The Importance of Family Roles in Addiction Treatment

Family Roles in Addiction Treatment

Family is the most important thing in life for most people. Besides needing family support in tough times, family roles in addiction treatment are crucial to recovery. Addiction affects not only the user but the entire family suffers. 

Individuals using drugs or alcohol negatively affects the family unit. The thoughts and actions of an individual struggling with misuse create fear and distrust in the family.  However, family therapy for substance use disorder can rebuild trust and encourage loved ones to maintain recovery. 

Family Roles in Active Addiction

Substance use disorder (SUD) or addiction creates a dysfunctional family unit. As a result, family members take on unhealthy roles in order to cope. These roles apply to various relationships, including parent-child, husband-wife, sibling-sibling, and others.

The Dependent: Family Roles in Addiction

The dependent is the individual suffering from substance use disorder. The dependent misuses drugs and alcohol to cope with the conflicts and pressures of life. This misuse is an unhealthy way of dealing with family stressors. 

However, this need to use can continue and get worse. As a result, the dependent’s actions take its toll on families dealing with addiction. Therefore, family therapy for substance use disorder is vital in helping family members heal. 

The Enabler: Family Roles in Addiction

The family roles in addiction include an enabler. They are the person who will do whatever it takes to smooth things over regarding the dependent’s addiction. For instance, interfering and making excuses, so the dependent doesn’t face the consequences of addiction.

Consequently, the enabler’s actions encourage the dependent on continuing misusing drugs and alcohol. Enablers can be spouses, partners, parents, and even children. Without family therapy for substance use disorder, enablers may end up also using drugs and alcohol.  

The Hero: Family Roles in Addiction

Often the oldest child, the hero, steps up and cares for the family. The hero seems to have it all together as they work hard and are high achievers. However, they may be in denial and overlook issues needing professional help. Consequently, they take on the unhealthy stress of making things right because they feel personally responsible. 

The family hero tries extremely hard to make things as normal as possible. But, this stress and responsibility will catch up, leaving the hero anxious and stressed out. Family therapy for substance use disorder can help family heroes learn age-appropriate responsibilities. 

The Scapegoat: Family Roles in Addiction

The scapegoat takes the blame for everything wrong in the family. The blame takes the focus off the challenges and difficulties of the user. They may also take the blame for something they had nothing to do with. As a result, the scapegoat can start to believe they are at fault for everything and develop low self-esteem. 

The Mascot: Family Roles in Addiction

The mascot is typically the youngest child. They find humor in stressful situations making people laugh to ease the tension. They believe keeping things light helps families dealing with addiction. Consequently, laughter hinders the mascot from dealing with their feelings about addiction. 

The Lost Child: Family Roles in Addiction

This family role may or may not be by choice. Either way, the lost child’s needs were overlooked or neglected because of addiction in the family. A lost child becomes withdrawn and tries to be invisible in the home. Their coping mechanism is just to avoid conflict.  

Each of these family roles in addiction helps them cope the best way they can. However, because of the different family roles in addiction, family members will not always get along. As a result, disagreements become more intense and frequent. These disagreements can also lead to increased substance use.  

In order to heal, the family roles in addiction need to change. Family members need to examine how they add to the struggles of addiction on the family. Family therapy for addiction helps individuals understand their part and make positive changes. 

The Effect of Addiction on Children

Research from the NIH suggests children with addiction in the home can develop emotional and behavioral problems. These problems shape children into adulthood. For instance, they are at a higher risk of substance use disorder (SUD) themselves. 

“The negative impacts of parental SUDs on the family include disruption of attachment, rituals, roles, routines, communication, social life, and finances. Families in which there is a parental SUD are characterized by an environment of secrecy, loss, conflict, violence or abuse, emotional chaos, role reversal, and fear,” according to an article by the NIH.

Short and long-term effects of children in families dealing with addiction include:

  • Isolation from others
  • Fear of those in charge
  • Fear of angry people
  • Struggling with criticism
  • Feeling overly responsible for others feelings
  • Difficulty expressing emotions
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Being very judgmental of themselves and others

Family Issues That Play a Role in Active Addiction

No family or person is perfect. Therefore family members will not always get along. But some issues contribute to substance misuse or worsen addiction. If any of the following are issues within the family, then individuals with active addiction may struggle even harder.

These issues include:

  • Relationship problems
  • Financial struggles
  • Unresolved past issues
  • Personality conflicts
  • Anger, resentment

All of the above issues cause stress and tension in the home. They can also be triggers for those with active addictions. Therefore, they use drugs or alcohol to either avoid the problems or to cope with them. But, building healthy family roles in addiction and attending family therapy for substance use disorder encourages recovery. 

Families Dealing with Addiction in Adolescents

Substance use disorder greatly affects struggling adolescents. Because teens are still developing emotionally and behaviorally, misusing drugs and alcohol early on can have lifelong effects. For example, teens suffering from addiction can have lifelong addiction issues. 

They may also use other more potent drugs. Above all, a fatal overdose is possible if they start combining multiple drugs. Therefore, family roles in addiction are important as parents can still intervene and help adolescents achieve recovery. 

