Addiction and family are intertwined. 46 percent of Americans have a family member or close friend with a history of addiction.
Addiction is never insignificant. But it has its most profound impact on a family unit. Yet a family can start getting help with addiction and working together to make a recovery.
How can addiction root itself in a family? How does addiction impact family relationships? What can a family do to start healing from addiction?
Answer these questions and you can help your family get long-lasting and thorough treatment. Here is your quick guide.
The Family Roots of Addiction
Addiction can run through a family for several reasons. The National Institutes of Health estimate that up to 50 percent of a person’s risk for addiction comes from genetics.
Some genes increase susceptibility to pain. This causes a person to use drugs in order to medicate themselves. Other genes cause psychological problems that lead to drug use.
Environmental factors can affect all members of a family. Traumatic events like the death of a loved one can prompt people to turn to drugs.
Bad or distant parenting can cause addiction to travel through generations. A parent may have been taught by their parent that drinking alcohol was okay. They then teach their child how to drink.
Children watch their parents closely. They mimic what their parents do, even if they do bad activities. If they see their parents using drugs, they may model drug use as a reflex.
How Addiction Can Affect a Family
Addiction makes the parent-child relationship hard to maintain. A parent who is high on drugs may abuse or neglect their child.
Even if they are not abusive, a child experiences distressing emotions. They may find their parent passed out, which can provoke fear and anxiety. They may blame themselves for what happened to their parent.
A parent may put their child in an unsafe environment. They may invite over drug dealers or users to their house. Someone could threaten or scare the child in some way.
A parent will find their child with an addiction hard to manage. The child’s grades and work performance may suffer.
They may be away from home for long periods of time without warning. This leaves them open to violence.
Some children steal money from their parents, especially teenagers. They may eat into their savings for college.
A spouse is significantly affected by their partner’s addiction. Many couples divorce over substance abuse issues.
Siblings and distant relatives can be affected. They may become distant or confused about their loved one’s behavior. Their loved one may not show up to gatherings, angering them.
Family counseling provides support for an entire family. A person with an addiction can receive other treatments while they attend counseling sessions.
There are several kinds of family counseling, and each one is customizable. Functional family therapy is for families with a child or adolescent with addiction.
The family attends numerous sessions every week. The first sessions involve learning about structuring skills. The parents try to provide a good family structure for their child to learn in.
The family then models how the structure would work. They perform roleplays of problems that they may encounter. They think about the positive results of their actions, which encourages them to change their behaviors.
Multisystemic therapy is similar. The therapy recognizes that a child participates in numerous systems beyond their family.
The child identifies their strengths in maintaining these systems. This helps them develop support networks that can resist drug addiction.
Transgenerational therapy can help children interact with a parent who has an addiction. The therapist examines how the family responds to stress across generations.
They then help each generation address stress in ways that make sense to them. Older people may want to talk to others on the phone. Younger people may want to use the Internet to find a support network.
Reconnecting With a Family Member
Having a strong family unit can help a person recover from addiction. As difficult as it may be, family members should try to reconnect with someone with an addiction.
It is okay for a family to wait until their loved one goes through rehab. This can be helpful for the person. They can focus on their own progress, then turn to their family.
The person may not want to interact with their family. They may feel a sense of shame, or they may be struggling with memories of abuse. A family should be patient with them.
A family should focus on establishing trust. All members should make promises to each other.
These promises can start small. Someone should promise to run an errand and then follow through on it. Once everyone sees proof of trust, they can work on bigger gestures.
Some family members may feel angry or upset at the person who had an addiction. That is common.
They should recognize their feelings and find a good use for them. They should not scold the person who is recovering. They can go to a psychiatrist or record their emotions in a journal.
The family should continue therapy sessions until everyone feels secure in their family unit. If one member wants to continue, they can continue on their own.
How Addiction and Family Are Related
Addiction and family impact each other significantly. Genes that run through a family can spark addiction. A child may see their parents using drugs, encouraging them to use.
A parent with an addiction can be distant and abusive toward their child. A child with an addiction can cause their parents stress.
But treatment is available for all families. Families can pursue a range of therapies. They can reconnect with their loved one, establishing trust through time.