Addiction, the Family Disease


Opioid Addiction is a family disease that can strain a family to its breaking point. It impacts the stability of the home, the family’s unity and the mental health and physical health of adults and children alike. Addict behaviors constantly disrupt household routines, and these behaviors are unpredictable and frightening. Everyone becomes a victim of the addiction and the addict’s world. The addict’s experiences become the center of everyday family life that has become overwhelming and dysfunctional. Reality is manipulated and denied in an attempt to prevent the family from falling apart, but the family slowly spins out of control.

Many people have heard the terms enabling and co-dependency. Enabling occurs when someone does something for an addicted person that they can do for themselves. This is different than helping with something that they cannot do for themselves. Co-dependency is “relationship addiction”. It affects a spouse, parent, sibling, friend, or co-worker of a person a with opioid drug dependence when they are trapped in the lifestyle and world of the addiction. Enabling and co-dependency are not healthy coping behaviors and counterproductive to recovery.

There is a less known, but equally destructive problem that without help can totally disrupt family life and cause harmful effects that can last a lifetime. Family members can suffer from the damaging effects of “co-addiction”. This refers to anyone, the “co-addict”, whose life has become unmanageable as a result of living with an addicted person. Often experts use “co-addiction” to describe the relationship between spouses, but the concept apply to the entire family including the kids.

When a person attempts to control drug use, or addictive behavior over which they are powerless, they lose control over their own behavior, and their lives become unmanageable. The “co-addict” can suffer from physical, psychological, and social symptoms as a result of attempting to adapt to and compensate for the debilitating stress of living with an addict.

The “co-addict” can develop psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety, eating disorders, sleep problems, and PTSD symptoms. They can fail at work and school, and function poorly in social situations and personal relationships. As the co-addiction progresses, the stress-related problems eventually take on a life of their own, unrelated and independent of the addiction that originally caused them!

Tragically the problems will continue even if the addicted person in the family recovers and becomes sober. The co-addict is left behind with psychiatric, physical and social scars. So much attention is placed on the addicted person, that the needs of caregivers and families are neglected. This is not only bad for them, but it perpetuates the dysfunctionality increasing the risk of relapse. It is critical that each member of the family get the professional services they need so they are not abandoned victims of addiction.

Recovery from co-addiction means learning to:

  • Accept and detach from the symptoms of addiction
  • Manage and control the symptoms of co-addiction
  • Focus on personal needs and personal growth
  • Respect and like oneself
  • Choose appropriate behavior
  • Be in control of one’s own life

Live Addiction Free!

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