When teens skip school, get bad grades, and befriends other teens who misuse drugs and alcohol, it’s frustrating. Parents often worry about where their teen is and who they’re hanging out with. As a result, there are changes in parent’s behaviors and attitudes. While some parents battle being there emotionally for their child, others may misdirect their anger onto others. 

In some cases, parents start misusing drugs or alcohol to cope with their teens’ harmful use. So, parents need to be mindful of their actions and be strong examples. Having a strong support system encourages teens to seek and maintain recovery. Above all, healthy family roles in addiction recovery reduce the chance of recurrence of use. To illustrate, family therapy for substance use disorder can rebuild trust and healthy communication.

How does Family Therapy for Substance Use Disorder Help Support Recovery Goals?

Addiction isn’t easy. Likewise, neither is recovery. Furthermore, confronting addiction without the right tools further complicates the issues. But, avoiding the problems also hurt the families dealing with addiction. However, family therapy for substance use disorder can repair the damage and build healthy family roles. 

When family members have healthy family roles and behaviors, it supports and encourages recovery. For example, a spouse can be supportive but firm, which can encourage their partner’s recovery. At the same time, holding the dependent person accountable is also part of healthy family roles. 

Healthy Family Roles in Addiction and Long-Term Recovery

Families dealing with addiction can be vital in supporting their loved one in recovery. Family therapy for substance use disorder can help families learn ways to be supportive. Family support looks different depending on the treatment setting chosen. 

The two main treatment settings include:

  • Inpatient or residential treatment – Members in inpatient treatment live in the treatment center. Inpatient treatment provides 24/7 monitoring and access to healthcare. Members with severe addiction or need a safe environment for recovery find great success in inpatient treatment.
  • Outpatient treatment – Members in outpatient treatment attend treatment on various schedules while living at home. Outpatient treatment works best for less severe addictions or as a step-down program. 

Supporting Loved Ones in Inpatient Treatment

If the individual suffering from substance use disorder chooses inpatient treatment, the families dealing with addiction can still be supportive. Several ways to help a family member in addiction treatment include:

  • Write letters or call when allowed to support and motivate recovery.
  • Attend family therapy for substance use disorder.
  • Do not judge or criticize the member in recovery.
  • Attend all visitation days. 

The recovery journey is mentally, emotionally, and physically hard. As members in recovery begin thinking clearly, they may feel humiliation and embarrassment for past behaviors. However, families dealing with addiction who support their loved ones can help rebuild self-confidence. Family support also motivates members to maintain recovery. 

Outpatient Treatment: Supporting Family Roles in Addiction

When families dealing with addiction have a family member in outpatient treatment, supporting their recovery looks different. Above all, support means providing a safe palace for recovery. A safe place means an environment free of all drugs and alcohol. However, there are various ways to offer support. 

  • Keep all drugs and alcohol out of the home. Even if the addiction is to drugs, alcohol can be a trigger for recurrence of use. Also, if other family members are going to drink, don’t do it in front of the recovering member.
  • If other people in the home also struggle with substance misuse, it may require finding other housing options
  • Always be available for emotional support. Many members in recovery feel alone. This feeling can lead to the recurrence of use. However, being a supportive shoulder can ease the feelings of loneliness. 
  • Encourage members to attend family therapy for substance use disorder. 

Support Groups for Families Dealing with Addiction

Besides family therapy for substance use disorder, many treatment centers offer support groups for families dealing with addiction. The most common support groups are 12-step groups. They provide guidance and support to help promote healthy family roles in addiction. 

Al-Anon focuses on families dealing with addiction. This group is for spouses, children, mothers, fathers, and other family members. As with other 12-step groups, Al-Anon uses spiritual themes to promote compassion and acceptance.

Another support group is Alateen. This group focuses on teens and their family role in addiction. Teens also discuss the feelings of witnessing a loved one’s addiction. 

Lastly, families dealing with addiction to narcotics receive support at Narc-Anon meetings. 

Seeking Family Therapy for Substance Use Disorder at Sana Lake

Although the damage to families dealing with addiction can be lasting, family support is one key to Recovery for Life. With family therapy for substance use disorder, members struggling with misuse can rebuild trust and communication. Furthermore, family therapy for substance use disorder can define healthy family roles in addiction and recovery. 

Sana Lake Helps Rebuild Families

It is never too late to build healthy family roles in addiction. With the help of our doctors, therapists, and wellness coaches, you can fix broken relationships that promote Recovery for Life. Contact us today and start your journey to recovery. 

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3725219/

https://vertavahealth.com/blog/role-of-family-in-recovery/

Article Reviewed by David Sherman, MD

David Sherman, MDDavid Sherman, MD is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (FASAM) and board certified in Addiction Medicine with the American Board of Preventive Medicine. He is a native Missourian and graduated medical school at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine. Dr. Sherman completed a two-year fellowship in Addiction Medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He leads a highly trained staff of master level certified addiction professionals. Men and women from all over Missouri and the United States come to Sana Lake Recovery Center to get the care they need and deserve.