Drug and alcohol abuse not only affects the abuser and his/her life, but also the lives of family members. When recovery begins, your whole family should be involved when possible. (…) Addictions often create interpersonal problems for all family members:
- Jealousy: You can grow jealous of your friends, your partner, other family members and other people in your life. Your partner may also be jealous and resentful of you.
- Conflict with Partner: You may have arguments, get/give the “silent treatment” or grow apart by putting your addiction first.
- Conflict with Children: You may argue with your children and they may disregard your authority or be afraid of you.
- Conflict over Money: You may struggle economically because of losing your job, taking time off from your job, making poor financial choices or simply pouring your money into your addiction.
- Emotional Trauma: You may create emotional hardships for your partner and/or your children by yelling, talking down, insulting or manipulating.
- Violence: You may become violent or your family members may become violent with you, including slapping, hitting or smashing or throwing objects.
- Cheating: You may become distant from your partner and seek satisfaction through pornography, Internet sex, prostitution or someone else in your life who you feel “understands” you.
- Separation: Your behavior due to addiction may cause separation, divorce, and/or isolation from other family members, particularly children, either because they’ve been taken from you or because they don’t want to be around you.
- Patterns: Your life example will influence your partner, your children and other family members. There is a high likelihood that your children will become addicted to drugs or alcohol.
- Health Risks: Drinking while pregnant can cause fetal alcohol syndrome — damage to the baby’s brain. Smoking in the household can cause health problems for family members from secondhand smoke, including lung cancer. Being under the influence of drugs and alcohol will overall impair your judgment and can lead to neglect or harm.
Drug and alcohol abuse affects different family structures in different ways. These family structures are adapted from The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services “Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy” guide:
- You live alone or with a partner: Both of you need help. If one of you has an addiction and the other doesn’t, you’ll suffer from issues of co-dependence.
- You live with a spouse or partner and young children: Parents’ problems effect children. Often, one parent has an addiction and the other protects the children or assumes more parental responsibilities. If both parents have addictions, the effect on children is worse. Your addiction is likely to pass down to your children.
- You have a step-family: Substance abuse impedes your step-family’s integration and stability.
- You are older and have grown children: Family resources are needed to treat an older adult’s substance abuse. Elder maltreatment may become an issue.
- You are younger and live with your family: The needs and concerns of siblings or other family members may get ignored because of crises caused by substance abuse. If you also have a parent who has a substance abuse problem, you’re in danger of physical and/or emotional conflicts.
How can family therapy help me?
- Your family’s strengths and resources can help you find ways to live without alcohol and drug addiction.
- You and your family will be better able to deal with the impact of detoxification, the process of cleansing your body from an addiction.
- Your family will become more aware of their own needs and feel that they can express their needs safely.
- The next generation in your family will be less likely to carry on your addiction.
- If you have lost custody of your children, you will be better able to overcome your addiction and reconnect with your family.
What should I know about family therapy?
- Make sure you find the right therapist or counselor and that you’re upfront about why your family is going to therapy. Family therapists often don’t screen for substance abuse, while substance abuse counselors need proper training and licensing to practice family therapy.
- If there is any physical or emotional abuse in the family, family counseling techniques are not an option, because family members must be protected.
written by: Beth Aileen Lameman (HealthKey.com)