Any time disease strikes someone, that person’s family and friends are profoundly affected as well. Addiction is a disease that wreaks havoc on a person’s own life as well as the lives of their family members and friends. The addict, of course, does not mean for their loved ones to experience pain or worry, but the outcome is the same–addiction hurts everyone.
Unfortunately, millions of Americans are negatively impacted by the sting of addiction. A recent Gallup Poll determined that one in five families have been impacted by alcohol. When one figures in the impact of all addictive drugs, this figure rises sharply. In fact, according to The American Society of Addiction Medicine, 24.6 million people age 12 and older, or 9.4% of the country’s population, endure substance dependence. Fortunately, there is help for addicts—and their families too.
“Addiction does not just affect the addict. Alcoholism/addiction is a family disease,” explains David Dequa, Program Director at The Discovery House, an inpatient and outpatient drug treatment center in Los Angeles. “When one member of the family struggles with a drug or alcohol addiction, everyone suffers. Family members blame themselves; they feel shame, guilt and remorse as they attempt to cover up the family condition.”
The Impact of Substance Abuse on Families and Friends
Family and friends of addicts who understand the health risks associated with substance addiction can experience a profound level of worry about their loved ones. Overdose is always a risk, whether the addict has been abusing for a short period of time or for years, and such intense worry can detract immensely from the health and wellbeing of their concerned loved ones. Knowing this can increase the addict’s sense of remorse over the choices they have made regarding their drug abuse. It’s important to remember that guilt alone cannot end an addiction once it has set in. Only through treatment can this disease be managed successfully.
How Addiction Alters the Family Dynamic
Substance addiction doesn’t just make families worry, however. In fact, it can alter the family dynamic in a myriad of ways depending upon the makeup of the family and the role of the addict within it. When a parent suffers from addiction, their children’s emotional development may be altered. The spouse or partner of an addict may experience co-dependent behaviors or need to take on added responsibilities to ensure the family’s financial stability. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, often the addict’s extended family is impacted by the disease of addiction, too. They may be needed to provide childcare, shelter or financial support for relatives who are suffering from alcohol or drug addiction.
While most alcohol or drug addiction treatment plans are necessarily designed specifically for the addict, family addiction therapy targets that entire family unit. As addicts know, their disease will impact family and friends in different ways. Some family members may be extremely angry while others may feel sad and confused about their loved one’s addiction. Family therapy both educates the family unit about the disease of addiction and helps each person understand the role they can play in their loved one’s recovery.
“The actions of the addict impact all of his or her loved ones and close friends, and it is often necessary for these individuals to get help as well,” adds Dequa. “A family program at our long term treatment centers for addiction can be very beneficial for families struggling with the drug problem or alcoholism of a loved one.”
By learning new strategies for coping with a loved one battling drug or alcohol addiction, families can join in the recovery process in meaningful ways that can successfully enhance the outcome of their loved one’s overall treatment.
Long-Term Recovery—for Families
As addicts and their families begin their road to recovery, they come to realize what a long journey it is. Many addicts and family members will benefit from ongoing therapy from private counseling and support groups like Al-Anon and Nar-Anon. Addiction is a disease that is characterized by remission and unfortunate bouts of relapse. Relapse can feel devastating for addicts as well as their friends and families. Yet by continuing treatment, recovery can be achieved—even if it must be achieved again. It’s through treatment that family members can find the encouragement they need to continually support their loved one on their long-term path toward recovery.
The Discovery House, a fully licensed, Joint Commission-accredited facility located in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, utilizes a variety of treatment programs that allow each client and their family to receive the individualized care they deserve. The pet friendly Southern California rehab center offers a variety of inpatient and outpatient drug treatment programs to help drug addicts and alcoholics achieve and maintain sobriety.
Each client at The Discovery House receives customized care to end their dependence on prescription drugs, heroin and other opiates and/or alcohol in order to live a clean and sober life. To learn more about The Discovery House or call (818) 452-1676.
Do you agree that family understanding and support are crucial to long-term recovery? How has your family been impacted by a member’s addiction? Please share with us on Facebook or Twitter @TDHRehab #AddictionTreatment