Families and Addiction: Are Your Loved Ones Affected?

The words "families" and "addiction" certainly don't seem to go together, and yet, drugs and alcohol are two things that can quickly tear families apart. The disruption that occurs within families when substances are a factor cannot be ignored. In fact, so many things are impacted when just one person is struggling with an addiction.

How to Support a Loved One Who is Struggling with Substance Abuse

When someone you love suffers from an addiction, at times, it can feel as though your hands are tied. You want to help as much as you can, and you want to be supportive, but the truth is that you don't even know where to begin.

What is at Stake in Family Addiction?

  • The very stability of the home
  • The unity of the family
  • Everyone's physical health
  • Everyone's mental health
  • The family's financial position
  • Interpersonal relationships between family members

Everything about the family dynamic shifts, and it's important to recognize addiction for what it is – a family disease.

There are a few things that you can start to do right now that will help your loved one more than both of you realize.

Educate Yourself

There is so much great information online about addiction and recovery, and most people find that they don't really know as much as about it as they think they do. The more you know about addiction, the better equipped you will be to provide your loved one with help during all stages of the process.

Avoid Certain Behaviors or Reactions

Know that at times, you're going to feel as though your anger and frustration will overcome you, and when you experience these emotions, it's important for you to take a few steps back. Judging your loved one, or accusing him or her of anything is only going to make your situation worse instead of better.

Stay Sober-Minded

For example, if you live with someone who is an alcoholic, and you enjoy drinking, but only socially, it's best for you to make a plan for a sober environment within your home. Sometimes the best thing we can do for our loved ones is to set a good example.

Keep in Mind that Addiction is a Disease

This can be a hard one for families because the tendency is to wish that the addicted loved one will just "snap out of it." However, just as it's impossible for a diabetic to just stop being a diabetic, it's impossible for an addict to stop being an addict. The disease will always be there.

Use Frequent Encouragement

You know that your family member has the potential to live a full live that's free from the chains of addiction. Sometimes it can help to hear someone you love say that to you, so offer encouragement to your loved one on a regular basis.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) states that one in every three people will develop a clinically significant alcohol problem at some point during the course of their lives. Additionally, they state that one in eight people will become dependent upon alcohol. Likewise, 23.5 million people who were over the age of 12 needed to get treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction in 2009. That number is thought to have increased since that time.

Clearly, addiction within families is a very serious problem in the United States, and it's a problem that is not going to go away on its own. Families need to work hard to try and understand why addiction is such an issue, and they need to know how to react and how to help when one of their own family members is struggling because of drugs or alcohol.

Perhaps you have a family member who is currently dealing with an addiction. This individual may or may not be living with you, but the fact that you spend every day of your life worrying about his or her health and safety should not be ignored. Sometimes it may feel as though your hands are tied, and that there is nothing you can do to get your loved one to change. So many other families have found themselves to be facing the same exact set of circumstances. The more you understand about addiction and how you can avoid offering the wrong type of help to your family member, the better.

At Northpoint Recovery, we are constantly working with families who are struggling to put the pieces of their lives back together again. Many of them lived with the addict for years, and are only now starting to heal from the severe wounds that were dealt to them during that time. Regardless of what your situation is, please know that it is not hopeless.

Families and Addiction

Statistics Regarding Families and Drug and Alcohol Addiction

If you have someone in your family who is addicted to alcohol or drugs, then you understand how lonely your situation can feel at times. It may seem as though there is no one who understands what you're going through, and you may feel like you're dealing with each challenge all on your own. The fact is that addiction is a big problem in the United States, and it doesn't matter if it is a parent, child, grandparent, aunt or uncle who is addicted. It tends to hit families in very similar ways.

