Usually, when people think about addiction, they only think about the person with substance use disorder and their experience but rarely consider who else is impacted by how the disease chips away at the bonds and connections with their loved ones. Addiction is often referred to as “the family disease” because when one member of the unit struggles with substance misuse or substance use disorder, it affects the entire household and each person differently.
Familial bonds differ between members of the unit, such as spouse to spouse, parent to child, and sibling to sibling. When one family member has a problem with substance misuse, it resonates between all of those ties with varying responses. Some family members tend to pull back and avoid engaging with the person and issue altogether. Meanwhile, others may take a more active role, sometimes becoming enablers in their attempts to help the person battling addiction.
About 1 in 8 children live with a guardian with an active addiction, usually causing an unpredictable environment harnessing an anxious attachment style. The insecurity surrounding the child’s bond with the parent who is misusing substances and exposure to drugs early on in life make these children three times more susceptible to abuse, neglect, and sexual assault. These children are also more likely to develop learning disabilities, behavioral issues, and emotional disorders and grow up in financially strained households. Children of parents who misuse substances are also more likely to develop an addiction later on and are inclined to experiment with drugs at an earlier age than their peers.
While adults are far less vulnerable than minors, parents still suffer when their children struggle with substance use disorder and face a unique set of challenges. Many parents feel responsible for their children’s drug misuse and are plagued with guilt, while others attempt to help by becoming overbearing enablers, often making the situation worse. The devastation that parents face when trying to help their child with substance use disorder can also cause inter-spouse conflict and other stressors that can be harmful to the family unit.
The “invisible victims” are the siblings of the child who is grappling with substance use disorder because they are often left on the back burner as the family concentrates on helping the one with addiction issues. This causes siblings to take a sideline approach to the problem, feeling mixed emotions of resentment, frustrations, shame, and confusion, among many others. Some siblings choose to become the complete opposite of their brother or sister, while others may succumb to substance misuse themselves to cope with their troubles.
Middlesex Recovery is ready to provide the highest quality care for those looking to treat substance use disorder. Our convenient and private outpatient facilities offer evidence-based treatment with the use of FDA-approved medications and methods. We believe everyone who struggles with addiction is worthy of compassionate and competent support to help them get their lives back on track. Contact us today to learn more about our recovery programs.