While addiction recovery is a deeply personal journey, the effects are almost never isolated to just one person. Addiction can affect parents, siblings, spouses, children, friends, and countless others who are invested in a loved one’s struggle with substance abuse.
At The River Source, we encourage our clients to build a strong support network of friends, family, peers, and alumni to support them on their recovery journey. However, addiction can be emotionally and mentally exhausting for all involved. As someone in recovery, it’s important to remember that sometimes, your support network needs some support of its own.
Addiction Affects the Whole Family
While some consequences of addiction are more obvious, such as financial and legal issues, others are harder to see, including loss of trust, resentment, abuse, and neglect.
The Effect of Addiction on a Partner
If one partner is struggling with addiction, the sober partner can encourage the other to seek treatment — but they often take on more than their fair share of responsibilities, putting a strain on the relationship over time. Trying to care for themselves as well as their partner who is struggling with substance abuse can be incredibly challenging for the sober partner, and can cause emotional distress, creating trust issues and feelings of hopelessness. Helping a partner on their recovery journey is a difficult task that shouldn’t be tackled alone.
If both partners struggle with addiction, however, they may enable each other to continue down an unhealthy path, putting a strain on the partnership.
Effects on Parents and Guardians
For parents, learning that their child is suffering from addiction can be very difficult and even guilt-inducing. The side effects can cause communication and trust issues within the parent-child dynamic, and feel like a no-win situation for parents: if they leave their child be, the addiction worsens, but if they intervene, there may be resentment, making it even harder for them to help their child.
Many parents want to support their child, but it is possible to provide the wrong kind of support, and sometimes, parents are guilty of enabling their adult child’s condition. Parents can provide their children with the wrong types of forgiveness or ill-placed financial support. While these parents want to do the best for their child who is suffering from addiction, it’s important to understand how difficult it can be to take on this journey by themselves.
Effects on Children
Children are deeply affected when one or both parents or a guardian is suffering from substance abuse. They are at greater risk for mental illnesses and developmental difficulties. Dealing with the personality changes that accompany addiction can take its toll on a child’s stability. Children also may be asked to lie on behalf of a loved one and can adopt unhealthy roles, such as taking on parental duties, ignoring their own feelings, acting out, and withdrawing from reality.
Effects on Friends
Having a friend with a substance abuse disorder can cause stress and tension. It can be remarkably difficult to watch a friend struggle with addiction, especially when it changes their personality. Often, the peer group of a person struggling can accidentally provide the wrong type of support, either further enabling their friend’s addiction or leaving them feeling isolated. If you have a friend with a substance abuse disorder, it’s important to remember that you can’t help them change on your own — to start providing them with healthy support, your first step should be to help them find professional care.
Help Your Support Network Seek Help
We recognize the love and support that those with an addiction need to move forward and reclaim their lives, and our goal is to help our clients find and foster that network.
We also know that for family and friends, providing that love and support while they try to look after their own needs is a tough balancing act. We want to ensure that everyone who’s in our clients’ lives while they fight addiction can be heard, appreciated, and supported themselves.
Understanding Through Education
Addiction slowly changes individuals, altering the brain in complicated ways. If a friend or loved one is struggling with addiction, it can sometimes be difficult to recognize how they are acting and behaving. It can also be difficult to understand why someone continues using a substance that they know has adverse effects on their health and their life.
We’re here to help others learn more about the disease of addiction so that they can better understand what their friends and family members are going through. There are many misconceptions about addiction, but we’ve found that open dialogue and education fosters understanding, especially within crucial support networks.
Group Counseling for Friends and Family Members
Group therapy is a safe, calm place to learn from, and be heard by, others in similar situations. For many people supporting a loved one in recovery, every day comes with new challenges. During group therapy, attendees can express their thoughts and emotions as they learn how to build a network, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and look after others while also taking care of themselves.
We can connect clients and members of their support network to a number of strong therapy groups, including:
- Al-Anon: a support group for family and friends of those affected by alcohol addiction
- Alateen: a support program for teenagers whose life has been changed by someone else’s drinking
- Nar-Anon: a branch of Narcotics Anonymous that helps family members and friends of those addicted to drugs
- Adult Children of Alcoholics: a group that supports adults whose childhood was affected by their parent’s addiction
- Co-Dependents Anonymous: a support group for those who are reliant on helping others
The Importance of a Strong Network of Support
Most of our team at The River Source have been on both sides of addiction: we’ve worked through it ourselves, and we’ve watched people we care about struggle with it. There are different difficulties and pains on either side, both of which deserve proper support.
With individualized care, proven treatments, and naturopathic healing, we help our clients find peace in body, mind, and spirit. We also put emphasis on our clients finding a strong network of support, both inside and outside of our community. However, being supportive doesn’t mean putting your own health at risk, and in order to provide that strength in support for recovery, you have to be mentally and emotionally healthy yourself.