The Impact of Addiction on the Family

December 13, 2022

Written By: James Rich , AS

There is nothing simple about overcoming drug and alcohol addiction. This is especially true when working to address the lasting effects it has on a person’s mental and physical health. Addiction can bring feelings of personal shame, guilt, and more, but it never truly affects an individual in isolation. Rather, addiction affects entire families. Understanding these far-reaching effects is instrumental in creating an effective, comprehensive recovery plan for the whole family. Individuals in recovery must address the personal effects of addiction as well as repair crucial familial relationships to ensure that each member can effectively heal from this disease. 

The Emotional Effects of Addiction on the Family

Addiction is an intense disease with a myriad of detrimental effects on an individual’s health and well-being. From feelings of depression to anxiety, panic, anger, and more, the use of drugs and alcohol can fundamentally alter a person’s emotions and behaviors. These effects can be overwhelming for those navigating such complex emotions. However, it is important to understand that the effects of substance use extend through entire households.

Family members are intimately affected by these emotional weights. As a result, members of a family may feel compelled to tread lightly in their own homes, either by watching their words or adapting their behaviors. It can be taxing to carefully examine word choices due to the fear of being misunderstood or evoking anger. Others may choose to avoid such an environment altogether, birthing further isolation in what should be a comfortable, supportive atmosphere.

These emotional effects can bring feelings of anxiety, depression, stress, resentment, and much more to entire families. On top of navigating these difficult emotions, such effects also make it difficult to have an open, honest, and fair conversation about addiction and its consequences. Even if one feels as if they are hiding their use or shielding their family from the emotional effects of addiction, it is impossible to truly avoid the effects that addiction has on the whole family.

The Effects of Addiction on a Spouse

Spouses are often severely affected by their partner’s use of drugs or alcohol. As a result of substance use, intimate relationships can experience great conflict. Intense emotions can cause even the healthiest of relationships to become compromised as resentment builds or anger, lies, and distrust become prominent. Likewise, communication can deteriorate. Addiction can cause an emotional distance to grow, birthing further feelings of isolation and creating a difficult atmosphere.

In addition to experiencing troubling emotions and communication, spouses can also be greatly affected by addiction financially. This may include being tasked with covering rent, bills, and groceries. As a result, spouses may be required to seek additional work if their partner is between jobs or has unreliable workplace attendance due to their addiction.

Addiction can also compromise an individual’s ability to tend to household responsibilities. One may eschew these responsibilities while engaging with addictive substances or navigating their effects. Even chores – such as doing laundry, washing dishes, or cooking – can all fall on one’s spouse as a result. This only worsens complex feelings and creates further resentment in a once-healthy relationship.

The Effects of Addiction on Children

Children are also uniquely vulnerable to addiction. This is partly because addiction is a disease that can develop from genetic components. Children of those who are in recovery or are struggling with addiction can be at an increased chance of developing substance use disorder (SUD) themselves.

However, addiction also affects how children view a healthy household. Inevitably, addiction in the household carries a number of detrimental effects on a child’s developmental years. Even if younger children do not have an intimate understanding of the chemical and emotional effects of addiction, they are still tuned to its emotional impacts.

Having a parent struggling with addiction can also compromise a child’s feelings of self-worth. If a parent is emotionally or physically unavailable, feelings of depression, anxiety, and self-doubt can all be common. This can occur both during a child’s infancy or through their teenage years and beyond. Missing birthday parties, being physically or emotionally absent for holidays, not attending a child’s sporting event, or being unable to celebrate an accomplishment all carry a lasting emotional weight. Even if a parent is in physical attendance, being distracted or otherwise inattentive as a result of addictive substances can have lasting effects on a child. 

Embracing Effective Family Healing

Professional treatment and recovery programs are crucial for effectively overcoming addiction. Dedicated recovery programs are about much more than learning to cease the use of addictive substances. Rather, they are committed to a wholly transformative lifestyle, addressing the pertinent emotional effects of addiction and the myriad of challenges families face together. 

Rebuilding relationships and taking accountability for personal actions in a family unit are all vital. The professional guidance and peer support found in drug and alcohol addiction treatment are instrumental as they help to address how addiction affects the emotional health of the entire family. Likewise, treatment can provide education for family members and help rebuild important family relationships.

Addiction truly is a family disease. The emotional impact and effects that addiction can have on one’s relationships are incredibly complicated. At Buena Vista Recovery, we understand the need to address how addiction has impacted those most important to you to create a truly effective and transformative approach to a healthy, sober life. We champion the idea that families best recover together. We are prepared to help you and your family understand and create effective recovery strategies. We can develop the right program for you, from detox and inpatient treatment to ongoing outpatient support, all while developing effective communication strategies and more for you and your family. To learn more, call (480) 741-9414