How Does My Addiction Affect My Child?
Author: Andy Smithson
If you give a man a hammer, some nails, and any other materials he needs to build a home, and instruct him how to do it, in time, he could create an edifice that could shelter him and his family from the wind and storms.
Take that same man, and blindfold him, bind his feet and hands with strong cords, and instruct him to build the same structure, and he would have much more difficulty. It may discourage that man so much, he may give up entirely.
Addiction is the blindfold and bindings that restrict our ability to build our children and families. Raising children and supporting a family is difficult enough, without being enslaved by a substance or other addiction. Addiction has become more prevalent in today’s society than any previous generation. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that 8.9 percent of the surveyed group had an issue of dependence on or abuse of alcohol or illicit drugs in the previous year. This percentage only includes those who have been formally diagnosed with, and have received treatment for, drug-related issues; and this percentage doesn’t include other non-substance related addictions either.
One of the greatest struggles for addicts is that the primary symptom of an addiction is denial of its existence, as well as its affect upon you and those around you. Regardless of that denial, the truth is addiction does, in fact, affect your family, your children, and all aspects of your life.
How my addiction affects my children. The fact that most addictions are shrouded in secrecy will largely contribute to its negative effects on children and family. Spouses and family members, as well as the addict, often try to hide their addiction out of guilt, shame, and fear. Lack of communication and withdrawal from relationships often follow this secrecy. Mistrust, increased domestic violence, and marital conflict also follow.
All of these emotional elements contribute to a decreased ability to engage in relationships with our kids, discipline effectively, and be an effective parent. Beyond these emotional components, there are other practical implications for the whole family. Most addictions cost money and time, and sap energy from the user. As a result, families plagued by addiction often have increased financial problems, more health- and stress-related concerns, and more fighting and arguing. Children with parents who suffer from addiction have an increased incidence of academic problems, criminal behavior, and early use, abuse, and subsequent addiction themselves. It creates a vicious cycle of insecurity and addiction, from generation to generation.
When you are in the depths of your addiction, it often feels like there is no way out. However, the affects of addiction on a family can be stopped and reversed. Lives and relationship can be healed! The following lists can help you and your family end the cycle of addiction and start the healing.
What can I do?
- Admit you have a problem: If you’ve ever asked yourself, “I wonder if I’m addicted?” chances are you are. If you have ever tried to stop, but can’t, chances are you are addicted. Be honest with yourself and admit that you have a problem, and you need help.
- Tell someone: Once you have admitted it to yourself, admit it to someone else. A strong and healthy support system is one of the most important elements of recovery.
- Seek help: Research shows that a combination of psychotherapy/CBT and a 12-step program is most successful in long-term addiction recovery. Find the appropriate therapy and groups in your area!
- Never give up: The road to recovery is never over. It is important to be committed, but never beat yourself up if you slip. Don’t give up or say, “I’ll never beat this, so why try?” Recovery happens all the time. It can happen to you.
What can my family do?
- Admit the family has a problem: Addiction affects the family, and thus it is not just the addict’s problem, but is a family affair. It’s important for family members to refrain from denial and enabling behaviors.
- Create a safety plan, if needed: It is important for family members to create a safety plan, if the addict is abusive. Create a plan that outlines what to do, where to go, how to get there, and any means for family communication. Teach and practice the plan with the children in the home.
- Seek help for the family: If the addict is willing to get treatment, seek treatment outlets for the family to process their emotions, learn ways to self-cope, and learn how to healthily help the addict.