Content reviewed by Karen Rubenstein, LMFT

Addiction is rarely a condition that affects solely one person. Drug and alcohol addiction is widely considered a family disease, as its impact stretches far beyond just the individual struggling with it. Despite this understanding, many treatment facilities do not provide family-oriented therapies or family involvement resources as their loved one receives treatment for their addiction.

When looking for a treatment program for your loved one, finding a facility that offers family involvement programs is essential. These programs recognize that the effects of substance use extend to the entire family, and because of that, the whole family should be a part of the treatment process. Family involvement can predict better treatment outcomes for the whole family and the family member working to achieve long-term sobriety and recovery.

Addiction as a Family Disease

To recognize addiction as a family disease, you must understand the pivotal role the family unit plays in the development of its members. The family unit is the primary source of nurturing for nearly all humans. The bond we share with our parents or caregivers sets the tone for all the relationships we will experience in our life. The same applies to how we learn to interact, socialize and connect with family members.

The family unit is responsible for creating essential experiences of nourishment, safety, security and unconditional love for all of its members. This dynamic is necessary for young children in the family who are particularly vulnerable to influence.

Risk Factors Within the Family Unit

A significant amount of environmental risk factors may occur within the home environment that can contribute to the development of addiction. These risk factors do not guarantee addiction, and the absence of these risk factors does not guarantee protection from addiction. In general, these factors can shed light on different circumstances that may disrupt family dynamics and lead its members to substance use.

Risk factors within the family environment may include:

  • Family history of substance use
  • Favorable or indifferent parental attitudes toward substance use
  • Parental substance use
  • Poor parental monitoring
  • Family rejection of identity
  • Inadequate parent-child bond
  • Homelessness or financial insecurity
  • Child abuse, neglect or other trauma

Recovering From Addiction Together as a Family

Each family and family member is uniquely affected by the family member using substances or experiencing addiction. Some of these effects may include:

  • Unmet developmental needs
  • Impaired attachment
  • Economic hardship
  • Legal problems
  • Emotional distress
  • Violence
  • Increased risk of developing an addiction

Treating the family member struggling with addiction without family involvement ignores the impact that substance use disorders (SUDs) have on the family system and fails to recognize the family unit as a crucial support system to motivate change among its members.

The Influence of Family Involvement on Addiction Recovery

One of the most significant impacts of family involvement on recovery is understanding that addiction is not and was never a family member’s conscious choice or decision. Family involvement programs offer valuable educational opportunities to help the family unit understand the biological components of addiction, rather than assuming it to be a sign of moral weakness. These programs will help family members recognize the underlying reasons that may have led their loved ones to use substances. Similarly, they will help members work through their own underlying trauma and emotional distress to prevent and protect them from future substance use.

Family Support Groups

Family support groups are invaluable. Conversing with other families and family members about how addiction can impact family dynamics can bring a newfound sense of perspective and a greater understanding of the disease. Some benefits of family programs include having the opportunity to:

  • Better understand addiction and the emotions that may surface during the healing process
  • Find support from other people who are walking or have walked in your shoes
  • Share personal challenges and victories
  • Ask questions in a safe space
  • Improve family communication skills
  • Learn about the importance of self-care
  • Institute healthy family boundaries with your loved ones
  • Understand and reshape unhealthy family roles, such as enabling behaviors

All family members must feel seen, validated and loved for successful recovery. When the entire family unit is engaged in the treatment and recovery process, the family member struggling with substance use is much more likely to experience positive recovery outcomes. Family members can hold each other accountable for keeping boundaries, especially throughout long-term recovery. Whenever new challenges arise during the long-term recovery process, family involvement in continuing treatment and support groups can be a constant for family members to lean on. Overall, family involvement is key to fostering recovery success.

Authentic Recovery Center provides an inviting, home-like environment that offers individualized treatment for all patients needing a caring hand. We offer treatment for addiction and underlying issues, including anxiety and depression, as well as family programs that will complement your loved one’s treatment experience. Family involvement can make all the difference in recovery success. To learn more, call us today at (866) 786-1376.