What is it Like to Live with a Drug Addicted Family Member?

There may be nothing more stressful than living with an addicted family member. It doesn't matter what drug they are addicted to. While the drugs they use may be different from family to family, their behaviors are very similar.
living with an addicted family member

Table of Contents

The Emotional Rollercoaster

The emotional roller coaster of having an addicted loved one is a tumultuous and heart-wrenching experience, marked by an ever-shifting landscape of intense feelings.

The journey often begins with disbelief and shock as you struggle to reconcile the person you thought you knew with the stranger standing before you.

Anger and frustration soon follow as their addictive behaviors strain the entire family, while sadness and grief arise from losing the person they once were.

Overwhelming feelings of guilt and responsibility can gnaw away at you as you question whether you could have done more to prevent their descent into addiction.

Amidst the chaos, you may grapple with anxiety, fear, and a deep sense of helplessness as you come face-to-face with the harsh reality that you loved one’s recovery ultimately lies in their own hands.

Feelings of Anger, Frustration, and Sadness

Life with a drug-addicted family member often evokes intense emotions, including anger, frustration, and sadness. 

You may feel angry as you watch your loved one make destructive choices, seemingly disregarding the welfare of those who care for them. 

Frustration can build as your attempts to intervene or provide support appear fruitless, leaving you powerless against addiction’s stronghold. 

Amidst the turmoil, a deep sadness takes hold as you grieve the loss of the person they once were and the life you shared before addiction took control.

Struggling with Guilt and Responsibility

Alongside these emotions, guilt and responsibility may weigh heavily on your shoulders. It’s natural to wonder whether you could have done more to prevent your loved one’s descent into addiction or whether your actions might have inadvertently contributed to their struggle. 

As you grapple with these feelings, it’s crucial to remind yourself that addiction is a complex and multifaceted issue, and no single person can be held solely accountable for the choices of another. 

Recognizing and accepting the limits of your control can help alleviate the burden of guilt and responsibility.

Managing Stress and Anxiety

Living with a drug-addicted family member can be a constant source of stress and anxiety, as the uncertainty of their well-being and the unpredictable nature of their actions create an environment of constant tension.

Finding healthy ways to manage and cope with these emotions is essential to maintaining mental health.

Engaging in self-care activities, such as exercise, meditation, or pursuing hobbies, can help provide a much-needed reprieve from the chaos.

Additionally, connecting with support groups, friends, or therapists can offer valuable outlets for sharing your experiences and learning strategies to navigate the emotional roller coaster that comes with having a drug-addicted family member.

How Widespread is Drug Addiction?

Statistics on drug abuse in the United States are staggering. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that over 17 million adults suffer from alcoholism. Almost 15 million people abuse marijuana, while almost 3 million have a cocaine addiction.

Methamphetamines and Ecstasy have over 1 million addicts, and over 7 million people suffer from prescription drug addictions. Drug abuse continues to grow in the United States. With that growth comes more family members being impacted by drug abuse.

How Do You Deal with an Addicted Family Member?

You’re never able to make a deal with an addicted family member. Addicted family members don’t deal back even if you try. The addicted family member will take advantage of almost any comfort or positive reinforcement you give them.

As they continue to take advantage of every offer you give them, you find yourself becoming an enabler. You want to believe them whenever they tell you they’ll quit using drugs and that this time will be different.

You also need to seek help through support groups with other families who have had a similar experience. Drug interventionists call denial part of the drug abuse cycle.

Being part of a drug abuse cycle means you may not be addicted to drugs, but because a family member is, you’re in the drug abuse cycle with them.

You stay impacted by their drug abuse unless you and your family member seek a drug intervention, so you can both follow a new path.

It’s also important to understand the various myths that exist about addiction. These are myths that hold families back from actually helping their loved ones.

Families Who Rationalize Not Seeking Help for Their Drug-Addicted Family Member

Often, families go from crisis to crisis when they have a family member who suffers from drug addiction. Families have no idea what to do or where to go when this happens.

Families often end up in an endless holding pattern where the drug-addicted family member promises to quit using drugs. The family member wants to believe this time will be different, but they often watch their family member return to using again.

One fear that holds a family member hostage to inaction is that they see the family member’s drug addiction’s impact on them. It’s the belief that making no decision and hoping things will improve is better than making the wrong decision. Unfortunately, not doing anything and believing that your family member can and will seek treatment in most cases is not a realistic possibility.

Finding Out Addiction is Controlling Your Family Member’s Life

You may tell yourself you’re not codependent or enabling your drug-addicted family member. If you have taken on the caretaker role by paying a bill so they don’t lose their apartment, electricity, or something else, you’ve become a caretaker.

 You’ve taken on the role of a caretaker if you’ve made excuses for their boss so they don’t lose their job when they don’t go to work. You’re a caretaker if you’ve picked them up when they were too high or drunk to get home. Sometimes it’s as hard to break a codependent relationship as it is to be addicted. But it can be done.

Learning about the Nature of Addiction and Treatment Options

Educating yourself about the nature of addiction and the available treatment options can empower you to provide informed support to your struggling family member.

Understanding that addiction is a complex disease influenced by genetic, environmental, and psychological factors can help you approach the situation with empathy and patience.

Research various treatment modalities, such as inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient programs, counseling, and support groups, to help your loved one find the most suitable path to recovery.

By staying informed, you become an invaluable resource and advocate for your loved one during their battle with addiction.

Understanding the Limits of Personal Control

As you navigate life with a drug-addicted family member, it is essential to acknowledge and accept the limits of your control.

While you can offer support, encouragement, and resources, ultimately, the decision to pursue recovery and maintain sobriety lies with your loved one.

Recognizing this boundary can help you maintain your emotional wellbeing and establish healthy boundaries within your relationship.

It is crucial to find a balance between offering support and safeguarding your mental health, ensuring that you are in the best position to be a source of strength and understanding for your family member as they face addiction challenges.

How Do You Break a Codependent Familial Relationship?

When you’re deep into a codependent addiction within a familial relationship, there are many times you fear what will happen if things change between you and the addicted family member. Change is never comfortable, but it is necessary in this case.

 You must understand if things remain the same, things will change anyway. But it won’t be a change you planned or prepared for. An unplanned change happens when your drug-addicted family member has a run-in with the law, overdoses, or runs out of places to go.

It takes a lot of courage to ask for help if you suffer from addiction or are a family member of an addict. There are places you can go to help you learn healthy tools in a step-by-step process for dealing with your drug-addicted family member. Success rates of addiction treatment are only as successful as the addicted person makes it.

Rehabilitation and recovery programs are the best chances a drug-addicted person has at recovery. Going through a rehabilitation process as a patient or a patient’s family member helps both of you. You learn about the new dynamics needed for successful family healing.

What’s Your Next Step?

Family members of drug-addicted people can’t wait until things get better tomorrow. But sometimes, when you’re dealing with addiction, tomorrow never comes.

By learning to stop being codependent with an addicted family member, you start forging a new path. By staying on this new path, you find a way to live your life healthy and fulfilling.

Break the cycle of drug addiction’s impact on your family. 

It is critical to understand that addiction is a family disease and how it affects the entire family unit.

 Your future path doesn’t depend on your family member’s path. It only depends on what path you’re on.

You can learn more about healing as a family unit here.

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