The Impact of Substance Abuse: 7 Ways Addiction Affects the Family

How substance abuse and alcoholism hurt the ones you love

Addiction hurts the entire family, from younger siblings to parents who cannot sleep at night. We compiled a list of the top things we observed with our clients and families.

1. Other Siblings Are Ignored

Brothers and sisters of addicts in families affected by drugs are often referred to as the “invisible victims.” 

When one sibling is an addict, the extra focus often lands on the effects addiction has on the parents. The other children often feel forgotten as their parents shift their anxiety and focus on the child with the addiction. 

They suffer in silence, often consumed by feelings of loneliness, anger, and fear. Sometimes the issues follow them to school too, as other students assume that siblings of an addicted student must have addiction issues too.

It’s normal for siblings to feel anger and guilt toward their parents. The key is to ensure they’re receiving the support and help they need to process what’s going on so that they don’t have to suffer in silence.

2. Parents Forget Addiction Is Chronic

Addiction is a chronic disease. Even with special and successful treatment, the addiction never leaves. In families affected by drugs, parents tend to believe that each time their child is released from treatment, things will be different this time around.

The fact of the matter is that after being released from treatment, addicts need the most support to ensure they don’t relapse. They need love, accountability, and support to ensure they don’t start using again. 

Falling back into addiction can happen regularly. For chronic relapsers, it’s vital to get continuous help to ensure the same patterns don’t repeat themselves.

3. Parents Are Manipulated

Most people who struggle with addiction are manipulative. Teenagers will often use deceiving measures to preserve their addiction and drug use.

Parents want to believe the best, and they usually do. The best way to combat lying and manipulation is to establish open and honest communication centered around addiction and the family.

The more parents communicate with their children, the easier it’ll be for them to spot the signs of addiction and act accordingly. If you’re a parent, ask nonjudgemental and open-ended questions that allow your child to share and express themselves. Be kind and respectful, and focus on the good, but don’t be afraid to insist on communication. 

4. Parents Feel Embarrassed

Parents of addicts feel embarrassed about their lifestyle and make excuses for their behavior. It’s entirely possible to love and fight for your child without enabling them, though. Bailing them out, making excuses for their actions, lying for them, or covering up their behavior will only continue to inflict pain and suffering on your child and your family.

Many parents feel too embarrassed to entertain friends or allow others into their lives when they have a spouse or child who suffers from addiction. Ignoring the issues only causes children to feel more alone and thus prone to further substance abuse.

Encourage your child to talk about their addiction, and don’t allow them to see you attempt to cover it up or act in shame. 

5. Parents Blame Themselves

Parents of addicted adults and teenagers tend to blame themselves for their child’s chronic disease. You cannot fix your child’s addiction, though. Even though you might be a parent, at the end of the day, your child is responsible for their own sobriety.

Self-blame can lead to reduced self-esteem, which only lessens a parent’s ability to help their child.

Addiction stems from a variety of factors. While it’s a parent’s job to guide and protect their child, substance abuse is not the fault of the parent. Rather than falling into the trap of blaming yourself, don’t give up on your child or stop showing them love.

Love yourself and accept your limits. Find out how you can help and be the support they need to help combat their addiction.

6. Trouble Sleeping From Worry

Parents of addicts are constantly worried. More often than not, this can lead to trouble sleeping and even insomnia.

Without proper sleep and a clear head, parents cannot provide the necessary support to their children. If you aren’t getting sleep because you’re up all night worrying about your child, talk to your doctor about ways to get some shut-eye.

The best thing you can do for someone who is affected by substance abuse is to take care of yourself so that you can help take care of and support them.

7. Parents or Siblings Bear the Weight of Caretaker

When an individual suffers from substance abuse, their brain endures a toxic burden from the substances they are constantly putting into their body.

Many diseases, illnesses, and disorders go hand-in-hand with addiction. As they see this happening, either a parent or a sibling will often take on the role of caregiver. This quickly takes a toll on mental and physical health. 

Caregivers of addicted family members often forget to take care of themselves and end up feeling hopeless and stressed. Addiction is a disease that requires professional and special help. 

Support and love from family are an integral piece of the healing puzzle, but they are not enough to fight addiction on their own.

Be Aware of the Potential Impact of Substance Abuse on Families

When there’s an addict in the family, everyone suffers. More often than not, family members find themselves overwhelmed with emotions like blame, fear, embarrassment, and loneliness.

Siblings of addicts in families affected by drugs suffer in silence. They don’t want to take away from the child they feel needs the attention. Parents are often left blaming themselves or taking on the role of caregiver and believing their children each time they promise they aren’t using.

More often than not, the impact of substance abuse on families can be significantly lessened with open and honest communication.

If you and your family need help, you can learn more about our family program.

If you have a child with an addiction, don’t wait until it’s too late to get the help they need. Contact us with any questions or if you’re ready for them to get started on their journey to sobriety.