How Addiction is a Family Disease

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Living under the same roof as an alcoholic or addict can cause severe damage. Living in such an environment is much like living in a war-zone. Yelling, screaming, and chaos becomes the norm. In most cases, living in the home becomes a living nightmare for the entire family. Holidays are ruined, families start to face financial hardship and hopes and dreams are crushed. Inviting guests over is no longer an option because of the possible chance the alcoholic living in the home might explode at any moment and embarrass the family.  Anyone who has experienced living with an alcoholic or addict knows the anger, shame, and guilt that comes as a consequence. One person’s addiction can and will effect everything and everyone around them. Their addiction will cost them their job, their relationships and eventually their entire livelihood. The emotional and financial loss caused by the addict’s behavior will impact the entire family.

I personally know the guilt and shame that comes with living with an alcoholic/addict all too well. My dad abused opiates off and on for my entire life. In some homes, the mom is the boss and in other homes, the dad is in charge. In my house, alcohol and drugs wore the pants. My father’s addiction dictated everything. What I mean by this is that his disease decided whether or not Christmas would be ruined or whether or not we would make it to Church on Easter. If my dad could medicate himself so that he felt good enough to go to church, we’d go to church. If he did not, we wouldn’t go to church. As a child, I wondered why my mom wouldn’t have just taken us to church without my dad. What took me years to learn was that my mom did not take us to church without my dad because she was utterly and hopelessly dependent on him and his behavior. My mom was a co-dependent and growing up in this type of home made me a co-dependent.

Codependency

Until a drug addict is ready to stop using on his or her own, there is absolutely nothing anyone else can do to make them get sober. Despite this, most family members still assume responsibility for “rescuing” their loved one and in doing so; take direct responsibility for their sobriety or lack of sobriety.  They live their entire life determined to change the addict’s behavior and ultimately get them to stop drinking/using. By living a life centered on the alcoholic or addict, the addict controls the lives of everyone around them. My mom let my dad’s drinking control our entire life. By definition, codependency is having excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction. Because codependency only enables the addict’s drinking/using, the physical and emotional effects of this type of lifestyle and family life can be very serious.

Physical effects include:

  • Stomachaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • A lack of personal care/hygiene.

Emotional effects include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • OCD
  • Jealousy
  • Shame
  • Loneliness and fear

How the Family can be Involved in a Healthy Way & How we Incorporate Family at HCBTS

Reaching a balance of caring for your loved one from a distance is key for both you and your loved one to recover. This can be tough, especially if you fall into the category of being a codependent, which most family members of alcoholics/addicts do. At Hotel California by the Sea, we are here to help you throughout the process. We strongly believe that addiction is a family disease and affects everybody in the home. We understand the importance of incorporating one’s family in the recovery process and that it is a fundamental part to ones success in staying sober. Throughout our client’s journey with us, their family will be in close contact with a HCBTS case manager that is individually assigned to their family member. We want the family to stay involved but of course, from a healthy distance.

Every month, we invite our client’s families to participate in family week, which is headed by our clinical director, Dr. Mandy Neeble Diamond. During family week, Dr. Mandy and other HCBTS therapists and clinical staff run group therapy sessions, mediation sessions, 12 step meetings, special lunches and plan fun activities for the family to enjoy such as boating on the company yacht or taking the Duffy boat for a spin. Our goal during family week is to help the families of our clients better understand the disease of addiction and how they can help their loved ones continue to heal during their recovery process.