The Top 4 Myths About Families Dealing With Addiction
For families with a loved one addicted to drugs or alcohol, daily life can revolve around anger, worry, grief and fear. Addiction affects the entire family – emotionally, physically, mentally, and even spiritually. Despite all of the anguish felt by a family struggling with addiction, there’s pressure to keep the family “secret” within the four walls of their home. With all of the stigma that surrounds the disease, we wanted to break down the top four myths that we hear about families that have an addicted loved one.
MYTH: People with drug or alcohol addictions only come from dysfunctional families.
TRUTH: While there is much compelling evidence that suggests a connection between childhood trauma and substance abuse, not every person struggling with drug or alcohol addictions comes from a family with functioning issues. Although genetic characteristics and environmental factors may predispose individuals to addiction, the truth is, addiction is a disease. Addiction can affect anyone, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, morals, economic or social background. Addiction knows no bounds or limits, skin color or beliefs.
Just because a woman struggles with heroin addiction doesn’t mean her parents didn’t raise her properly. Just because a man suffers from alcoholism doesn’t mean his family is dysfunctional. By the same token, if an individual is raised in a chaotic environment, it doesn’t necessarily mean he or she will develop a Hydrocodone addiction.
MYTH: Families with a member struggling with addiction should be ashamed that their loved one is using drugs or alcohol.
TRUTH: Addiction is a disease. Addiction is a serious illness that is usually chronic, typically progressive, and often fatal. It isn’t about character or lack of morals – and it certainly isn’t anything that should cause family members to carry the burden of shame.
Often times, people around the family won’t respond with the same sympathy or compassion for drug or alcohol addiction as they would for another illness. Because of the fear of how others will respond, many families feel they must keep their loved one’s addiction a secret. However, mourning with dignity is essential for all families who have a member who is in active addiction – because addiction is just as agonizing as any other disease. Families shouldn’t be embarrassed or ashamed of their loved one’s illness.
MYTH: The family should be blamed for not doing enough to help their loved one.
TRUTH: Addiction tends to absorb the resources, money and well-being of anyone in its path. It opens a black hole of need for things like support and money. Many times, families become so overwhelmed by the needs of the disease that they exhaust themselves emotionally and deplete themselves financially.
Addiction thrives where it is fueled – it needs support. When a family cuts off financial support, free housing, gas for the vehicle, enabling. – those struggling with addiction are often forced to heal.
Families should not go bankrupt paying rent, bills and bail. Nor should they feel guilty if they don’t provide those resources. Cutting off financial enabling for a family member struggling with addiction can be dramatic and stressful, as the person with addiction will have to assume responsibility – but the truth is, it’s a necessary step for both the person using and the person or people around them.
MYTH: Moms and dads of people addicted to drugs or alcohol are bad parents.
TRUTH: This misconception is particularly painful. The stigma associated with drug and alcohol addiction can amplify the pain families feel when it comes to their loved ones’ addictions. Because society imposes this damage, many parents of people with addiction will try to hide the disease from other family members, friends, and those around them. Too often, families with drug or alcohol addiction accept the idea that it is their fault, and maybe they are not capable of doing anything about it.
The reality is, no matter how great of a parent you are or are not – regardless of whether your child went to church every Sunday, earned straight-A’s or was a champion athlete; regardless of whether you went to every piano recital or parent-teacher conference, addiction can affect anyone. Some of the greatest parents raise children who grow up to struggle with addiction – and in turn, some not-so-great parents can raise children who never become addicted.
Unfortunately, a deep-rooted stigma of addiction exists in our culture. In order to overcome that stigma, families of those struggling with addiction must take the first step in facing the myths head on, by becoming knowledgeable and informed about the disease. Watching a loved one suffer from an illness is difficult enough, but eliminating shame, and knowing there is hope can sometimes ease the pain.