Family dynamics can be difficult to balance. This can be especially tricky if one or more family members are actively engaging in substance use. That being said, family is also an extremely powerful force. Family relationships can either positively or negatively impact the healing journey. Understanding the importance of family dynamics and how they impact a loved one’s recovery journey is paramount for healing.
Substance use and addiction are complicated topics. If you are wondering how you can help your family member through the healing process, there are a couple of important things to remember.
One of the most important things to remember when you’re in a relationship with someone who uses substances is that their addiction may not be controllable. A publication by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains that addiction is a disease, not a conscious choice. It states, “Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences. It is considered a brain disorder, because it involves functional changes to brain circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control.”
Substance use can have lasting effects on the brain, even after substance use has stopped. NIDA explains that the parts of the brain that are most affected by substance use include:
Impaired brain functioning due to substance use often leads to disappointment, broken trust, and complicated family dynamics. It is also important to remember that diagnosing and treating substance use disorder (SUD) or addiction should only be done by licensed professionals. As family members, you can support your loved one’s healing without supporting their addiction. It is not your job to fix them. Your loved one must be willing to pursue recovery alongside a professional to truly achieve lasting healing and sobriety.
Another critical element to keep in mind is that substance use is often a symptom of something deeper, usually a mental disorder. Substances are often used as a coping mechanism to obtain relief from painful psychiatric symptoms. In addition, mental disorders and substance use typically work in tandem together, influencing each other and usually making both worse. When a SUD and mental health disorder occur together, it is known as a co-occurring disorder. Neither disorder is necessarily caused by the other, however, they can heavily influence each other and make both the diagnosis and healing more tricky.
NIDA describes common co-occurring disorders that can influence substance use. These include:
A common misconception is that if someone relapses, it means the treatment was ineffective or that they don’t truly desire to be sober. In reality, for some people, relapse is considered a part of the recovery process. NIDA confirms, “Treatment of chronic diseases involves changing deeply rooted behaviors, and relapse doesn’t mean treatment has failed. When a person recovering from an addiction relapses, it indicates that the person needs to speak with their doctor to resume treatment, modify it, or try another treatment.”
Healing from substance use is a life-long journey, not a task to be accomplished. That means there will be bumps in the road; however, it’s more important that the bumps are handled healthily, rather than shamed into hiding. Even though relapse can be part of the recovery process, it is also very dangerous. If you are genuinely concerned about your family member’s health and safety, please contact emergency services immediately.
Another factor that influences substance use is genetics. NIDA explains, “Biological factors that can affect a person’s risk of addiction include their genes, stage of development, and even gender or ethnicity.” Furthermore, NIDA details that genes can account for “between 40 and 60 percent of a person’s risk of addiction.”
NIDA also details that environmental factors can heavily influence the risk of mental illness and substance use, “Many environmental factors are associated with an increased risk for both substance use disorders and mental illness including chronic stress, trauma, and adverse childhood experiences, among others.”
The good news is that even though family dynamics can be inherently tricky and complicated, even more so when substance use is involved, healing is possible! Family counseling can help elicit healing in the unhealthy areas of relationships, as well as open lines of healthy communication. Having a third-party, impartial person who can help facilitate productive, restorative conversation while keeping everyone’s best interest in mind can be invaluable for families. A licensed professional will also be able to help establish any boundaries that need to be enforced so that everyone can heal healthily.
Here at Sage Recovery, we know that everyone comes with their own set of experiences, hurt, and needs. We believe there are multiple pathways to healing, which is why our trauma-informed clinicians are trained in multiple treatment approaches. This way, we can offer our patients individualized, customized treatment that works best for them.
We also understand that not everyone has a supportive environment that allows them to heal in healthy ways. As a result, we offer evidence-based treatment options as well as innovative treatment approaches that can assist in sustaining recovery healthily. Some of our specialties include:
Here at Sage Recovery, we know how much courage it takes to heal healthily. Our compassionate, empathetic staff is here to walk alongside you every step of the way. We offer residential treatment for adults, as well as outpatient treatment for adolescents and adults. Our evidence-based and innovative approaches to treatment allow us to create customized treatment plans so that you can heal in the healthiest ways. Our trauma-informed staff are experts in their fields and will be sure to treat you with dignity and respect as you heal. We are dedicated to providing the support you need for lasting recovery. Call us at (512) 306-1394 to begin your healing journey.