Why Addiction is NOT an Individual Disease
Substance abuse is hard on everyone. Let’s look at some of the ways that drugs and alcohol affect the family dynamic.
- Damaged relationships. Addicts begin to pull away from their friends and family early on. They do this because they want to use drugs and alcohol in secret, without having anyone question their choices. Before long, you may feel that you’re dealing with a stranger.
- Negative mindsets. It’s hard to be positive when your loved one is abusing drugs and alcohol. You may start to blame yourself or feel guilty about the circumstances in your life. These negative emotions are further exacerbated by secretive behavior, lying and stealing.
- Changed roles. Instead of being a wife or sister, your role might change to caretaker. You may find yourself having to financially support your loved one or look after their mental and physical health. You can do this for a while, but you can’t do it forever. Eventually, it will take a toll on your own health and well being.
- Even though we understand more about addiction, we still have a long way to go. Some people still view addiction as a bad choice, and this makes suffering families unsure of where to go for support. As a result, many families form a “protective” barrier around their family and isolate themselves from others.
- Financial stress. Addiction is a disease that disrupts financial stability. Not only does it cost money to support the habit, but also drugs and alcohol are associated with increased crime, stealing and legal fines. Addicts often lose or quit their jobs as well, leaving families to support them.
- Alcohol and drugs change a person’s brain, causing them to behave in unusual ways. This could lead to physical or emotional abuse, neglect and other tragic behaviors. The World Health Organization reports a strong link between alcohol use and intimate partner violence across the world.
- Continued cycle. Exposing children to drugs and alcohol raises their own risk for addiction. Young children begin to think that this behavior is acceptable, which normalizes the use of illicit substances early on. As they get older, they will also have access to substances, increasing their chances for experimentation.
The good news is that these situations do not have to continue disrupting your life. Help is available for the whole family. While your loved one is learning how to stay clean and sober, you and your family can work through past trauma and learn how to maintain a supportive environment.