The Family Must Recover Before the Addict Can
Families play a significant role in the circle of addiction. That, unfortunately, means that while families are critical to end destructive behavior and support long-term recovery, they may also be partially to blame for the addiction the first place. We now know that addiction manifests from a combination of genetics and environmental factors. Of course, while our genes are fully out of our control, our home environment can breed the beginnings or the worsening of addiction.
Some of the factors that may lead to addiction stemming from home life include:
- Parents or family members that abuse substances such as drugs or alcohol. Even if they may abuse in what seems to be a private arena, the effects of the substances are often seen and internalized by children in the household as well as other family members.
- Emotional, physical and sexual abuse, especially in developmental years are all risk factors in the onset of addictive behavior. The abuse can either create the trauma that starts the addictive behavior or can worsen addictive behavior that already exists.
- Enabling the addict. Family members, out of an abundance of concern for their loved one, often end up enabling the addictive behavior. We often see parents and family members who did not realize how their actions – while done with the best of intentions – actually create an environment for the addict to use and abuse even more.
- Anger and resentment. At a certain point, addiction cannot be hidden any longer. Over the course of time, the addict may have lied and stolen from their parents and loved ones. This invariably leads to resentment and anger which creates a vicious cycle of mistrust and lack of communication between family members. These feelings often don’t go away and manifest during the treatment process.
So why does the family need to recover?
Regardless as to whether the family caused or contributed to the addiction, the addict’s actions leading up to seeking help did not happen in a vacuum. Rather, everyone close to him or her was affected in some way, large or small. As a result, there will undoubtedly be buried, deep-rooted, negative feelings that can be easily derail long-term recovery process.
All of us at Destination Hope are acutely aware of the family dynamics that can alternately help and hinder our clients’ sobriety. It is for this reason that we work closely with the families of clients in treatment to present a united, compassionate and judgement-free front to fight addiction and relapse.
For families that have suffered with abuse, parental enabling, a family history of addiction or other trauma, seeking help to understand and identify these underlying issues can make the difference in successfully understanding one’s roots in addiction. Addressing these head-on can certainly be uncomfortable or even painful, but they ultimately represent the thread that can unravel the bind of addiction within the family and in the addicted individual.