The disease of addiction has a devastating impact on the addict’s loved ones, family and friends. Unfortunately, the negative consequences of the illness often cause more damage to those looking on than to the addict themselves. Involving family members in addiction treatment is crucial. Here at the Providence Projects, in Bournemouth, Dorset, we highly recommend involving family and friends at all stages throughout the treatment process. Addiction has a ripple effect: the family unit is impacted and there is often a build up of stress, anger, anxiety, and other negative and toxic emotions within the family unit. Many will harbour resentments towards their addict. If not addressed, these issues can trigger the addict to relapse after they leave treatment.
Receiving support, encouragement and love from family and friends makes a significant difference to the recovery journey. With everyone on the same page, the process is easier, and the risk of relapse along the way is much reduced. However, we do not underestimate the damage that this disease does to human relationships. It is devastating to watch from the side lines as your loved one destroys themselves with no regard for the consequences. Many people who enter treatment for their addiction, will have damaged their closest relationships. Involving family and friends in the rehabilitation process is crucial to start repairing those ties.
Addiction: The Effects
The intensity and severity of addiction can take a toll on even the strongest of relationships. As a parent of an addict or alcoholic, or the child of one too, the confusion, hurt and worry that family members experience can be devastating and damage both physical and mental health. The manipulation, deceit, and other forms of emotional abuse that the addict may inflict on their loved ones can be a source of great frustration and pain for those watching from the sidelines.
It goes without saying that when an alcoholic seeks treatment from an alcohol rehab clinic such as the Providence Projects, they have reached breaking point, and most family ties will be under a lot of strain. Some of the most significant ways in which addiction affects the family are listed below:
1. Loss of Trust
Lies, deceit and manipulation are the hallmarks of addiction. Addicts are not likely to follow through on their word, their promises to do differently, or their agreements to change. This only causes further strain to relationships. It’s important to remember that addicts do tend to want to honour the promises they make, but the effects of addiction make it extremely difficult. The loss of trust on the part of partners, children, parents and siblings is huge – and often results in dysfunctional and broken relationships.
2. Increased Stress & Worry
Addiction is an incredibly stressful and draining illness, both for the sufferer and for those who care about them. The powerlessness many friends and family members feel can be exhausting: trying to help, yet only finding themselves in the same vicious cycle of broken promises again and again. What’s more, when in the throes of addiction, the addict usually leaves all responsibility to those around them. If you’re the partner or parent, you are most likely going to have to take charge of the day to day responsibilities. Managing bills, raising children, making decisions, doing all the cleaning and cooking, will take its toll. No wonder that family members and friends of addicts are more likely to contract stress-induced conditions such as anxiety and high blood pressure.
3. Emotional Abuse
Substance abuse puts everyone around the person on edge. It culminates an atmosphere of fear, unpredictability, and confusion. Addiction upsets the balance within the family unit, and can mean everyone is acting out of character. Addicts can often be the perpetrators of emotional abuse and manipulation, and their behaviour is unpredictable and extreme. You never know how an addict is going to react to a situation. This means simple disagreements can quickly deteriorate into big fights and family members or friends will often begin walking on eggshells to try to appease their addict or alcoholic. They might retreat or become more reserved out of fear of upsetting the person
4. Financial Difficulties
Addiction is expensive. More often than not, it is the family who end up funding their loved one’s habit. When an addict faces consequences like job loss due to lack of attendance or poor performance, and they need funds to continue drinking or using everyday, it is often family and friends they will turn to. There may also be legal problems associated with their illness, such as driving under the influence or arrest over drugs offences. Family members may think they’re helping their loved one by giving them money, but in fact, they are only enabling their behaviour. Enabling your addict makes it easier for them to continue drinking or using, without facing the consequences on their own.
Benefits of Family Involvement in Recovery
Family support and involvement in the recovery process is hugely beneficial to all parties. Addiction is such an isolating illness, so recovery is all about human connection, and family plays a big part in this.
Education about addiction is crucial for family members: whether you’re the parent, child, husband or wife, sibling, partner or friend of an addict – the impact of the illness is huge, and it can be difficult to understand why people continue to use and drink despite such negative consequences.
Family involvement in therapy gives the family unit the opportunity to function again. Through group sessions, workshops, or our Providence Family Day programme, family members are able to learn how to effectively communicate with one another, avoid harmful behaviours such as enabling or co-dependency, and ultimately, it increases everyone’s chances of a lasting, successful and happy recovery from addiction.
We must, however, emphasise that addiction is a lifelong disease, and recovery takes hard work. Recovery is a journey and a way of life. There is no one size fits all approach, nor a guarantee that entering a treatment facility will fix you. The problem of addiction isn’t one that can be solved overnight: it requires you to work on a daily basis to recover.
Many private rehab clinics and treatment centres will offer their own family programmes. The reasons for this are twofold: firstly, therapy around addiction will help to educate the family members, and help them understand the disease. They will learn valuable skills to help support their loved one in recovery – such as recognising signs of relapse.
Secondly, families will often need a level of therapeutic support to cope with the trauma of dealing with the addicted person. By attending and engaging with a family therapy programme at a rehab centre, like our Family Programme at the Providence Projects, in Bournemouth, Dorset, the healing work can begin. Addiction leads to deceit, lies, manipulation and betrayal, but therapy can allow the family unit to bond, repair the damage caused, and build trust again.
Family members often tell us how glad they are for having attended family therapy. It helps to understand addiction and gain compassion for the situation. It also allows them to understand that alcoholism is a disease, a mental illness, and that no one party is to blame.
Family therapy is one of the most important parts of our rehab programme at the Providence Projects. Family members can see their loved one make progress, and also better understand what their addict is going through. They may develop their understanding of the patterns, behaviours and experiences that have led them to addiction. Family meetings, with individual members of the family or the whole unit, can help you move forward together in recovery and learn more about each other.
Family members might also find it beneficial to attend a family support programme on their own. Al Anon provides a successful, supportive programme for anyone affected by a loved one’s addiction or alcoholism, and there are regular meetings to gain support, connection, and share common experiences.
Drug addiction can be fatal. The illness is surrounded by stigma and misconception, and sufferers often feel immense shame and guilt about their addiction problem. Here at the Providence Projects, we want you to know that drug addiction is an illness of the mind. You don’t need to suffer in silence. Help is available and you can start your recovery today.
If you or a loved one are worried about your alcohol, drug or gambling use, then please get in touch with us today. We have a team of therapists, doctors and support workers, who are on hand 24/7 to answer your calls and talk through your detox and rehab options. Our private rehab clinic in Bournemouth, Dorset, has helped thousands of individuals to recover from their addiction and find a happier way of life, clean and sober.