Drug Addiction in Families
There is little doubt that drug addiction has a tremendous impact on families. Every family member is affected to a greater or lesser extent. Although it may appear that the individual with the addiction is experiencing the greatest turmoil and distress, the entire family may be stuck in an unhealthy and dysfunctional pattern of behavior as various family members attempt to cope with the ensuing chaos that results from the addict’s dependence on drugs.
It is not uncommon for parents of an addicted son or daughter to feel guilty or responsible for their child’s problems. This can result in too much involvement as the parent attempts to “fix” the child and manage his or her behavior.
Siblings of the addicted son or daughter may feel left out or ignored, when too much unhealthy attention is focused on the plight of the addict. Deep anger and resentment may build among different family members who understandably begrudge the amount of time and energy devoted to the addicted member’s problem.
Sometimes family members feel sorry for the addicted person, and try to help by enabling the person to get drugs or by ignoring their obvious drug related behavior. Others may attempt to avoid the situation and pretend that the problem doesn’t exist in order to keep the peace.
Children of an addicted parent find themselves in a particularly difficult situation. Young children require a stable, loving home environment in order to thrive, and that is just not possible when their parent is using. Older children may be forced to take over the parent’s role in running the household and looking after the other kids.
Families in Crisis
Drug addiction in families creates an environment of constant worry, turmoil, and shame. The addict’s behavior may be unpredictable, violent, or abusive. Family members must be constantly on guard in case money goes missing or valuables are stolen in order to fund the addict’s drug habit. An addicted individual may experience wild mood swings as a side effect of the drugs he or she is taking. This may leave other family members feeling as though they are “walking on eggshells”; unsure from one minute to the next, whether or not the addict will be happy or sad, angry or quiet.
Families coping with drug addiction may feel that their family situation is different and that they are very alone. Secrecy and isolation are unhealthy coping strategies that serve to further cut off family members from support and healthy relationships. There may be few visitors to the home, and children may be reluctant to have friends over in case a problem erupts.
The addicted family member may be involved in criminal activity which exposes other family members to danger. There is always the fear that a drug overdose or medical emergency might place the addict’s life at risk. Family members may find themselves so focused on the addict, that nothing else gets done, and no one else’s needs are taken care of.
Drug addiction in families is therefore a serious problem. It is extremely important that family members who are living with an addicted person reach out for help for themselves so they can learn some effective coping strategies, look after their own emotional needs, and restore a healthy and peaceful balance to their lives.