Clinically Reviewed by Sarah Hogan, MA LPC
Sarah is a Licensed Professional Counselor with 13 years of experience in the behavioral health field as well as a certified provider of Cognitive Processing Therapy for Trauma. She has extensive experience in counseling and case management with local mental health authorities, emergency homeless shelters, leading high acuity response teams, and serving first responders/veterans.
Substance misuse affects all aspects of the user’s life, but it is perhaps most brutal on the relationship between the substance user and those who love them the most. An entire family’s worth of love, trust, and respect can be shaken by one person’s struggle with substance abuse. Here at Plum Creek Recovery Ranch, we understand how central family can be to a person’s idea of themself and how surely addiction can shake that. We believe that true recovery means working to heal as much of the damage that addiction leaves in its wake. That’s why we’re so proud of the work we do in our Family Program so that our patients can rebuild the relationships that may have frayed during the active phase of their addiction.
To understand exactly how our Family Program can be effective, it’s important to understand how addiction can affect ties between loved ones. Each family and every relationship that makes them up is different, but there are a few general ways that addiction distends them. Below is by no means a comprehensive list of ways that addiction can harm family members, but it does cover many of the most common wounds:
- Breakdown of Communication and Trust
Open and honest communication is essential for healthy family dynamics. Substance misuse can lead to breakdowns in communication as family members may be afraid to confront the substance user’s problem or may avoid discussing the issue altogether. Even if communication continues, Substance misuse often involves deceit and lying to hide the extent of one’s substance misuse or while under the influence. This can erode trust within the family, as family members may no longer be able to take the patient at their word.
2. Emotional strain
Family members often experience a range of negative emotions, including anger, frustration, sadness, and anxiety, as they witness their loved one’s struggle with addiction. They may also blame themselves for the addiction, leading to guilt, shame, and misplaced anger.
3. Role Reversal and Codependency
Some family members may develop codependent relationships with the addicted individual, enabling their behavior by covering up their mistakes, making excuses, or providing financial support. They may also be forced to take on roles and responsibilities typically handled by the addicted individual, such as caring for children, managing household tasks, or dealing with legal or financial issues. Both may breed resentment and confusion on either side.
But addiction doesn’t only hurt the people around the substance abuser; it tears at them as well. The emotional response of substance misusers after letting down their families can vary widely depending on the strength of their relationships and the length and depth of the deterioration, but here are a few of the most common feelings that substance abusers have when faced with the harm that their addiction has wrought:
- Guilt and Shame
Many substance misusers feel a deep sense of guilt and shame for their actions and the pain they have caused their loved ones. They may regret the lies, deceit, and harm they’ve inflicted on their family members.
2. Loss of Self-Esteem
Substance misusers may experience a loss of self-esteem and self-worth as they confront the reality of their addiction and the damage it has caused to their family’s lives.
3. Anxiety and Depression
The realization of letting down their family can lead to increased anxiety and depression. They may worry about the future, their family’s feelings toward them, and the consequences of their actions.
As a consequence of feeling guilty about how their addiction has affected their family, some substance misusers may engage in self-blame, believing that they are fundamentally flawed or unworthy.
But even after all of the pain endured, on both sides, both parties may still hold out hope that they can repair damaged relationships and work towards redemption and reconciliation. This is where our Family Program can help.
How our Family Program can help
Our Family Program is designed to help and heal wounds on both our patient’s side and the side of their family. For families, our trained team uses the latest research to help loved ones understand the painful changes that a struggle with addiction makes in a person. By supplementing their understanding of the trap that their loved one has fallen into with modern research into addiction, we believe that we can give families their best chance at starting an honest, open dialogue about the pain they’ve experienced and hope for their future with the person that they love.
For our patients, we give them a safe, judgment-free place to get treatment, open new lines of communication with their family members, and accept their responsibility for their actions. We believe that with this dual approach, we can catalyze the important work of repairing family ties.
We understand that healing can only truly begin when the patient in recovery is ready to begin the healing process, so we make sure to only invite family members in to join our Family Program after we receive the consent of the patient. After our patient consents, our Family Program can begin.
If you would like to heal your family from the pain of a loved one’s addiction, or if you would like to make amends to your family, Plum Creek Recovery Ranch is here to offer support. Don’t hesitate to contact us at (512) 488-1128, and we will listen and provide assistance. Remember that seeking help is a sign of strength, and we are here to support you through these challenging situations.