Drug addiction, also known as substance use disorder, afflicts not only individuals, but their families as well. If you have a drug addiction, the changes in your behavior will also negatively impact your relationships with family members.
Over time, as the addiction progresses, you will see drugs as more important than your family. That will seriously strain your relationships with them. Likewise, your family may see you as a threat to their safety and well-being, and you may feel alienated by the way they treat you.
For these reasons, it’s important for your family to get involved as well in drug addiction treatment. Here is how drug addiction affects your family dynamics, and how their involvement in your recovery will help you.
How does drug addiction affect your family?
If you have a drug problem, it’s only a matter of time before your family starts behaving in dysfunctional ways. In fact, your family dynamics may have already become dysfunctional, especially if your addiction has been going on for a significant length of time.
Your family members may then assume different “roles” to cope with your drug problem. Here are the common ones.
The Lost Child
This member of the family is not necessarily a child by age. A typical behavior of a Lost Child is withdrawing from the situation both physically and emotionally. They may avoid interacting with you to avoid conflict. Also, he may often suppress his emotions to prevent triggering any negative confrontations.
While the Lost Child eases the overall emotional burden on the family, he is actually suffering a lot inside. He just doesn’t show it to “keep the peace.”
The mascot uses humor in an attempt to relieve the stress that the family is going through. At times, the humor may be directed towards you. This is not helpful, as you will feel like the Mascot is not treating your drug addiction seriously.
In the attempt to use humor to minimize pain, the Mascot actually does more harm to you than good. Drug addiction is not a laughing matter, after all.
The Hero is the high achiever of the family. He always does what he can to not let the family down. When he realizes you have a drug addiction, he compensates for it by being the superstar of the family.
Often, they would cover for you to avoid shaming the family. They can do things to make you look good despite your addiction. But actually, they are most likely in denial that you have a problem that requires professional help.
Their hero complex is also a coping mechanism for their feelings of helplessness because of the situation.
The Enabler is the member of your family who always shields you from the consequences of your actions. They often make excuses for your behavior and tell other family members to go easy on you.
But the truth is the Enabler is not willing to hold you accountable for your behavior. He always wants you to be comfortable. He does this often to avoid feeling embarrassed or ashamed about you in front of other family members.
Enablers actually prevent you from making a proper recovery. Instead, they allow you to continue making poor choices.
The Scapegoat always takes the blame instead of you. He may create other issues to distract the family’s attention away from your drug addiction.
While the Scapegoat does shift a lot of negative attention away from you, he also is not helping in your recovery. Instead of facing the real issue — which is your drug addiction — the Scapegoat diverts the family’s attention to other problems which are not as important.
How can my family help me on my road to recovery?
Instead of assuming the dysfunctional roles above, your family can play helpful roles to support you. When they do, they become powerful allies on your road to recovery.
For instance, if you have a parent who is an Enabler, it would help if he learns to hold you accountable for your choices. He needs to realize that protecting you from the consequences of wrong decisions does not help you in any way.
Instead, your parents should let you experience the consequences of wrong choices and reward you only for making the right choices. When you feel the effects of poor choices, they will help you realize your mistakes. Also, they will help you make the right choices the next time around.
Creating boundaries is quite helpful in addressing drug addiction. Let’s say you have an addiction but your spouse is fully sober. She can then set boundaries to help you realize you have a drug problem.
For example, your spouse may set a weekly budget for you and withhold giving you more money if you go over the budget early. If you spend a lot of money to buy drugs, this boundary will limit your drug use. Also, it will help you realize that drugs take a lot of money away from your more important needs.
How can my family help me in getting drug addiction treatment?
Once you realize that you need professional help, your family can offer you the best help to get treatment. For instance, one of them can drive you to an addiction recovery professional and accompany you in formulating a treatment plan.
Your family can also provide a key therapy important to your recovery — good conversations. If your family members talk about your drug problems in a gentle, loving, non-confrontational manner, it becomes therapeutic. With their help, you may even realize what drove you to take drugs in the first place.
Your family can also get involved in therapies supervised by mental health professionals. There is such a thing as family therapy, where all of your close family members are actively involved in therapy sessions. Your therapist will teach your family the best ways to support you so you can recover better.