Addiction is a Family Disease
Author: Atlanta Addiction Recovery Center Editor
Addiction doesn’t just harm the individual, but has damaging, long-lasting effects on family members and friends as well. The daily stress, shame, fear and burden spurred by the disease can leave loved ones feeling devastated and powerless. But there are ways out of the nightmare, to heal, repair relationships and break the cycle of abuse with the right support and education.
Why is Addiction a Family Disease?
Sometimes, those who have a loved one with a substance abuse problem don’t realize all the ways that the disease of addiction also affects them. But addiction is called a family disease because it causes trauma to the family unit on every level—emotionally, physically and financially. Family dynamics are disrupted and begin to disintegrate and the effects can be felt for a lifetime.
Addiction breaks down the family unit in many ways:
- Addiction can be transgenerational, meaning a parent’s addiction can perpetuate the cycle of substance abuse. Children with addicted parents are more likely to follow in their footsteps, becoming addicts themselves.
- Family members may become co-dependent and unknowingly enable their loved one’s behavior. Co-dependence is defined as “excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction.” Co-dependent family members don’t focus on their own needs, but instead devote much of their time covering for, trying to control and even cure their loved one’s addiction. Other family members may feel neglected and unimportant because the disease has consumed so much of their lives.
- Family members suffer a great deal emotionally and often experience anxiety and depression. They may live in a constant state of fear that their loved one may end up in jail, be physically injured or not survive another day. Feelings of shame, guilt, anger and resentment become the norm.
- Family members can develop physical ailments as a result of stress and anxiety, including a greater chance of developing high blood pressure, chest pain, headaches and overall poor health. So much time is spent worrying about the individual with the addiction that they fail to take the time to care for themselves.
- The household can suffer financially if money is continuously spent on drugs and alcohol or job loss has occurred. Immediate family members of an addict may find themselves hiding money and locking up valuables. They may live in a constant state of fear that they will be victimized.
How Can Families Heal From Addiction?
Although addiction is a chronic, lifelong disease, there is hope for healing in recovery with the right support and treatment program. Atlanta Addiction Recovery Center’s (AARC) Family Program offers family members the support, therapy and education they need in a safe, nurturing environment using a Christ-centered approach.
AARC’s Family Program supports everyone affected by addiction. In addition to focusing on helping the individual achieve sobriety, families are offered the tools for their own recovery by:
- Sharing their personal experiences and listening to the perspectives of others who have a family member suffering from addiction.
- Creating a support network with other families who have walked a similar path.
- Learning why addiction is called a “family disease,” how it targets free will and how 12-step recovery programs can support and strengthen recovery for those struggling with addiction and their families.
- Learning to set healthy boundaries that promote health and well-being while effectively supporting their loved one in recovery.
- Learning how their loved one’s disease has harmed their family, and beginning the process of healing and repairing those relationships.
- Embracing a Christ-centered approach to recovery through the power of faith and prayer.
Recovery is a process for everyone who has been touched by the disease of addiction. For families living with addiction, recovering takes time, but the sense of relief will be immediate when a loved one enters treatment. With the help of our experienced therapists and recovery coaches and God’s love, families can begin their own journey of healing.