When a family member is in trouble or hurting, much less dying, we normally want to gather together and make it all go away. Unfortunately, with addiction it’s not that easy.
“I just kept watching her get deeper and deeper in trouble. I could never sleep for wondering if tonight would be the night they’d call and tell me she’s dead. Every time I spoke to her about the problem, she would get upset and leave. I didn’t know what to do. All I found was pain and despair at watching my baby kill herself and I could do nothing to stop it.”
These are common stories. Everyone around an addict knows he/she needs help, but often the addict can’t see it. Many die exactly that way. Our goal is to try to provide the family with as much information as possible relating to the drug intervention process.
How Does an Addiction Develop?
Addiction is a process rather than an event. In the beginning, people often don’t experience any difficulties. As their use continues, they may begin to focus more on the alcohol, drugs or gambling than they do on the other areas of their lives. This process is often influenced by a number of factors, including the culture they live in, life events, their biological makeup and their relationships with family and friends.
Researchers have looked at genetics, environment, and the combination of these two to explain how dependence develops. Right now, it’s believed that some people are genetically susceptible to becoming dependent. But this by itself is not enough to develop an addiction. A person’s life circumstances play an important role in determining whether or not a person becomes dependent.
How Does an Addiction Affect the Family?
When a family member has a dependency, the whole family usually develops ways of coping with the problems associated with the dependency. Often, there is less communication: the family avoids talking about the issue, avoids expressing emotions, and may keep the addiction secret from the community. Some family members may take on some of the responsibilities abandoned by the addicted person.
While these coping strategies may help the family to operate more smoothly and get along better, they may also allow the dependency to continue. Unfortunately, family members may also use alcohol, drugs or gambling themselves as a way of coping with the problems in their family.
Members of an addicted family often experience loneliness, frustration, fear, anger and shame. They may also feel a sense of hopelessness about the situation. It’s important for them to realize that the addiction is not their fault. Often, seeking outside help from a support group or professional counsellor can help them cope with what is going on in their family.
How Does an Addiction affect the Children?
Addiction often creates an unstable family environment. Parents may not effectively discipline their children or provide them with training in basic life skills. Children may feel insecure or unloved. They may also begin to take on adult responsibilities that are not appropriate to their age. Children in families where an addiction is present are more likely to show anti-social behavior and have problems such as skipping school, aggressiveness, hyperactivity and eating disorders.
Is there any Good News?
Yes! People can, and do, recover from addictions. There are lots of reasons to be hopeful. There are also lots of ways families can minimize the impact that the addicted person is having on everyone. Contact The Crossing Point to find out more about services available for families.