Family Life – The Unseen Side of Addiction
Addiction creates a dark storm of destruction within families. Just ask Sandy Swenson, a mother of two sons one of whom is a long-suffering addict. This quote on Sandy's website powerfully captures the feelings shared by many family and friends of addicts - "To love an addict is to run out of tears". All over the world there are mothers, husbands, daughters and sons who face the daily struggle of loving someone who struggles with addiction to drugs and alcohol.
But, when we think of addiction, our attention instinctively turns to the addict. Those around them often get ignored. But there lies the hidden side of addiction. The family and friends that quietly battles alongside their loved one. It is easy to forget that on the peripheral there are loved ones who feel powerless, shattered and in need of some support.
A Harrowing Insight
Addiction has far reaching implications. Just how far reaching is difficult to comprehend at first. We can easily imagine a mother's, like Sandy Swenson, helpless endeavours to rid her son of addiction. We might even picture other close family members doing whatever they can to help the situation. But what about if this person has a family of his own?
Here is a harrowing statistic published on Forbes – "children of alcoholics are four times as likely to be abused as other kids. Moreover, 80% of child abuse and neglect cases are associated with some form of substance abuse." What does this mean for the children of our above-mentioned son? It means there is a high probability that his children, if he has any, will suffer.
Moreover, children that grow up in households with one or more parent who is an addict are likely to espouse their parent's addictive behaviours, creating a devastating cycle of effects. For loved ones, the effects of addiction are immense both physically and psychologically.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Of course, drugs and alcohol aren't the only things people can get addicted to: Things like gambling, eating and shopping are probably the most well-known non-substance forms of addiction. But, more recent forms of addiction, mostly involving the internet, are fast becoming a concern for loved ones across the developed world.
Chief among the internet driven addictions is cybersex addiction. This includes a whole host of behaviours including frequently viewing pornography, an obsession with adult chatrooms and using adult sites to flirt and schedule "hook-ups". The effects on family and loved ones from these types of addictions are not that different from those of people hooked on drugs or alcohol.
According to one small survey, "Cybersex was a major contributing factor into separation and divorce of couples", devastating the family in similar fashion to substance addiction. The children of these families often suffer from lack of attention, early exposure to cyberporn, and indirect involvement in their parent's conflict.
So essentially there is very little distinction between the familial effects of substance addiction and any other type. Addictive behaviour affects far more than the life of the addict.
Coping in The Backdraft of Addiction
Living with an addict is physically and mentally exhausting. No matter how committed you are to helping your loved one you will no doubt find yourself in a challenging juggling act of trying to help this person while simultaneously trying to avoid being sucked into their world.
You can do all the commonly recommended things; educate yourself on addiction and recovery, get professional help and support them as best you can. However, it is neigh on impossible for you to avoid the traumatic effects it will have on you. Yes, that's right! In all this chaos you actually have to think about yourself. People often forget that you are part of this addiction battle too.
The first step for an addict is to acknowledge that there is a problem and that they cannot manage it alone. This is also the first step for you as a significant other. Your physical, emotional and mental states are no doubt in a fragile state. Even if your loved one successfully overcomes addiction there will be deep seated damage within you and your family that needs repairing.
How you cope with the struggles of living with an addict is by seeking a similar kind of help to what they're getting. It's not just the addict who is recovering, the whole family will need to.
A Design for Life
Here is another quote from Sandy Swenson, which captures beautifully most of what we have talked about today – "Hug the mom of an addict today. Addiction makes people so uncomfortable she is often left to suffer in pain alone." We at The Scott recognize this very well and strive to ensure that no one is left to suffer alone.
Family Des Cierges is a design for a life beyond addiction. It is a recognition that the family of addicts have a hard time too. It is a studies-driven, evidence-based program designed to effectively heal families of addiction. This program not only gives you the support you need to maintain a strong mentality and good physical health, it also empowers you to better support your nearest and dearest while they overcome addiction.
The struggles that family members face go largely unseen, but not by all. We think that taking a multi-dimensional approach to addiction is one of the most effective ways to combat the disease. We also believe that with the right support group, help from top professionals and perhaps a change of scenery, we can stem the flow of tears shed by the family of addicts long before those tears ever run out.