Substance abuse does not simply impact the one abusing alcohol or drugs, it also affects every person in the addicts life, especially their family members. Here is a description of how substance abuse can have an impact on the family.
Misusing drugs and alcohol can create tensions within families, causing increased conflict and arguments among family members. Not only can addiction cause conflict with one’s spouse, it can also cause stress in relationships with one’s children. An addict’s children might lose respect for his father because the father does not typically follow through with promises when he has been drinking or using drugs. His children may be afraid of him because they do know know when he will be drunk or high and lash out at him. There are many ways conflict can manifest and cause problems within relationships.
Emotional trauma or abuse within the household are also common factors associated with alcohol and substance misuse. Anger, rage and arguments are often part of family life when living with an addict. Belittling family members can also be a problem when alcohol or drugs take over. Often, addicts have other underlying issues that go hand in hand with their substance abuse problem and putting someone else down helps the addict feel better about herself and takes the focus off her problem temporarily. Addicts are also very good at manipulating situations as well as other people. Manipulation to score more drugs or sip that next drink or to even keep their addiction a secret often causes much tension and stress within the family dynamic. Emotional abuse is often prevalent among families of addicts.
Some addicts take the emotional abuse to the next level by physically abusing a family member. Violence, such as pushing or hitting can happen when a person has had too much booze or is high on drugs. Even if the person is not actually hitting his spouse, intimidating by throwing items or threatening them can be almost as scary. Any type of violence in a relationship is harmful to the relationship and causes unhealthy interactions within families.
Sexual promiscuity while drinking or using drugs is another factor that plays into familial stress with addicts. It may be because the individual is not thinking clearly when intoxicated or using drugs or because their relationship has become so strained, stressed and distant they choose to have an affair. It might not even be a physical affair in that the spouse is looking at pornography due to the distance felt by the stress within the relationship. Perhaps affection in the relationship has been lost because of the stress the addiction caused the person to go looking for affection elsewhere. There could even be an emotional affair that does not take the sexual step, but connects intimately with another person because she does not feel like she and her spouse are close any longer. Any of these types of affairs can happen on either side of the addiction coin-the person who is addicted or the spouse of the addict. These patterns can even lead to separation or divorce within a relationship, which could affect the family’s children as well.
An additional factor that plays into substance abuse is the financial strain it often creates within the family system. Not only are alcohol and drugs expensive habits, they can also cause job loss because of lack of performance or excessive absenteeism. Also, inebriated individuals can make poor financial decisions while they are under the influence. The person may also have legal trouble for which he must pay fines, court fees or jail time, which halts his financial income. An alcohol or drug addiction can cause financial conflict among families for all of the reasons listed above and more.
Alcohol and drug abuse also has many health risks as well. Being intoxicated or high on drugs can lower one’s focus and impair his thinking, causing him to not pay attention to his children, perhaps causing them to be hurt or have an accident. Smoking also causes health risks for everyone residing within the home, not simply for the smoker himself. Drinking while pregnant can cause major health risks for the baby, which could drastically change one’s family dynamic when the baby is born. These health risk among many more make alcohol and drug dependence dangerous for the addict as well as everyone else in their lives.
If you have a family member who is dealing with addiction, it would be beneficial for the entire family to seek counseling. Alcohol and drug abuse impact the entire family unit. Addictions are often passed down through the family line as well, so if you have children, it is a good idea to include them in the counseling process for this reason. The longer an individual is dependent on alcohol or drugs, the more strain it causes to the family. Seek help for the love of your family.