How Does Substance Use Disorder Affect the Family

A common lie in substance use disorder is, “I’m not hurting anyone but myself.” And, in the beginning, it may be true. However, it is quickly apparent how substance abuse affects the family. 

The drugs or alcohol keep replaying this lie in your head. As a result, you continue using it while ignoring the small effects it has on your family. As your tolerance builds, you will need more to achieve the same results. 

To obtain more drugs, you may do things you swore you never would. To begin with, drugs tell you that you can’t live without them. As a result, you do things uncharacteristic. And how substance abuse affects the family becomes obvious. 

Substance Use Disorder is A Family Disease

Family Roles in Substance Use Disorder

Substance use disorder takes over your life, and you live to feed your addiction. However, you typically remain oblivious and out of touch with reality. For this reason, substance use disorder is a brain disorder. 

You may believe you are in control, but your addiction is. It controls how and what you think, how you behave and controls those around you above all. How substance abuse affects the family is the reason it is also a family disease. 

Although your family may understand it is the disease talking, it causes a lot of stress on your family. Even through the pain, they want to support, encourage, and love you. But, your lies and manipulation and how substance abuse affects the family cause nothing but pain. The biggest issue with how substance abuse affects the family is the unhealthy roles family members take on. 

Family Roles in Substance Use Disorder

You may not notice how substance abuse affects the family, but the dynamics start changing within the home. In order to keep balance within the family, members take on dysfunctional and unhealthy roles. Understanding each role gives insight into how substance abuse affects the family. 

The Substance User

The person struggling with drugs or alcohol has the central role in the family. The user’s life revolves around drugs and alcohol. As a result, they lie, manipulate, and hurt their family members. 

Users typically blame everyone else for their problems. They also often isolate themselves from their families. Because many users don’t see how substance abuse affects the family, it causes anger and resentment. 

The Enabler

Generally, the enabler is a spouse or partner. But in single-parent homes, the enabler may be the oldest child or the child closest to the parent. Enablers often provide money to the user to buy drugs. Other common behaviors of the enabler include:

  • Clean the house
  • Pay the bills
  • Care for the children
  • Making excuses for the user
  • Denying the behavior
  • Sacrificing self-care

The enabler may act this way to cover-up their feelings of hurt, anger, and betrayal from their loved one’s addiction.

The Hero

The oldest child is typically the hero. They are hardworking overachievers who typically receive all A’s in school. This behavior is to disguise the stress, anxiety, guilt, and inadequacy they are feeling. The hero needs to take on more responsibility to portray a sense of normalcy in the family. As a result, the hero generally struggles with high anxiety. 

The Scapegoat

The scapegoat is generally the rebellious child. They act out and misbehave as a distraction from the trouble at home. Scapegoats are often blamed for all the family’s problems. As a result, they resent the user for how substance abuse affects the family. 

How Does Substance Use Disorder Affect the Family

As a scapegoat gets older, they may have trouble with the law. Furthermore, women may engage in high-risk sexual behaviors. While men often become abusive toward their own families. 

The Mascot

The comedian or “class clown” is the mascot in the family. They provide a laugh when the stress of addiction becomes overwhelming. To cope with how substance abuse affects the family, the mascot typically sacrifices their own needs. As family mascots grow older, they often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to cope with addiction trauma. 

The Lost Child

Typically the middle or youngest child, the lost child, has trouble interacting with others. Because of their underdeveloped social skills, they tend to spend most of their time alone. They cope with how substance abuse affects the family by using their imagination to escape reality. As the lost child ages, they may struggle to form relationships and make important life decisions. 

It is easy to see why family members take on these roles to cope with how substance abuse affects them. Each member of the family is impacted by the addiction differently. But, what are some of the challenges when dealing with how substance use disorder affects the family?

The Relationship Between Substance Use Disorder and Family Members

People who struggle with substance use disorder cause their families to experience conflicting and intense emotions. Learning to live with how substance abuse affects the family can also take a toll on the most vital relationships. Because family members know their loved one doesn’t mean to hurt them, they want to give support and encouragement.

However, the deceit, manipulation, and emotional abuse inflicted by the user can be frustrating. This conflict causes a significant amount of emotional pain. As a result, family members may develop unhealthy coping skills adding more stress to the home. The following are common when dealing with how substance abuse affects the family.

