop substance use disorder (SUD) in adulthood. Studies also suggest that there may be a genetic or biological element, making some more predisposed to substance abuse if this is present within family history.

Co-occurring disorders can be another cause of substance abuse. Attempting to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol is common, and can be the reason someone begins to use substances and engages in continued use.

As a sibling of someone battling drug or alcohol addiction, it is not unusual to question why and how this could happen. As mentioned above, the answer to this question can vary. Just because you lived under the same roof, does not mean that you had the same experiences or were exposed to the same people. It is typical for siblings to have varying interests leading to separate friend groups and activities.

Family Education Groups

It is no secret that addiction impacts those around you, particularly family members. It is common for family members or close friends to first be in denial of the situation, or lack understanding if substance abuse is not something they have experienced firsthand. 

This is where family education groups and family therapy come in. Plugging in and utilizing these resources helps you not only better support your loved one but also aids in your own healing.

Education groups are especially beneficial as many are created to address needs from a specific perspective. Examples could include groups for spouses, parents, siblings, or friends. Connecting with others in the same position can be very helpful.

These groups can be extremely informative and aid in your healing as a family member. Staff will teach you more about the struggles your loved one is facing and provide tools for supporting them and restoring your relationship. You will learn more about the 12-Step process and what treatment entails.

How to Support Your Sibling

The first step in supporting your sibling as they undergo treatment and recovery is to get involved and become educated. Family education groups are a great place to start. This can help clear up the confusion that you are sure to have, and can help you understand how to approach your sibling, moving forward.

Understanding the changes your sibling is making through treatment and into recovery is important for ensuring you are supporting their new lifestyle. For instance, following treatment, there may be some settings they prefer to avoid. They may choose to disclose information about the struggles they have faced in the past. While this can be difficult to hear, sharing this and being completely transparent can be an important part of the recovery process and can help rebuild trust.

Substance abuse is known to strain relationships, and having a sibling battling addiction can certainly create some distance and tension. By educating yourself, offering forgiveness when needed, and choosing to be supportive of your sibling’s treatment and recovery efforts, you can move forward and begin to mend your relationship. 

Accepting the fact that a sibling is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction can be tough. It can be hard to understand things from their perspective. Getting involved in the treatment and recovery process by attending family therapy and educational groups can really help. At Renaissance Ranch, we offer educational groups and therapies specifically for parents, spouses, siblings, and other close loved ones. This allows for sharing of perspectives and experiences among group members. Allow us to help you and your family navigate the recovery process and learn more about supporting your loved one. Gain an understanding of the 12-Step process and how to implement strategies to ensure healing and growth. If you or someone you care about is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out. Make the decision to make a change by calling Renaissance Ranch today at (801) 308-8898.