At a Glance:
- Addiction affects more than just the person struggling with substance use; it can have a negative impact on their family as well.
- Family members may unintentionally allow a loved one’s addiction to continue, either by enabling it or by trying to reduce the stress that addiction has on the rest of the family.
- Family involvement in addiction treatment is critical. It teaches family members how to change enabling behaviors and effectively support their loved one in recovery.
Addiction has a far-reaching impact that often affects the family unit. Family members may struggle as they witness their loved one fall victim to addiction. They might find their loved one lying to them or stealing money in order to support a drug habit. They could tirelessly fight to save their addicted loved one, only to find that they don’t want help.
Addiction can be damaging to the entire family, but the damage doesn’t need to last forever. Our family programs at The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake are designed to mend broken relationships with family and loved ones. Our goal is to ensure that each family has the tools they need to support their loved one throughout recovery.
Family Roles in Addiction
While the family is never to blame for a person’s addiction, factors within the family can contribute to the development of an addiction. For example, research suggests that family problems like disconnection, lack of communication and poor boundaries can contribute to addiction. People may begin to use drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with these family-related issues.
In addition, family members can take on roles that enable an addicted loved one. These include:
- The caretaker: Also called the enabler, this member of the family tries to rescue the addicted person and cover up their problems, which allows the addiction to continue.
- The scapegoat: This family member takes some of the attention off of the addicted person by engaging in their own acts of deviance.
- The hero: In a family with an addicted member, the hero tries to restore balance by acting as the “perfect child” and being overly responsible and self-sufficient.
- The mascot: By providing comic relief, the mascot reduces the stress of the addiction through humor.
- The lost child: This is the family member who remains quiet and stays behind the scenes while the rest of the family copes with the addicted person’s behaviors. This member of the family can become forgotten as everyone else scrambles to manage the addiction.
Why Family Involvement Matters in Addiction Recovery
Since the family can play a role in addiction development or maintenance, their involvement in recovery is critical. When family members participate in treatment, they can learn how to change their own behaviors to support sobriety. For example, the caretaker may have to learn how to stop enabling the addicted person. In therapy, the family caretaker can learn how to set boundaries with the addicted member and process some of the feelings of guilt they may have about boundary-setting.
Family involvement can also help family members heal and gain a better understanding of their loved one’s addiction. Family members may be struggling with significant emotional trauma due to addiction and the negative behaviors it creates. In family programs, family members can come to understand that addiction is a disease that can cause people to behave in ways they wouldn’t normally. This understanding can help the family recognize that their loved one’s behaviors were a result of the compulsive drive to obtain drugs — not because of any ill feelings toward family members. Family programs also provide relatives with vital information about how to support their loved one in recovery.
Getting Involved in Addiction Treatment
Addiction treatment centers, including The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake, may allow family members to get involved in their programs. These programs can involve family therapy sessions, as well as educational sessions provided to family members. Educational sessions may offer information about the science of addiction or help family members with issues like communication, boundary-setting or rebuilding trust.
Convincing a Loved One To Get Help
Someone who is living with an addiction may deny there’s a problem and resist seeking help. However, family members may be able to persuade a loved one that treatment is necessary.
If you want to help your loved one get into treatment, it is important to approach the issue from a place of concern. Express that you are worried about their health and well-being and that you’d like to see them get better. It can also be helpful to explain the ways that you have seen addiction negatively impact them and the rest of the family. Be prepared to give specific examples, such as, “Since you’ve begun using cocaine, you aren’t spending any time with the children, and they miss their father.”
It is important to avoid placing blame on the addicted person or becoming confrontational. In some cases, you may benefit from the help of a professional interventionist when trying to convince your addicted loved one to get treatment.
Supporting a Loved One in Treatment
There are multiple ways to support a loved one in treatment. Participating in a family treatment program is perhaps the biggest step you can take toward supporting your family member. If the person is attending a treatment center that offers a family program, or if they invite you to the facility, it is important to take advantage of this opportunity.
You can also support your recovering loved one by learning more about addiction. You might consider attending educational sessions or support groups for family members of addicted individuals. These help you learn about the basics of addiction and gain a better understanding of what your loved one is going through as they enter recovery. Support groups can also help you to process your own emotions and give you an outlet for coping with the negative effects you’ve experienced. Going through your own healing allows you to be more present for your loved one.
Your Loved One Won’t Have To Make This Journey Alone
During your loved one’s treatment, you will have continued access to family therapy sessions. During these sessions, you can stay on the same page as your loved one and learn more about addiction and mental health.
We also offer Family Weekends, where friends, family and loved ones can:
- Meet with the clinical staff members caring for their loved one
- Participate in group counseling sessions
- Attend private counseling sessions
- Take part in support group meetings
- Spend time together
At the end of your family treatment, you will be equipped with the skills needed to support your loved one and help them stay sober.
Who Can Attend Our Family Programs?
At The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake, we understand that everyone has their own definition of family. We are happy to welcome direct family members, including parents, spouses and children, into our family programs. We also recognize that people who live with the patient but are not blood relatives can meet the definition of family. With the patient’s approval, close friends or people the patient considers to be “loved ones” are welcome to participate in our family program. Ultimately, we must uphold confidentiality laws, meaning that no one has access to information about the patient’s treatment unless the patient has granted permission.
Recover as a Family
If your loved one has been living with an addiction and you’re ready to begin the healing process for the entire family, The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake is here to help. We are proud to offer family programs to mend broken family relationships and give family members the tools needed to support their loved one in sobriety. Contact us today to learn more.
Zagefka, Hanna, et al. “Family Roles, Family Dysfunction, and Depressive Symptoms.” The International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors: The Family Journal, November 25, 2020. Accessed August 29, 2021.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What is drug addiction?” July 2018. Accessed August 29, 2021.
Regmi, Bibhushan; Lama, Lopsang Dinchen. “Role of Family in Addictive Disorders.” The International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation, 2018. Accessed August 29, 2021.
The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.