It is important to never underestimate the power addictions have on the family unit. The effects are always much more far-reaching than just affecting the addicts themselves. There are many ways that addiction can have an impact on children and many issues that can arise with a co-dependent family member.
Children are often the innocent victims of addiction. Research has shown that children with alcohol or drug addicted parents tend to exhibit low impulse control and are more inclined to need immediate gratification. They are often neglected, have less supervision and are often diagnosed with hyperactivity. As well, these children are more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol and often find themselves imprisoned at an earlier age, when compared to children with less exposure to addiction at home. Sadly, the addiction cycle may not end with the parents. Children of addicts will often repeat the very behaviors and tendencies that they have watched their parents suffer with.
Perhaps the most common problem that families encounter is co-dependency. The family member who continues to enable an addict is sometimes as responsible for the destruction of a family unit as the addict. An enabler can come in the form of a parent, a sibling, a spouse or even a child. They take on the responsibilities that the addict should themselves handle, such as: Holding down a job, paying bills and caring for a child. Enablers often hand over money to the addict because he or she has spent everything on their drug of choice. It is not uncommon for enablers to remortgage their homes, drain retirement and savings accounts or go without much needed medical care in order to care for an addict. This behavior often causes marital problems, financial loss and resentful feelings of other relatives. Co-dependency has been described as a psychological disorder, and it often stems from feelings of guilt or low self-esteem with the enabler. This type of behavior hinders the addict who becomes completely dependent on the person who believes they are helping. Like the addict, an enabler typically needs rehabilitation or therapy to help them identify the negative behavior, learn how to handle the addict in a positive way and mend any relationships that have been broken as a result.
Addiction is sometimes referred to as a family disease because it affects every member in a negative way. The emotional wounds are often deep and last a lifetime. Family members are typically subjected to unnecessary stress and sometimes resort to drinking or taking drugs in order to cope. Family members will have trust issues, and children believe that people are unpredictable, which often stunts emotional growth. Moreover, fear and lack of positive coping skills are rampant in families with addicts, and these issues can lead to anger, depression and, on rare occasions, suicidal thoughts.
The list of problems a family must cope with when a loved one has an addiction is long. Each family and situation is unique, and it is generally recommended that everyone involved attend therapy sessions and learn to recognize their own negative patterns, learn positive coping techniques and get help for depression.
Liza is a blogger who writes on a variety of topics regarding addiction. She is also a contributing writer for many drug rehab centers.