The addict family is one that is typically in confusion, denial, and is usually dysfunctional in nature too. It is ironic that the family usually needs as much help as the addict themselves. The addict family is defined as a family unit where one member of the family is an addict. It does not matter whether the family member is in recovery or the family member is currently using. The family is usually in confusion, denial, and almost certainly dysfunctional.
Regardless of how long there has been an addict in the family, there is always confusion on how to deal with the addicted member, how to react to situations with the addict, and how to deal with family gatherings and situations. Each family member’s conflicting thoughts about the addicted member, their personal emotions, their denial, and their reactions create an environment of overall family confusion. This confusion fuels angst and anger providing a perfect catalyst for a dysfunctional family unit.
Family denial can be as strong as the addict’s denial. The family members do not want to “deal” with the addicts’ problems. They love the addict and hope that he may change himself or that he is truly in recovery after participating in a program.
Even if the family realizes that there is a problem, the members of the family may believe that the problem will not have an impact on them. The issue with denying that there is an addict in the family, or that their problem is not very serious, is that over time the denial will cause each family member an immense amount of pain.
The impact of that denial will negatively affect the family member’s behavior, may hurt their relationships, or may even physically harm them (sleepless nights, stress eating, smoking, etc.)
As members of the family realize that there is an addict in the family, each member will typically react in different ways. These different reactions create a dysfunction within the addict family unit. For example, one member may be practicing tough love, while another family member may be enabling the addict. This dichotomy of behaviors and reactions to the addict generate a family dysfunction that creates stress, conflict, and confusion.
No matter what your behavior and beliefs are regarding the addict, it is helpful to articulate your position or stance regarding the addict to the rest of the family members trying to minimize emotion. This discussion may be difficult, but it can only help reduce the overall dysfunction and it may even help you lead the family recovery process by example.
– The addict family unit needs to realize that there is a problem.
– They need to stop denying that there is a problem or that the problem does not affect them.
– They need to realize that they will be in a state of recovery too.
– They need to be proactive verses reactive to the addict and the family situation.
– They need to understand addiction behaviors.
– They need to understand their own emotions and reactions to the addict’s behavior.
– They need to set boundaries with the addict and to not back down or break the established boundaries.
– They must detach with love if they feel it is necessary to help the addict in the long run.
– They must NOT enable the addict as it just prolongs the addiction and causes the family unit to fracture and stay fractured for many years.
The family can survive. It may even become stronger during the member’s addiction and, hopefully, their recovery. There are great sources of help for family members with addicts. Search them out and utilize their resources.