Addiction and family

When addiction gets its grips on a person, not only is it devastating to the dependent individual, but it also ravages marriage and family.

While one person is being swallowed and consumed by their addiction, the rest of the family bears many of the consequences for the actions and neglect of the addicted individual. It doesn't matter what kind of addiction is present, whether it is dependence on a substance such as alcohol or drugs or an addiction to gambling, everyone in the family is affected.

One of the first things to be negatively affected by addiction is trust in a marriage or family. A once reliable person becomes patently unreliable and often cheats, tells lies and steals from the people he or she claims to love.

In addition to these acts, the addicted individual very often does not take responsibility for these actions and may blame family members for his or her own failures. Family members learn to be on guard for the next crisis and expect to be let down.

Obviously, this can be very devastating to a spouse or loved one and this destruction of trust in a relationship erodes a marriage and often results in separation or divorce.

Along with trust, goes communication. Very often, loved ones avoid difficult topics surrounding the addiction in an attempt to keep stability and hide the problem from outsiders. Family members also often find themselves making excuses on behalf of the addicted individual, which can lead to further resentment.

These coping strategies may help a family to operate smoothly in the short term, but they also allow an addiction to continue and they cause the problem to go underground where it festers and continues to damage relationships.

Feelings of hopelessness are very common among families of people suffering with an addiction. Frustration, anger, fear and a sense that they can't do anything about the situation can be crippling. It is important to learn to cope with these feelings and find effective ways to address the addiction of a loved one, while accepting that it is not their fault.

Here are some tips if you have a loved one with an addiction:

Get information. There are many resources and support groups out there. Search online and ask your health care provider for assistance in accessing available resources. Once you learn about the addiction and the places to seek help, you will be one step closer to dealing with the problem.

Get help. Simply having information isn't enough to deal with an addiction. It is very likely that you will need professional help in treating an addiction. Counsellors and treatment programs are available for the addicted individual and there are also support groups and counseling for family members. Don't be ashamed to seek assistance. Addiction is not something you should have to handle on your own.

Talk about the problem. Although it can be painful and frustrating to talk openly about addiction within a family, it is necessary. Speak with the addicted individual as well as with an objective individual outside of the situation, such as a therapist, support group or trusted friend.

Take care of yourself and your needs. If you have stopped doing things you enjoy because your spouse or child is dealing with an addiction, re-establish them. You may be enabling your loved one's addiction by taking on extra responsibilities. It is important to take care of yourself.

Decide what you are willing to endure and when enough is enough. Don't make threats you aren't prepared to follow through with.

Don't expect a miracle. Recovering from an addiction takes time, patience and a lot of work. Relapses to happen and this will not be an overnight transformation. Be encouraged by progress, but be realistic.


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