Witnessing a family member’s addiction can be a deeply traumatic and heartbreaking experience. It often results in anxiety, broken trust, complicated family dynamics, unmet expectations, and many negative memories. If you have a family member who is struggling with addiction, is important to remember that although you can’t force them to get help, you can choose to get help for yourself.
Your family member’s addiction may have caused damage to your relationships, your family, and your overall well-being. As a result, it is important to care for yourself in any way possible. Some things to keep in mind as you heal from your family member’s addiction include remembering that:
Unfortunately, addiction is very complicated and layered. Just as no two people are the same, no two addictions are the same. This can feel overwhelming to process, but the most important thing to remember on this healing journey is that addiction is a disease. The person who is struggling with addiction probably isn’t able to control it.
Addiction, the most severe form of substance use disorder (SUD), is usually a symptom of something bigger, like a mental health disorder or unresolved trauma. This is commonly referred to as having co-occurring disorders or comorbidities: when two separate diagnoses influence each other. According to MedlinePlus, “The exact cause of substance use disorder is not known. A person’s genes, the action of the drug, peer pressure, emotional distress, anxiety, depression, and environmental stress can all be factors.”
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), confirms, “Certain mental disorders are established risk factors for developing a substance use disorder. It is commonly hypothesized that individuals with severe, mild, or even subclinical mental disorders may use drugs as a form of self-medication.”
For example, someone with SUD may also have an undiagnosed anxiety disorder. If that person goes into treatment for the SUD, but the anxiety disorder remains untouched, the SUD will likely return. However, if the patient is treated as a whole person, where their mind, body, and soul are appropriately tended to, they have a higher likelihood of achieving lasting healing and wellness.
It is important to keep in mind that diagnosing should only be done by professional, licensed clinicians. They are experts in their field and know effective, evidence-based treatments that can help those in need heal healthily. If you’re ever concerned for your own or a loved one’s mental health, please contact a professional.
Some people only consider natural disasters or mass casualties as traumatic. While those are certainly considered traumatic events, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), describes individual trauma “as an event or circumstance resulting in”:
- Physical harm
- Emotional harm
- And/or life-threatening harm
Trauma’s effects can reach far and wide, physically affecting our brains, nervous systems, emotions, and everyday lives. People struggling with addiction have often experienced some sort of trauma, and, as a result, so have the people who care about them.
Trauma can be tricky to recognize, diagnose, and deal with. Its symptoms and side effects vary from person to person and can lie dormant for months or years. The good news is that trauma, and its long-lasting consequences, can be healed!
There is no shame in asking for help, especially when it comes to something as important as healing from the hardest parts of your life. A trauma-informed professional will be able to walk alongside you as you learn how to healthily heal from everything you’ve been through.
If your family member is seeking out treatment, some facilities also include couples and family therapy as part of their treatment. This helps to open lines of communication between the family members, while also educating everyone on how to effectively support the family member in recovery. In addition to family therapy, some treatment facilities and wellness centers also offer support groups specifically geared toward family members.
Another important aspect of healing from a family member’s addiction can be achieved by setting boundaries. This may be extremely difficult for some people, however, it is often necessary to sustain physical and mental health. The degree to which boundaries need to be set will vary based on each individual’s personality, triggers, and needs. A professional counselor or licensed clinician will be able to give more specific detail on how to establish effective boundaries. As previously stated, if you are ever concerned for your own physical or mental health, please contact a professional or 911 immediately.
Here at Sage Recovery, we know exactly how difficult it can be to watch your family member struggle with addiction. We also understand how deeply your family member’s addiction can impact you. We’re here to help.
If your family member is seeking treatment, we offer outpatient care for adolescents and adults, including an intensive outpatient program (IOP) as well as a partial hospitalization program (PHP). Additionally, we offer a residential treatment program for adults. We also offer individual, couples, and family counseling, weekly group therapy, and much more. Whatever path you want to take to heal healthily, we’ll be here to walk alongside you and your family.
Healing from a family member’s addiction can feel isolating, difficult, and heartbreaking. Here at Sage Recovery, our trauma-informed, master’s level clinicians are experts at making people feel understood and heard. We know the effects that addiction can have on family members, and we’re here to help. By offering multiple innovative and evidence-based therapeutic techniques, we are able to create a customizable treatment plan that works for you and your family. Specializing in holistic approaches such as equine therapy, nature immersion, art therapy, EMDR, CBT, and DBT, your pathway to healing can be as unique as you are! Our friendly, empathetic staff are available to answer questions 24/7, so reach out to us at (512) 306-1394. We’re here to support you.