When someone in a family has an addiction, the whole family suffers. Family members often fall into the destructive habit of enabling the addict among them. Without help, families fall into dysfunction and everyone is affected. Family members need support too.
Embarrassed by Having a Family Member with an Addiction
When parents, siblings, or children of addicts realize that their loved one has a problem, they can have a wide range of reactions. The most common thought at first is “What will others think?”. In our society, we are so proud that we don’t ever want to admit mistakes or problems that come into our lives, and we constantly want to maintain the status quo. There is such a stigma associated with addiction right now that family members often don’t want to tell anyone for fear that they will be looked down upon.
Enabling the Addict
Because family members are afraid to be honest and tell their family’s secret, they often try to manage the situation on their own. Spouses will start picking up the slack left behind by a substance-abusing partner, and assume all responsibilities of running the house and caring for the kids. Children of addicts become good at making excuses for their parent and making their life seem as normal as possible from the outside. Parents will argue and fight with their drug-abusing child behind closed doors, but will put on a good front when others are around.
When families enable an addict, they only make the problem worse. Addiction can be overcome, but it takes a good program led by professionals to really work. The first thing families should do is find a good treatment facility for their loved one. Then, families should make sure to heal themselves also.
Healing the Family
Living with an addict is a struggle, and families don’t have to go through it alone, as so many try to do. “It isn’t that (family members) are dumb,” intervention expert David Lee said. “They’re stuck. They’re trapped between fear, hope, sympathy and guilt.” (1)
There are many programs that help families recover together through therapy and counseling and help them deal with their underlying issues. In order for the addict to heal, their family needs to heal and the relationship needs to be repaired.
Support groups are a great way for family members to meet and gain strength from other families who understand the struggles, the fear, the pain, and the embarrassment of living with an addict. Groups like Al-Anon and Alateen can be found gathering across the country to assist families of addicts. Family members should not give in and enable their loved ones to continue in their addiction; they need to break the cycle and get help for themselves and their entire family.