The statistics tell us that:

  • 1 in every 5 people in the United States has lived with an alcoholic relative at some point during their lives.
  • When this happens during childhood, the individual is at a much greater risk for behavioral and emotional issues later on.
  • Children of alcoholics are four times more likely to turn to alcoholism themselves as they grow older.
  • They are also more likely to marry an alcoholic or abusive spouse as adults.
  • 9 out of 10 Americans who meet the criteria for alcohol or drug addiction as adults started using before the age of 18.
  • 10% of all young people between the ages of 12 and 17 are currently illegal drug users.
  • 6% of sixteen and seventeen-year-olds and 17% of eighteen to twenty-year-olds admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol at some point during the last year.
  • The number of children being raised by their grandparents went from 2.4 million in the year 2000 to 4.9 million in the year 2010, according to the United States Census Bureau.
  • For many of these situations, the reasons were because of drug or alcohol addiction within the biological parents.
  • Many studies show that a large percentage of child abuse cases and domestic violence cases have involved alcohol and drugs.
  • The victims in these scenarios have been known to be very likely to abuse drugs or alcohol later on in their lives.

These statistics come as a surprise to many people, and it is shocking to know that there are so many people in the United States who are battling addictions. Getting the right information about how to help your loved one is the best place for you to begin the process of getting him or her into treatment.

Resources for Families:

It's very common for worry and concern to grip the lives of family members so hard that they end up enabling the addict when what they really intend to do is to offer support. There is a huge difference between these two situations, and if you have been enabling someone in your life who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it's important for you to understand what that difference is now so that you can stop this behavior.

The first thing you need to know is that enabling an addict never makes the situation any better. In fact, it will only serve to make it worse. There are a lot of things that well-meaning family members do in an effort to help someone they love who struggles with an addiction, and some of these things include:

  • Offering a family member a place to live when you know that addiction is a factor in his or her life.
  • Providing money on a regular basis as a way to offer financial support.
  • Offering to get groceries or bring the addict food on a regular basis.
  • Offering transportation when the addict wants to pick up more drugs or alcohol.
  • Keeping up on child support payments and other bills that the addict is responsible for.

It's understandable that you might be worried about your addicted family member becoming homeless, or having to live with friends who use just like they do. Many addicted individuals struggle with mental illnesses alongside their addictions, which is known has having a co-occurring disorder. You might worry that your loved one will make a poor decision if he or she is left to care for themselves without supervision. Even though these situations are very real, and even though you think you're doing the right thing by offering that type of support, this method of enabling only allows the addiction to take a tighter grip on your family member's life. The likelihood that he or she will ever want to escape from the addiction is almost nonexistent in situations like these.

When you live with a drug addict or an alcoholic, life can become very exhausting quickly. You need to be sure that you have enough time to yourself to recover from everything that you go through on a daily basis. A lot of people with addicted family members spend so much time taking care of their loved ones that they fail to take care of themselves in the process.

Another thing that people will often do when they become frustrated is that they end up blaming themselves for the addict's behavior. This is something you need to avoid at all costs, and if you're ever tempted to blame yourself in a weak moment, arrest those thoughts immediately. You are not to blame for your loved one's addiction, and there's nothing you can do to control his or her decisions. There's also nothing you can do to get them to change.

Finally, avoid trying to be your loved one's caretaker. If the addicted individual is your teenage son or daughter, then there will be some care involved on your part, of course, but when he or she is an adult, remember that it's not your responsibility to offer care.

In addition to enabling a family member who has an addiction, there are a number of other mistakes that people often make as well. It can be so easy to let your guard down, and even when you try to do everything right, it's easy to slip into certain behaviors before you realize what's happening. Some of the most common mistakes people make with their addicted family members include:

  • Arguing with them when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This is a pointless exercise, and it's only going to serve to make you angrier, and tear apart your relationship even more.
  • Working harder than him or her to create a change in the home. Remember that it's important for you not to do things for your loved one, even though every instinct in you tells you that you should. You should never work harder than your loved one to make life better.
  • Use negative talking when discussing the addiction, or anything else for that matter. Doing so will only fuel the fire of negativity, and this can increase feelings of guilt. It can also push your loved one further into the addiction.
  • Using personal boundaries against the addict to cause shame or as a punishment. Healthy boundaries should be set by everyone in the home, and they need to be respected.
  • Shielding your family member from the consequences of his or her addiction. Sometimes these consequences can be quite severe. They can even result in legal issues that lead to fines or jail time. It might seem as though you're being mean or uncaring, but it's important for addicts to feel the sting of these and other consequences if any changes are going to take place.

