You’ve been abusing drugs and alcohol for a while now and are very aware of how it is impacting your life. You’ve noticed your frequent mood swings and lack of motivation. All you can think about is where you’re going to get your next drink or fix and how you’re going to pay for it. But are you aware of how all of this is impacting your family?

When a person becomes addicted to drugs and alcohol, their entire family suffers. In a household with active addiction, a once safe environment can become hostile and stressful, affecting the family’s unity and the physical and mental health of all of its members. In other words, addiction makes the entire family sick.

The Impact of Drugs and Alcohol on the Family

You might be wondering, “How can that be? It’s my problem, not theirs.”

But you’re wrong. Living with an alcoholic or a drug addict is a family affair. Because it subjects all members of a household to constant stress and fears of various kinds, it has often been referred to as a “family illness.” To one degree or another, all members of the family are affected, particularly if problems such as criminal activity, joblessness, domestic violence and child abuse or neglect are present.

Whether the addicted person is a parent, a teenager or an adult child, people who abuse substances are likely to find themselves increasingly isolated from their families. Often they prefer associating with others who abuse substances or participate in some other form of antisocial activity.

Effects of Drugs and Alcohol Addiction on a Family

Families become increasingly dysfunctional as addiction takes root inside the home. Because substance abuse involves shame and stigma, it is typically kept secret. In some cases, a family might present a healthy face to the community while substance abuse issues lie just below the surface. Any communication that occurs among family members is negative, taking the form of complaints and criticism. The overall mood of the household is decidedly negative and positive behavior is ignored. In such families, the only way to get attention or lighten the situation is to create a crisis. Unfortunately, this negativity may serve to reinforce the substance abuse.

Over time, the dynamics of a family can change drastically to accommodate the addict, and this dysfunction must be addressed before the family can heal. “Many family members suffer from co-dependency when an addiction is present,” notes David Dequa, Director of The Discovery House. “These individuals begin to crave the drama that living with an addict brings. They thrive on the fighting and the making up that occurs so commonly with the addict. They lose confidence in themselves as individuals and they feel that it is their job to rescue the person and stay with them no matter what the cost might be.”

Children of individuals who suffer from drug dependence often are abused or neglected as a result of the individuals’ preoccupation with drugs and alcohol. National studies have shown that parents who abuse drugs and alcohol often put their need to obtain and abuse drugs before the health and welfare of their children. Children whose parents and other family members abuse substances often are physically or emotionally abused and often lack proper immunizations, medical care, dental care and necessities such as food, water, and shelter.

Is Addiction Support Available for Families?

A family addiction program can be very beneficial for families struggling with the drug problem or alcoholism of a loved one. Located in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, The Discovery House provides healing support for families of addicts.

The good news is that a family that receives help can become the most important source of encouragement to the recovering addict. A family addiction program provides help to all family members who are affected by the addiction. Addiction therapy and family counseling sessions help everyone involved learn how to maintain healthy relationships and how to heal each member. “Family therapy mends the family and teaches loved ones how to be that source of encouragement that someone recovering from an addiction needs,” adds Dequa. “It also helps family members to realize they are dealing with a condition that they didn’t cause and they can’t cure.”

The drug abuse counselors at The Discovery House understand the challenges that families of addicts and alcoholics face. They work with families to get to the bottom of the resident’s addiction. Whether the resident is in drug rehab, alcohol rehab or co-occurring disorders treatment, they help families learn how to be an encouragement to their loved one and help them maintain their sobriety after treatment.

The Discovery House utilizes a variety of treatment programs that allow each client to receive the individualized care they deserve. The Southern California rehab center offers a variety of inpatient and outpatient drug treatment programs to help drug addicts and alcoholics achieve and maintain sobriety. Each client at The Discovery House receives customized care to end their dependence on prescription drugs, heroin and other opiates and/or alcohol in order to live a sober life.

Do you or a loved one have experience with an addicted family member? Please share with us on Facebook or Twitter @TDHRehab #TDHRehab.