Uniting as a Family to Heal from Substance Abuse Addictions
Living in a family with an addict is like navigating an emotional minefield: every word, action, or regular interaction takes on an entirely new meaning. One wrong move and everything will blow up and fall apart at the same time.
This turmoil takes a severe toll on the friends, family, and loved ones of the addict, and when the addict finally seeks help, everyone else will need it too.
The people left behind are dealing with the aftermath of prolonged and traumatic substance abuse, leaving them without the support and resources they need.
Understanding how healing the whole family and not just the struggling addict encourages long-term recovery is crucial. We are here for you and will walk you through this nerve-wracking situation.
We Know Addiction is a Disease, but How is it a Family Disease?
The family and friends close to an addict experience the disease as much as the person using the substances.
How addiction impacts, each person will be primarily determined by their relationship with the addict. For example, the child of a substance abuser will have a very different experience than the spouse.
Family dynamics and ongoing conflicts before drug and alcohol abuse will also influence how everyone in the home is affected.
Addiction is stressful. No one can deny how it infiltrates the daily life of everyone close to the addict. It’s a constant emotional guessing game with overwhelming worry and a sense of helplessness.
When an addict chooses recovery, it’s a process that needs to include the family on as many levels as possible. A person entering treatment doesn’t magically fix everyone they leave behind. Each family member will need to go through their recovery process.
Why is Self-Care Important?
Part of what rehab teaches addicts is the concept of self-care. Self-care is an essential foundation for recovery success and needs to be practiced by family members. Each person needs to step back and evaluate what they need physically, spiritually, and mentally.
Identifying areas in life where a person has neglected themselves can place them on a path towards a more positive future.
This personal neglect can happen when friends and family start to prioritize the needs and want of the addict over their own. After that focus becomes redirected, they need to turn their attention back to themselves.
Caring for yourself is incredibly important. You aren’t any good to anyone else if you don’t feel whole and healthy on every level.
Identifying the Traps that Can Prevent a Family from Healing
Self-care isn’t as easy as it sounds. Unfortunately, many become so weighed down by what’s happening in other people’s lives that they don’t notice how it’s affecting their own.
Plenty of traps people can fall into will derail their recovery process. Family members should be aware of these warning signs:
- Feeling overwhelmed or inadequate: If you feel like you can’t keep up with everything that’s going on, step back, and evaluate your priorities. Are you making yourself a priority? If the answer is “no,” you must cross a few things off your schedule and dedicate some time to yourself. Take a sick day, skip a workout, order takeout instead of navigating the grocery store, and carve out some time to pamper yourself and rest. If you’re feeling like you’re facing an emotional crisis, call a friend or therapist and set up a time to meet.
- Experiencing guilt: The addiction isn’t your fault. Guilt is something that many family members deal with after their loved one enters recovery. They feel like they could’ve done something to prevent the drug use or that they pushed their loved ones into it. These are lies that addiction tells. They are a part of the disease, and you need to know that they aren’t true. Talk about these feelings during family therapy and ask about support groups.
- Fear of Change: There’s a good chance you’ve spent months, years, or even decades building your life around someone else’s addiction. Some family members become so accustomed to the lifestyle that they’re addicted to the addiction. Think about what life would be like without any behaviors or daily activities that originated from the disease. It’s time to focus on your needs. Make one positive change each day and keep a journal of what you’re doing. Small steps can make a big difference.
- Letting Worry In: Worry and constant anxiety can stop you from focusing on repairing your life. Trust the rehab facility and focus on your treatment. This isn’t a betrayal—it doesn’t mean that you don’t care, and it will make you stronger as a person. An empty cup can’t fill another empty cup. Fill your life with positive things again.
Anything that causes you unnecessary stress or detracts from your quality of life is a trap. Avoid what you can and build bridges over the rest with a regimen of self-love and professional help.
Therapy is integral to self-care and can be beneficial on many levels.
Maintaining Normalcy While Your Loved One is in Recovery
Throughout the family recovery process, creating your new and healthier version of normal will be challenging.
Maintaining normalcy on a base level means:
- bills are getting paid
- kids are going to school
- adults are going to work
- basic household needs are getting done
This list is an excellent place to start. Still, you’ll need to begin restructuring the family to create a positive support system for the person in recovery. A support system needs to be strong and prepared for the future.
Allowing addiction to continue to dominate the lives of everyone in the household feeds the disease. Instead, starve it out with a routine of self-love and forgiveness. New habits, goals, and focuses mean a unique chance to learn what it means to be happy.
Addiction is a family disease, and recovery is a family process. However, with self-care, courage, and the help of caring professionals, every family has the tools to become the best possible version of themselves.
Consider Regular Family Therapy
To maintain healthy communication between family members, some may consider continuing family therapy after the recovery of your loved one.
Communication is the foundation of all relationships, and strengthening that foundation is essential to strong, healthy families.
Family is one of the most vital parts of life. By taking the time to love and care for your family, you are investing energy in an essential part of living.
It takes a family to heal from a family disease, and every family member will benefit from coming together.