Dealing with Addiction

With more than 22 million people ages 12 and older addicted to drugs and/or alcohol in the United States (or about 9% of the American population), it is, unfortunately, becoming uncommon to find someone who has not been personally affected by this devastating disease. Today, the country is facing a nationwide opioid epidemic, with heroin, fentanyl, and other prescription painkillers claiming the lives of 115 people due to overdose. Newer studies and research show that following closely behind the opioid epidemic is a growing increase in stimulant abuse. 


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Dealing With Addiction

On one hand, it seems as though the amount of people abusing drugs and/or alcohol are constantly increasing, and impacts from those who are addicted are continuing to wear on both society and their loved ones. However, on the other hand, it can also appear that more efforts to stop and prevent substance use disorders have been put in place than ever before. Interestingly enough, both are true. While there are more people with substance use disorder today than before, there are also more means of trying to help. But for those who have an addicted loved one within their families, these efforts can feel fruitless, especially as they continue to watch him or her spiral out of control.

When a loved one has a substance use disorder, the family can suffer just as much, if not more, than the user. Addiction is a family disease, as it affects everything and everyone it touches. Therefore, what ends up occurring is that the family, just like the user, require professional treatment services to help overcome the damage that has been caused within their lives.

Effects of Addiction on the Family

Each family has several unique factors that pertain to their experience with addiction. These factors depend on several things, such as the type of drug a loved one is using, how long the use has been occurring, what mental health problem does he or she have, and what physical state he or she is in, to name a few. These factors are also determined based on how family members cope with chaos and what personal issues they are dealing with. Unfortunately, no matter what condition a family unit is in, addiction will leave several different impacts on everyone. Some of the most common effects that the disease of addiction can have on a family include the following:

  • The development of poor, potentially non-existent, communication skills
  • Deterioration of close relationships with the user and amongst one another
  • Increased aggression, anger, and violence within the home
  • Greater potential for symptoms of anxiety and depression to develop in all involved
  • Emotional exhaustion
  • The development of enabling behavior
  • Emotional damage caused by manipulation of the addicted individual
  • Broken trust
  • Estrangement between members of the family, even those who might not be addicted, due to a difference of opinions in regards to the addiction

When there is an individual within a family that is struggling with substance use disorder, not only does he or she need professional help, but it is also likely that the rest of his or her family members need help, too.

How to Deal with Addiction

It can be easy for you to feel as though there is nothing that you can do to affect any type of real change within your life when addiction is present. You, like many others, can get to a point of feeling hopeless over the situation at hand and begin to just accept your new reality. However, that does not need to be the case. Addiction is extremely difficult to deal with, but it is possible. And, learning how to cope with addiction while it is happening can provide you and other members of your family relief and freedom from the chains of this disease.

  1. Learn about addiction – Addiction is a disease that can feel so personal when in reality, the behaviors associated with it are due to mental and physical functioning. Spend time researching addiction as a disease. Learning more about how addiction develops, how it impacts the brain, and why it is so hard for individuals to stop using can help provide you with a better understanding and the appropriate compassion for your loved one.
  2. Attend support groups – Support groups, such as Al-Anon, can provide you and your family members connection with other families who are experiencing the same trials and tribulations that you are. Simply sharing your thoughts and emotions with others who can relate can be relieving and freeing, and the support that can come your way can help you through this part of your life.
  3. Go to family therapy – With or without your addicted loved one, going to family therapy is one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself and your loved ones. In this setting, a certified therapist can help your entire family rebuild, renew, and develop an action plan going forward.
  4. Practice self-care – As simple as it might sound, it is imperative to take care of yourself during this process. Chances are you have put a great deal of yourself into your addicted loved one and the impacts of his or her addiction, so much so that you have probably neglected your own needs. Find daily ways to care for yourself. This can include sectioning off 15 minutes to sit outside and have a cup of coffee, or taking a long, relaxing bath at the end of the day to help decompress. You do not need to carry the weight of the addiction on your shoulders, and by participating in self-care, you can regain some of your physical and emotional strength.
  5. Develop boundaries – Establishing boundaries with your addicted loved one (as well as other family members if necessary) can help you preserve your spiritual wellbeing. Decide what is acceptable to you and what is not, and do not waver on your decisions. Setting boundaries is not only beneficial to you, but it is also beneficial to the user, as he or she cannot be enabled by you any longer.

If you are struggling with addiction in your family, you are not abnormal. Millions of people face the very same challenges that you do on a regular basis. However, remember to not feel hopeless, but hopeful in that there are things you can do to regain your inner peace and manage the disease of addiction properly.

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