The Effect of Substance Use Disorder on Children

According to studies by the NIH, 1 in 5 children lives with parents struggling with substance use disorder. Furthermore, the majority of these children are under 5 years old. As a result, these children are typically mentally and socially underdeveloped. This abuse is particularly true in one-parent households. 

Parents with substance use disorder are generally busy feeding their addiction. As a result, they are distracted from raising their children. The irresponsibilities can range from not feeding their children, keeping them clean, and neglecting their education and social life. 

Above all, there is a correlation between child abuse and addiction. Growing up in homes with substance abuse also compromises children’s emotional and mental health. The same studies show abused children have an increased chance of also using drugs and alcohol. 

Trust is Lost 

Although they mean well, people who struggle with substance use disorder typically don’t keep their promises. This results in additional strains on relationships. They do mean to honor their commitments, but their addiction gets in the way. 

Parents struggling with addiction may also forget they made promises to their children. This leads to a loss of trust when it keeps happening. Children may also struggle to bond with and trust other people. As adults, this can lead to broken marriages and the continued cycle of neglect. 

An Increase in Family Stress

When one adult struggles with addiction, it typically leaves the other to figure out how substance abuse affects the family. This person takes on the responsibilities of the house and family. This adult is known as the enabler. 

Raising the kids, paying the bills, and cleaning up after the partner with addiction is stressful and eventually takes its toll. This stress increases their risk of anxiety and high blood pressure. In addition, bottling up all their emotions leads to an emotional explosion which causes even more stress. 

Financial Struggles

Feeding a substance use disorder can be expensive. In addition, addiction typically leads to job loss because of poor performance and attendance. With no money coming in, people start to drain their savings. 

Because an addiction makes people neglect everything else in life, money for food, utilities, and rent often goes to drugs or alcohol. Legal issues such as driving while intoxicated are common with those who struggle with substance use disorder. The cost of these issues adds even more financial stress to the family. 

Emotional and Physical Abuse

When struggling with substance use disorder, people become irrational. This behavior makes everyone around them walk on eggshells. As a result, a simple disagreement can turn into a big argument where no one feels heard and understood.

Combining irrational behaviors and emotional abuse in arguments increases the risk of physical abuse. People struggling with addiction are often perpetrators of the abuse. However, the vulnerability of addiction can lead to them being abused. 

Confusion and Fear

How substance abuse affects the family can be unpredictable. A person using drugs or alcohol may be in a good mood one minute, and the next, they may fly off the handle. This leads to tension in the home. Children may hide away in their rooms to avoid upsetting the household. This results in an unhappy family and a culture of fear and confusion.

Substance Use Disorder is A Family Disease

Dealing with How Substance Use Affects the Family

When discovering how substance abuse affects the family, the first step is encouraging your loved one with an addiction to seek help. You must talk to them compassionately while they are sober and calm. Use facts such as how their substance abuse has damaged the family and themselves. If they refuse to seek treatment, it may be time to seek an interventionist

When repairing how substance abuse affects the family, everyone needs to seek therapy. Counseling or therapy can help people recover and move on from the trauma of addiction. By creating a supportive and comfortable environment, therapists help repair damage and develop coping skills to build trust within the family. 

How Does Family Therapy Help With Substance Use Disorder?

A vital step in addiction recovery is family therapy. It helps repair the damage of addiction by healing as a family. At the same time, the safe space of therapy allows family members to express their feelings and fears honestly.

At Sana Lake BWC, our therapists educate the family on the effects of addiction on the user. In doing so, family members learn how to support their loved ones in a supportive manner. But above all, family therapy teaches specific positive changes as a family. 

Treating the Whole Family at Sana Lake Behavioral Wellness Center

Do you have a loved one struggling with substance use disorder? At Sana Lake BWC, we understand how substance abuse affects the family.  And our family therapy program focuses on rebuilding a healthy family free of addiction.

If you or someone you love is battling substance use disorder, help is waiting. Contact us now to find out more. 

References:

https://archives.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/1998/07/exploring-role-child-abuse-in-later-drug-abuse

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3725219/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64258/