Anyone who believes that addiction is a personal problem is falsely misled. Addiction is everyone’s problem. The people who are affected most are close family and friends, though this group often doesn’t get the compassion and support they deserve. Parents of drug addicts are often blamed for doing something “wrong” while friends that stick around are questioned for their good intentions.
Photo Credit: Stuart Miles
How Addiction Affects the Family Unit
What the families and friends of addicts need is support and understanding. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that families are affected by substance abuse.
- Their time, energy and focus is consumed by the addict. Other children in the family may not be getting much attention.
- They may be struggling financially because their loved one was fired or quit their job. Bankruptcy, foreclosure, losing their life savings or having things stolen are all possible issues.
- There might be violence in the home due to stress and the effects of drugs and alcohol. Children may see their parents fighting or be physically abused or neglected. A spouse may be emotionally or physically abused.
- They might have their lives be put in danger. If they get into the car with the addict or into a domestic dispute, they run the risk of being injured.
As you can see, the families of addicts are impacted in many ways – and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Families are destroyed over addiction, and children can suffer long lasting effects. Our communities need to do a better job of reaching out to these families, and the change starts with you.
Tips for Helping a Family in Need
If you know a family struggling with their loved one’s addiction, here are some of the ways that you can help.
- Suggest they attend a self-help group in their community. There are Al-Anon groups in every state. Locate nearby meetings and offer to go with them. These groups offer an incredible amount of information and support.
- Do research on addiction and help the family to better understand what it is. A new perspective can be helpful, especially if the family is angry or blaming the addict.
- Be a good listener. Sometimes all a person needs is to feel heard and understood. Listen to your friend and avoid making assumptions about what they’re going through.
- Refrain from using biases. Addiction has a lot of stigma associated to it, and so do the families that are affected. Addiction is not a by-product of poor parenting, a lack rules or a broken home. Recognize addiction for what it is: a progressive and chronic disease.
- Be positive. Addiction is treatable. It is something that families can come out stronger from. Remind those you care about of this. Encourage them to continue looking at treatment centers, go to a counselor or perhaps even stage an intervention.
- Distract them from their problems. When possible, try to give the family an outlet to de-stress. They must find a way to keep on living no matter what happens. Take the kids out for ice cream. Bring over pizza and a movie.
If you know someone who is currently dealing with a family member who is addicted, let them know you are here for them. The families of addicts need our love and support, too!