The family remains one of the most important units for socialization, attachment, economic support, and mutual love in our society. Addiction at home tends to fray these powerful bonds, straining every family member differently. GateHouse Treatment knows that whether it’s a parent dealing with an addicted child or a child figuring out the world when their parent suffers from a substance abuse disorder, addiction at home has many consequences to address.
People rarely exist entirely outside of the context of their family environment. Before we even have memories, we feel the impact of our family member’s behaviors. Every stage of life brings different challenges and potential pitfalls in family relationships caused by addiction at home.
At GateHouse Treatment, we understand that we must address the family to heal the addict whole and ensure a stable path to sobriety. Whether it’s broken relationships, childhood trauma, or negative feedback loops, here is a list of how addiction at home can harm you and those you love the most.
1. Addiction at Home is Insidious
As the first place of socialization and the supposed bastion of safety and unconditional support, the home and family members generally have an enormous influence on our development, mood, and success. Two primary theories explain the overwhelming importance of addiction at home.
- The first is family systems theory. This theory claims that most systems, including the home, strive for equilibrium. After years of interaction, our relationships move toward a state of balance. Take, for example, a wife and a husband unhappy in marriage. The wife drinks because she is depressed, and her husband doesn’t care, but her husband believes that it’s best to stay away because his wife is drunk and gloomy most of the day. Their behaviors, independently developed, mutually reinforce each other in a loop.This mutual reinforcement makes addiction at home worse. Families fall into patterns of uncomfortable tolerance, wherein the addiction is a source of friction, but the addict doesn’t recover. The dynamic makes it very important to establish healthy boundaries and encourage the addict to break patterns.
- The second theory of addiction at home is the attachment theory. This one applies more to the upbringing of children. From birth, a child’s relationship with their parents becomes the template for subsequent relationships. If a parent is attentive and loving, the child will form a secure attachment to their family and societal structures. But if the parent is absent or uncaring, the child will form an insecure attachment that manifests into behavioral issues like depression and anxiety.Addiction at home is one of the primary ways this attachment can suffer. The family unit ceases functioning, and the child cannot make healthy attachments throughout life, reinforcing intergenerational drug addiction and maladaptive behavior patterns. This attachment occurs even from infancy before the child can say a word.
These two factors affect the family at all ages and stages. In the next part of this article, we’ll explore how these behaviors specifically manifest through the lens of addiction and family.
2. Addiction at Home Undermines Early Childhood Development
According to the US Department of Health, parents with substance abuse issues are three times more likely to physically or sexually abuse their children. Abuse has terrible consequences on a child’s development, but it doesn’t have to be extreme to cause harm. Addiction also leads to neglect, as an addict is preoccupied with their addiction and the downtime between benders to do proper child-rearing.
As mentioned above, this hurts the child’s ability to relate to society. Their developing brain cements their relationship with their parents as the blueprint to approach the world. Having never felt the love and security necessary for healthy flourishing, children who grow up experiencing addiction at home must develop basic skills later in life. They also exhibit maladaptive behaviors like lying, skipping school, and a propensity for petty crime.
There are also risks to the family unit at large. Child protective services may intervene for the child’s safety, which is a traumatic experience for anyone. Marital troubles are another common experience born out of the general neglect that substance abuse brings on.
3. Addiction at Home Complicates Teenage Development
Teenagers are old enough to understand what their parents are doing. They know their parent is an addict, can tell when they are high, and adjust their behavior to respond to this truth. The added responsibility of being a teenager with an addicted parent can lead to traumatic experiences like cleaning up after a drug binge.
Common behaviors that arise at this stage have to do with modeling conduct. Teenagers copy the behavior of their caretaker, and with the added stress of dealing with addiction, they take the position, “my parent does it, why shouldn’t I?” Since the teenage years come with more scrutiny and exposure to danger than early childhood, school and legal problems often follow.
Teenagers with addicted parents struggle with self-control, responsibility, and fitting in. They have trouble with authority since their authority model has been traditionally weak. They are in the position of having to mature earlier without the ability to do so, and through no fault of their own, this often doesn’t work out.
When it comes time to transition into young adulthood, the family may be ill-equipped to handle this. The young adult will be temperamentally and developmentally behind their peers, whether through a lack of financial resources for higher education or an unstable environment. Marital strife continues to impose a toll as the family unit breaks down or already broke down from the weight of addiction.
4. Addiction at Home Poisons All Family Relationships
It’s difficult to fall into addiction in middle age after one has traditionally reached a level of stability and wisdom one can impart to later generations. This new wrinkle causes a lot of trouble in the family, as adult children will struggle to understand the new behavior.
Isolation from the family unit may occur as adult children refuse to interact with the addicted parent. They may not come around anymore and will take steps to ensure grandchildren aren’t around an environment of addiction.
This separation snowballs into loneliness and depression. An adult addict might not receive the emotional support they require to get better, and as a result, continue to get worse and lose connection to those they love.
The solution is to make meaningful attempts to fight addiction every step of the way. Through honesty and cooperation, the family unit can support itself and come out significantly stronger. The situation might require intervention, recovery treatment, and counseling. The process is long and may be painful, but ultimately worth it for your health and the happiness of those who matter the most.
GateHouse Treatment and Addiction at Home
At GateHouse Treatment, we value you as a person and aim to treat more than just the symptoms. This process involves individualized treatment for you and the needs of your loved ones. We offer family counseling, partial hospitalization programs, access to sober homes, outpatient treatment, and ongoing sobriety support.
Pick up the phone and call (855) 448-3588 or contact us through our website for a free expert consultation. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and are ready to help you and your family spend years growing together.