Uniting as a Family to Heal From Substance Abuse Addictions
Living in a family with an addict is like trying to navigate an emotional minefield: every word, action or normal interaction takes on an entirely new meaning. One wrong move, and everything will blow up and fall apart at the same time.
This takes a serious toll on the friends, family and loved ones of the addict, and when the addict finally seeks help, everyone else will need it too. The people left behind are dealing with the aftermath of prolonged and traumatic substance abuse. They’re often overlooked, and this can leave them without the support and resources they need.
It is important to understand how healing the whole family and not just the struggling addict encourages long-term recovery. We are here for you and will walk you through this nerve-wracking situation.
We Know Addiction is a Disease but How is it a A Family Disease?
The family and friends close to an addict experience the disease just as much as the person who’s using the substances. The way that addiction impacts each person will be largely determined by their relationship with the addict; the child of a substance abuser will have a very different experience than the spouse. Family dynamics and ongoing conflicts prior to drug and alcohol abuse will also influence the way that everyone within the home is affected.
Addiction is stressful. There’s no one who can deny the way that it infiltrates the daily life of everyone close to the addict. It’s a constant emotional guessing game, complete with overwhelming worry and a sense of helplessness.
When an addict chooses recovery, it’s a process that needs to include the family on as many levels as possible. A person entering treatment doesn’t magically fix everyone they leave behind. Each member of the family will need to go through their own recovery process.
Part of what rehab teaches addicts is the concept of self-care. This is an essential foundation for recovery success, and something that needs to be practiced by family members as well. Each person needs to step back and really evaluate what they need physically, spiritually and mentally. Identifying areas in life where a person has neglected themselves can place them on a path towards a more positive future.
This personal neglect can happen when friends and family start to prioritize the needs and wants of the addict over their own. After that focus is removed, they need to turn their attention back to themselves. Caring for yourself is incredibly important. You aren’t any good to anyone else if you don’t feel whole and healthy on every level.
Identifying the Traps that Can Prevent a Family From Healing
Self-care isn’t as easy as it sounds. Many people become so weighed down by what’s going on in the lives of other people that they don’t notice how it’s affecting their own. There are plenty of traps that people can fall into that will derail their recovery process. Family members should be aware of these warning signs:
- Feeling overwhelmed or inadequate: If you feel like you can’t keep up with everything that’s going on, step back, and evaluate your priorities. Are you making yourself a priority? If the answer is “no,” then you need to cross a few things off your schedule and dedicate some time to you. Take a sick day, skip a workout, order takeout instead of navigating the grocery store, and carve out some time to pamper yourself and rest. If you’re feeling like you’re facing an emotional crisis, call a friend or therapist and set up a time to meet.
- Experiencing guilt: The addiction isn’t your fault. Guilt is something that many family members deal with after their loved one enters recovery. They feel like they could’ve done something to prevent the drug use, or that they pushed their loved one into it. These are lies that addiction tells. They are a part of the disease, and you need to know that they aren’t true. Talk about these feelings during family therapy and ask about support groups.
- Fear of Change: There’s a good chance you’ve spent months, years or even decades building your life around someone else’s addiction. Some family members become so accustomed to the lifestyle that they’re addicted to the addiction. Think about what your life would be like without any of the behaviors or daily activities that were dictated by the disease. It’s time to focus on your needs. Make one positive change each day and keep a journal of what you’re doing. Small steps can make a big difference.
- Letting Worry In: Worry and constant anxiety can stop you from focusing on repairing your life. Trust the rehab facility, and focus on your own treatment. This isn’t a betrayal—it doesn’t mean that you don’t care, and it will make you stronger as a person. An empty cup can’t fill another empty cup. Fill your life with positive things again.
Anything that causes you unnecessary stress or that detracts from the quality of your life is a trap. Avoid what you can and build bridges over the rest with a regimen of self-love and professional help. Therapy is an important part of self-care and can be beneficial on so many levels.
Maintaining Normalcy While Your Loved One is in Recovery
Throughout the family recovery process it’ll be challenging to create your new and healthier version of normal. Maintaining normalcy on a base level means that the bills are getting paid, kids are going to school, adults are going to work and the basic household needs are being met.
This is a good place to start, but you’ll need to begin restructuring the family in a way that creates a positive support system for the person in recovery. A support system needs to be strong and prepared for the future. Allowing addiction to continue to dominate the lives of everyone in the household feeds the disease. Starve it out with a routine of self-love and forgiveness. New habits, new goals and new focuses mean a new chance to learn what it means to be happy.
Addiction is a family disease, and recovery is a family process. With self-care, courage, and the help of caring professionals, every family has the tools to become the best possible version of themselves.