When the addict within a family is a parent or guardian, the children are the ones who often suffer the most. Their lives suffer a tremendous negative impact when someone they are that close to is using substances on a regular basis.

Educationally, children will often exhibit poor scores on achievement tests, or even just basic classroom tests. They may have difficulty paying attention, and even start to demonstrate some of the signs of ADHD. Socially, they may become withdrawn from their friends at school, and instead, they may prefer to spend time alone when they should be socializing with others. Behavioral problems among children of addicts are also quite common, and this stems from a lack of discipline in the home, or it may occur because of behaviors they've seen their parents exhibiting as well.

It also needs to be mentioned that children of addicts are also at a great risk for abuse and neglect. Parents or guardians that are fully consumed with obtaining and using drugs or alcohol might not have the time or the ability to care for their children as they should. This can lead to kids that have poor hygiene, health problems and developing mental illnesses, such as anxiety or depression.

At some point, you may want to have a conversation with your loved one about the addiction and the problem that it causes in your home. Many people decide to have this conversation, and the hope is that their family member will make the decision to get help. If you're facing this situation right now, it's important for you to know what you should do, and how you should go about having this conversation.

  • Be Prepared: The window of time that you will have to talk with your loved one is likely to be very brief, so it's important for you to plan out what you're going to say ahead of time. You may want to write everything down so that you don't forget any important points that you know you should share.
  • Talk Sober: There might be very few occasions during the course of a day when your loved one is sober enough to have a cohesive conversation with anyone. However, everyone has some times of sobriety, and those are the times you should choose. If you try to have the talk with your loved one when he or she is under the influence, not only will nothing come of the conversation, but you're likely to incite anger and denial. A good time to try is when the addict is just waking up before that first use of the day.
  • Remain Calm: This is a subject that you are obviously very passionate about, and you're likely to be met with resistance when you bring it up. Even so, it's vital for you to remain calm as you talk. Addicts can anger and frustrate even the most patient people in the world, so maintain a calm and clear head as you go into it. Know that your loved one is likely to become very angry when you talk with him or her, but don't give in or take the bait. Insist that you want to talk like adults.
  • Be Honest, But Not Judgmental: This might be easier said than done for most people, but it is possible. It's so easy to judge others when you can clearly see that their behaviors don't match up to your expectations. Try to remember that addiction is a disease, and it's hard for the behaviors and habits of addiction to be broken. Still, you can be honest about the destruction that is occurring because of the addiction.
  • Explain Your Emotions: Chances are very good that your family member is so internally focused that he or she can hardly take notice of how the addiction is impacting you and the rest of the family. Talk about how the addiction is affecting you and how it is making you feel. There's no need to hold back because trying to protect your loved one from the pain doesn't do anyone any good.

Once you have the discussion with your loved one about his or her addiction, you should be prepared for very little to change. In some cases, a talk with someone who cares is all it takes for an addict to want to change, but most of the time, those words fall on deaf ears. You may also hear promises like, "Now isn't the right time for me to quit using," or "I'm going to pick a date in the future to stop, and I promise I'll stick to it." These are nothing but excuses and empty promises that will never be fulfilled.

Don't feel bad if having your conversation with your loved one doesn't seem to make any type of difference in the addictive behaviors. Again, keep in mind that it is a disease, and it often requires a little bit more convincing in order for people to get help. This is when intervention services are able to help.

You may have always thought of an intervention as something that happens on television, but that it really wasn't something that might be useful for you. At Northpoint Recovery, we want to assure you that this is an actual service that you can utilize to help your loved one get the needed help. During an intervention, close family members and friends will all have opportunities to talk about how the addiction has affected them, and how they can see it affecting their loved one. These meetings are always a surprise to the addicted individual, and that in itself is often a powerful statement that causes them to pay close attention to what is being said.

