The impact of substance abuse does not only affect the life of the person struggling with alcohol or drug abuse. Known as a “family disease”, the effects of addiction can be felt by everyone who is close to the person living with an active addiction. When someone is battling a substance use disorder (SUD), it takes an emotional, physical, psychological, and financial toll on the family as a whole. As a family member of someone with an addiction, our natural instinct is to want to help them in any way that we can. Trying to assist and comfort someone with an addiction can often come off as smothering or enabling them–neither of which you want to do.
The effects of addiction bring about a lot of emotions—in the person struggling with the addiction along with the people closest to them. As a sister, brother, mother, father, daughter, or son, the last thing you want is to see someone in your family battle with addiction. Alcohol and drug abuse will slowly strip away the person that they used to be before they started consuming.
When someone is struggling with substance addiction, their family members might:
- Develop a codependent relationship
- Distance themselves
- Set healthy boundaries
- Lose empathy
If you have a family member that struggles with alcohol or drug abuse, it is likely that you have firsthand experience dealing with the negative impacts of your loved one’s substance abuse. Depending on your relationship with them, this may draw you closer or push you further away.
When someone is battling an addiction, it can seem as if they have two totally different sides—and depending on the person, it can be either really easy or challenging to decipher the two. People who are used to hiding their addiction are experts at masking the signs and symptoms of addiction. If your family member has had a few that day, they usually turn into someone that you don’t enjoy being around.
More often than not, addiction makes you careless and apathetic to the responsibilities of life. The effects of addiction can chip away at your ability to function within your day-to-day routine. Drug and alcohol abuse damages your social life, sometimes to the point of utter destruction.
If your loved one is struggling with an addiction, they may begin to neglect tasks such as:
- Personal hygiene
- Bill payments
- Scheduled plans
- Daily medications
- Regular meals
- Emotional support
While these actions may be overlooked in early addiction, the lack of concern for themselves will typically extend into every facet of their lives. Eventually, the pattern of unhealthy behavior bleeds into personal relationships. As the lack of consideration for the thoughts and feelings of others continues, your loved one’s addictive behaviors will deteriorate the bonds they have with family and friends.
The Effects of Addiction on Children and Teens
Addiction negatively impacts each and every individual close to someone with an active addiction, especially young children and teens. Growing up with a parent or sibling battling an alcohol or drug addiction takes an enormous toll on your mental, emotional, and social development during childhood. The way children view their parents has everything to do with how and if they receive love and care. Children who grow up in toxic homes lack the nurturing environment necessary to develop a healthy, balanced outlook on life.
When a parent continues to fuel their alcohol or drug addiction over getting clean for their loved ones, it makes children feel neglected. As a daughter or son of a parent with an addiction, it can be difficult to stay positive and hope they will get clean—especially when it’s not the first go around. While it is understood that most people battling addiction don’t have control over their lives, it is still hurtful to witness them fall deeper which is why their loved ones end up putting them through treatment.
When a household is run by a parent with an alcohol or drug use disorder, the child in their care slowly begins to develop unhealthy coping skills to escape the pain they experience.
Common reactions of children growing up in a household of addiction can include:
- Physically and/or emotionally distancing themselves from the parent
- Mirroring their parent’s addictive behaviors
- Developing a savior complex
Another possible result of a parent’s addiction is the child turning to substance abuse as they enter adulthood. As a young child or teenager, you should never have to go through this alone. If you don’t feel comfortable confiding in a family member, make sure to surround yourself with positive friends and environments that are going to lift you up.
How Alcohol and Drug Abuse Affects Parents
When a parent has a child that is dealing with an alcohol or drug addiction, it’s natural for them to want to “fix” them and do everything in their power to help them, although this doesn’t always have the outcome that they hope for. Parents often feel somewhat responsible for their child’s addiction, which then brings on feelings of guilt. A common factor of these feelings is a codependent parent who will do anything and everything for their child, but if they can’t help the situation—they completely lose it.
Codependent parents are extremely prevalent for people in recovery or currently battling an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Codependent relationships with a child in active addiction or recovery is incredibly dangerous for both the parent and the child. For instance, when an overbearing parent begins to enable their child’s substance abuse, this allows for the addictive behaviors to continue. Enabling someone with addiction leaves room for more freedom and error—which is not something you want to do.
If you are the parent of someone who is dealing with the effects of addiction, be mindful of setting healthy boundaries with your child. Whether they are actively battling addiction or have settled into recovery it is important that you tend to your mental health too. Get yourself acquainted with support groups that will encourage you during this difficult time of life and help you navigate through it. Surrounding yourself with others who are dealing with similar experiences as you are is a major aid and relief. Seeing a therapist also takes a weight off of your shoulders and provides you with healthy, professional advice to assist with moving forward.
The Effects of Addiction on Family Members and Friends
Addiction can cause a lot of psychological, physical, financial, and emotional pain within a family. Watching someone battle through addiction is never easy, especially if you’re having to help that family member or friend yourself. Experiencing the effects of someone else’s addiction is not something you should ever have to go through alone.
Here are some of the effects that substance abuse has on family and friends:
- Physical and Emotional Abuse
- Loss of Trust
- Financial Issues
- Increased Stress and Anxiety
- Broken Relationships
- Fear of loss
- Loss of hope
- Self-blame and Doubt
- Disagreements and Arguments
If you have a family member or friend that is battling the effects of addiction or is in recovery, these might be applicable to recent or past experiences. One of the hardest things someone might have to do is watch their loved one ruin their life and all of their relationships due to their addiction. It’s important that as a family member and friend, you are supportive and comforting while keeping healthy boundaries with them as they navigate through treatment or recovery.
“Worst of all, addiction undermines the loving, trusting relationships that sustain a healthy family…Restoring those relationships, which were often damaged long before the substance abuse began, requires time, patience, and the support of knowledgeable addiction professionals.”
Additional Support for Families and Friends
Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are support groups recommended for the family members of someone with an alcohol or drug addiction. Al-anon is a support group associated with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) for family and friends affected by someone else’s alcohol addiction. Nar-Anon is a 12-step program for families and friends of those with drug addictions. These support groups are offered and open to anyone seeking support and comfort through their loved one’s addiction or recovery. Joining a support group is a great way for loved ones to feel heard and be encouraged by others going through a similar battle. The effects of addiction can take an extreme, emotional and psychological toll on your quality of life, which is why peer support groups are so important.
Therapy is a beneficial approach to expressing your feelings and opening yourself up for new growth and development. Individual and family therapy options are available for those looking to receive guidance and healing in their relationships and life as a whole. Family therapy is particularly constructive for cases where someone’s addiction has impacted family dynamics, however, individual therapy is always recommended in order to receive one-on-one counseling and encouragement.