By Sandy Baker
Many people understand the long-term impact drugs have on the person using them.
These range from memory loss to a higher risk of developing depression and anxiety. Yet, within families, there are also risks, many of which weigh on the minds of loved ones for years to come. Whether you are an individual on the path to recovery or you are a loved one trying to provide the highest level of support possible along that route, it’s important to understand what’s to come.
It’s Family Damage
Drug and alcohol abuse impacts the lives of both users and their families. It’s hard to really see the level of damage potential this type of abusive behavior has on the family unit. Yet, in nearly every case, personal relationships are strained. Family members develop different ways of speaking to each other, and the entire family dynamic can shift to accommodate the new challenges drugs and alcohol bring with them.
Emotional Strain Can Last Years
Perhaps the most complex impact drug use has on families is an emotional strain. Loved ones worry about the drug user. Where is she? Why didn’t he come home? During the using phase, individuals may develop a sense of fear and worry. This can worsen over time, leading to anxiety and depression.
In some cases, ongoing anxiety can also lead to anger. A sibling may watch a parent struggle to cope with the drug abuse of another sibling. Children watch their parents struggle and resent the impact this creates on their lives, whether it be in the form of financial difficulty or embarrassing situations at school. Over time, anger can develop into a deep sense of resentment.
There’s often a constant level of conflicting emotions within the family unit during the abuse and through recovery. At one end, the family members feel as if they are tired of the lies and pain that come from the drug use. At the other end, they want to help their loved one through this time. It’s hard to navigate. The path forward for family members is rarely straight and can be just as insecure as the path of the person recovering.
Financial Strains Often Develop
Whether a family enables their loved one by purchasing drugs and alcohol or helps them by paying for the cost of treatment and relapse care, it is quite common for families to face financial obstacles for years to come. Drug and alcohol use, detox, treatment, and recovery are often costly. This is compounded by any health complications that arise. It may put a family’s home on the line.
Even through recovery, financial difficulties can remain for a person working to overcome a substance use disorder. It can be hard to get a job, difficult to obtain an education, and even harder to repay all of the debt owed. The entire family may struggle as a result.
The Impact on Family Health
As noted, those who use drugs and alcohol will likely struggle with health complications for many years. However, poor health can also impact many members of the family. For example, the parents of a person in recovery may face debilitating health complications from high stress levels, anxiety, depression, and taking poor care of themselves. Siblings may not receive the routine medical care necessary due to limited finances. The emotional trauma itself can make holding a job – for anyone in the family – difficult to do.
Overcoming These Obstacles: Is the Path Forward Still Worth It?
Looking at any of these factors can paint a very bleak view. Why go through recovery and face your demons when there is so much trouble out there? It’s worth it. And, your family loves you enough to put themselves through this turmoil for your recovery.
- Recognize the damage done, not just on the recovering drug or alcohol user, but on the entire family.
- Seek out ongoing treatment for all members of the family. Most families need care during the detox phase and for years following.
- Encourage individual members of the family to seek out additional mental health care to help them deal with the unique impact the abuse has created.
- Work with counselors to create a way forward. Develop a plan to get the help you need to avoid relapse.
- Fight it out. Talk it out. Consistently work on it. Forgive each other. Forget. And, repeat this as many times as necessary to work through the emotional trauma.
Addiction is not a disease that impacts just one person. It impacts every member of the family in various ways. From spouses to children to parents and siblings, every person within the family unit will react and struggle in a different manner. However, treatment is available to help every member of the family to learn how to accept and move past these feelings and difficulties.
At the Ranch at Dove Tree, family counseling and support is routinely available. Addiction is a family disease, one managed by every member working together on the path towards recovery. Contact us now to learn more about how we can support you on this journey.
Long Term Drug Addiction Effects.
Bringing the Power of Science to Bear on Drug Abuse and Addiction. 4: Long-term effects of drug abuse.
Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy. Chapter 2 Impact of Substance Abuse on Families.