Interventions are always monitored by someone who is trained in this area, and then the addicted individual is given the opportunity to seek treatment at a facility. If treatment is not immediately sought, the family places certain restrictions on the individual to encourage him or her to get help.

Earlier, we discussed the importance of not paying bills, not paying rent or covering other expenses for those who have addictions. That is a very important part of ensuring that you are not enabling someone who suffers from substance abuse. However, in the event that financial assistance is required in order for your loved one to get treatment, you may want to consider offering some help if you are able to.

Even so, you may want to keep in mind that there have been some pretty drastic changes to our country's healthcare laws in recent years, and many drug and alcohol rehab centers have partnered with a number of different health insurance companies. These companies are required to provide their customers with coverage or benefits to help with the costs of addiction treatment. Your loved one may have health insurance that will cover the majority of the costs, which would leave him or her with very little to pay out of pocket. You may want to offer to cover this amount so that finances are of no concern whatsoever.

If you have questions about how much your family member's health insurance will pay toward treatment at Northpoint Recovery, feel free to contact us and we can verify the insurance for you.

It's important to know about the different types of substance abuse treatment that might be recommended for your loved one. If he or she has any questions about the options, you will be able to tell them. Plus, it's good to have that information for yourself as well.

  • Drug and Alcohol Detox – This method of treatment is the first step for most people who need rehab. It works by addressing the physical withdrawal symptoms that can make stopping the use of substances so difficult and dangerous, in some cases.
  • Inpatient Treatment – During inpatient treatment, your loved one will stay in a facility for about 30 days while he or she gets the needed help. Individual and group therapy will be important components of this time.
  • Long-Term Inpatient Treatment – This is sometimes known as residential treatment, and it is for those with severe addictions what need care for longer than one month.
  • Outpatient Treatment – You should know that most addicts are not appropriate for outpatient treatment during the initial part of their recoveries, but it is helpful for some people with mild addictions.
  • Intensive Outpatient Treatment – This option might be good for those who aren't able to commit to an inpatient setting, but who still need a high level of care and supervision.

Opting for Family Therapy While Your Loved One is in Treatment

While your family member is in treatment, his or her counselor will undoubtedly offer to hold family sessions for therapeutic purposes. These sessions are important because they will give you the chance to talk about all that you've gone through because of the addiction. They will also help you and your family member to work on repairing the damage that has been done to your relationship. Family therapy is a vital part of the recovery process for you both.

The Importance of Seeking Help for Yourself Because of the Substance Abuse

Whether your loved one has made the decision to get treatment or not, it's important for you to consider getting help for yourself. You have been through so much because of the addiction, and the struggle isn't over, even if your family member is in rehab. It can help you to talk with a counselor who specializes in helping addicts' families. It may also benefit you to consider going to a support group called Al-Anon. This organization has groups all over the country, and they offer help and encouragement to family members of those with addictions.

Regardless of how difficult the road has been or will get, the most important thing you can do is to take care of yourself.

Can Northpoint Recovery Help Your Loved One with Drug and Alcohol Treatment?

When a member of your family suffers from an addiction to drugs or alcohol, there is so much at stake. You desperately want your family to be happy and healthy, and you want everyone to be free of any concerns about addiction. Unfortunately, so many families in the United States live with a different reality, and those hopes simply do not fit into their everyday lives. Even so, there is so much that you can do to give your loved one the type of help that he or she really needs, instead of the type of help that will eventually destroy him or her.

At Northpoint Recovery, we understand what you're going through. Each morning, you wake up hoping that the day will be different from the one before, but it's not.

Unfortunately, no amount of wishing your family's circumstances were better is going to change anything for you, but with the right kind of knowledge, you can help your loved one beat his or her addiction once and for all. However, keep in mind that because addiction is a disease, it needs to be treated like one, and we'd like to help you get the process started.

Are you concerned about addiction in your family? Do you have questions about our intervention services or drug and alcohol rehab for someone you love? If so, please contact us today.