How can substance addiction affect filial relationships?

Discord, stress and friction are all a part of daily life in families along with emotional and physical security, companionship and other benefits of a joint family life. These are normal and common issues.

Turmoil sets in when a larger than life issue arises – drug addiction or substance abuse. In a joint or a nuclear family one addict can affect the entire family’s life balance. This can have a negative impact on families for generations.

The effect of the addictive behaviour of one member impacts the entire family – this is called co-dependency.

Normal behaviour, trust, parental role model issues are severely affected. A kid growing up in a family which has an addict may have behavioural problems, may not trust anybody and worst affected is the child who may grow up to be a control freak or be over protective and overbearing towards their own children.

Family members may feel insecure or even abandoned. The fear, anxiety and anger towards the addict may even lead to severing ties or totally ignoring the addict to save themselves from embarrassment and guilt.

Strange but true, children sometimes don the role of a surrogate spouse for their parent who is a drug addict or alcoholic. Some children can even act as a parent when it comes to comforting, counselling or dealing with the parent.

A parent with small children will try to compensate for the effects of drug addiction of the spouse, trying to keep the kids happy and satisfied and hoping it will give them a sense of security. This gives false security and a realization that they can get away with anything. The kids may begin to think that substance abuse is not such a bad thing after all.

In a family, where there isat least one addict, there is a lot of negativity, inconsistency in parental behaviour, impractical and unrealistic expectations from the children resulting in children developing negative complexes.

People who are addicts get more and more isolated from their families. Though this is a normal reaction, the family may not realise that this isolation will only worsen the condition of the addict. He or she may increasingly find more solace in their substance as a substitute to filial affection.

Very often an addict is under the false impression that no one in the family knows about his addiction. This impression comes when the family disassociates from the drug addict and ignores the addict’s addictive behaviours.

The simplest, practical and most effective solution is to contact a de-addiction centre. Before that, of course, the loved one should be spoken to and made to realise and accept that he/she is a substance abuser or an addict. There will be denial, anger, self-pity and even explanations before acceptance, during which a parent may be in turmoil and also begin to have doubts about the addiction. But the caretaker should be firm and steadfast.

Counselling for co-dependency issues of family members from a rehab centre or a drug treatment centre may also be required on how to deal with the addict and more importantly how to take care of them specially when interacting with the addict. The family will also get instructions on treatment and behaviour towards the addict after she/he is out of therapy and on the road to recovery.

Always remember it takes mental and physical strength to deal with a substance abuser, but it is essential for the whole family to get on the road to recovery.

Hope Trust has a strong and effective Family Support Program to provide help for the co-dependents.