Family holding hands together

A family can play many roles in an addict’s life; from being a potential cause or enabler to being hurt by it, to encouraging treatment for addiction.

Being dependent on alcohol or drugs causes much more damage than to one’s own body. In fact, addiction is considered a family disease, impacting a person’s loved ones in countless ways. When considering treatment, one must remember that getting help will not only help him or herself, but will also be a step toward mending the damage that has been done to an entire family.

How Family Can Lead to Addiction

While people are ultimately responsible for their own actions, there are many other factors that can contribute to a drug or alcohol problem. Both the environment and genetics can play a major role. If a person grew up in an environment full of alcohol and/or drugs, as well as addicts, it may contribute to any future substance abuse problems.

Neglect and abuse experienced in childhood can also lead to a future addiction, as can a predisposition towards mental illness that may run in a family. The socioeconomic status of a family may also contribute to any future dependency issues.

A Family’s Role

While not even knowing it, relatives may play a role in prolonging a loved one’s addiction. Even though family members may want the addict in the family to get clean, they may be unknowingly helping them continue their habit.

When you lie for a loved one who has a drug or alcohol habit, or cover for him or her, or make excuses for him or her, you are enabling this person. Enabling means that the cycle of addiction continues. If you want your loved one to get the help they need, you must stop all behavior that enables the sickness.

This means no more lending money and no more covering for him or her. No more helping him or her when they get into trouble. Instead, you need to voice your concerns to your loved one, offering help and support and suggesting treatment. It is also important to avoid blaming yourself, or other family members, as it is impossible to control’s your loved one’s decisions. Ensure you are not putting yourself, or other family members in harm’s way.

How it Can Hurt a Family

An entire family suffers when someone is in the throes of a substance abuse habit. Children can feel neglected or abused. Parents and siblings are left feeling hurt. Those closest to an addict can feel taken advantaged of, lied to, and deeply hurt by their actions while under the influence.

Whether the issues involve lies, abuse – physical or emotional – stealing, or other issues, addiction can leave lasting impacts on families.

A Family’s Role During Treatment

When your loved one has decided to get help, the way in which relatives can contribute the most is by offering unconditional love and support. While it may be hard not to bring up past issues and pains caused by your loved one and his or her habit, offering non-judgmental support and love will go a long way toward his or her recovery.

Eventually, your loved one will come to the point where he or she feels it is important to make amends. All past issues in the family can be addressed at this point and the healing can begin. Addiction is a family disease, but your nearest and dearest can help make treatment a success.