Addiction is an illness that affects the brain and changes the way that neurotransmitters within this organ function. Those affected lose the ability to make sensible decisions and have no control over their compulsion to take a specific substance or engage in a particular activity. However, addiction is not simply an illness that affects one person. It is known as a family illness because everyone around the individual concerned is affected.
When one person develops an addiction, others within the family will be affected, but not everyone is affected in the same way. Some family members will want to do everything in their power to help their loved one. Others will be upset and confused while some will even experience denial because they simply cannot accept that their loved one could have something as serious as an addiction.
The trouble with addiction is that it affects the entire family dynamic long before the person is diagnosed or before anyone realises how serious the problem is. As addiction takes hold of an individual, he or she will begin to change slowly. Addicts often become secretive and manipulative. Their personalities change and this can impact on relationships within the family unit.
How Co-Dependency Affects the Family
Family members dealing with an addicted individual may feel responsible, and some will feel guilty. Others will feel ashamed and powerless. They often believe that they can convince the affected person to simply stop doing what they are doing. They will beg, try to reason with, or even try to manipulate their loved one into quitting, but this rarely works.
Family members often become co-dependent; this means that they become dependent on the addict. Their every waking moment is consumed with their addicted loved one. Their own behaviour changes as they try to deal with the reality of life with an addict. Co-dependent family members can be affected in many ways; below are a few examples:
- They begin covering up. Family members often try to cover up for an addicted loved one. This is often out of a sense of shame or embarrassment. It could also be because they feel guilty or responsible for the actions of the affected person. They might phone this individuals employer to say he or she is unwell when, in fact, their loved one is drunk or hungover. They may pay for their addicted loved ones rent or other bills because he or she has spent the money on a gambling habit. Family members that cover up for an addicted loved one often believe they are helping but the truth is that they are usually making the situation worse.
- They will rationalise the behaviour of the person affected. Instead of tackling the affected persons unpredictable behaviour, family members often try to explain it or make excuses. They might blame something or someone else or say that their loved one is dealing with a lot of stress.
- They will withdraw from society. If a family member fears that their addicted loved one will get blinding drunk and will cause a scene, he or she may simply stop going to parties or other social events where alcohol will be present. Children may stop inviting friends over after school for fear that their addicted parent will be intoxicated and may embarrass them.
- They may blame themselves or others. Family members often look for a reason as to why their loved one has developed an addiction. They may blame themselves or others. Others will become resentful and angry with the addicted person and, in many cases, family relationships are broken beyond repair.
Addiction is a destructive illness that requires treatment. It has far-reaching effects that extend beyond the affected individual. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call Rehab Helper today for advice and information on how to overcome this illness.