“When I hear or read people say they are addicted to shoes, or chocolates, or this tv show or that dish…I cringe,” says Carla*, a twenty-something mother of two.
She adds, “Obviously, these people take the word ‘addiction’ too lightly without knowing how that very word has devastated me, my family, and everyone else who deals with the harsher, more merciless meaning of ADDICTION.”
Today, addiction means so much more than just a compulsion to drinking alcohol or taking drugs. It has become ingrained in our daily language while the disease that is addiction itself, has also deeply infiltrated our society and the very fabric that makes up our families.
Addiction is indeed a disease and, like a thief coming into a house at night, it comes unexpected and unnoticed by the victim himself. And then, like a drop in the ocean, it creates a ripple effect and not a person in the home is spared.
How Addiction Affects the Family
Addicts will not even realize they are addicted to alcohol or drug until it is too late and they have reached their so-called ‘bottom’. For some, they will be so deep in the clutches of addiction that they will even deny that there is something wrong with them. Meanwhile, family members of addicts will feel more or less the same things: anger, helplessness, despair, and hopelessness.
Inasmuch as addicts are held hostage by the disease, their families are too. Many addicts did not wish to become addicts and are powerless to escape the cycle. Some are blinded with their addiction that they continue with their unthinking behavior. At times, they are also afraid to go through withdrawal so they cannot bring themselves to stop.
The addicts do not see themselves change, but for the families who know them very well, the changes are all too painful to watch before their very eyes. The addicts have developed a tunnel vision and a single, strong desire to fulfill the compulsion without any consideration for its consequences. They lose interest in spending time with, and even providing for, their families. And this is how addiction shatters many families’ hopes and futures in more ways than the members could have ever imagined.
One of the immediate effects of addiction would be the addicts’ spending habits. If before they were able to contribute to household incomes, this ability slowly dwindles as some even start to steal from their own husbands, wives, children, and relatives. Others also start to lie about their spendings. They start to become financial liabilities, especially when they start to have debts or get involved in legal issues or untoward incidents. Over time, they will cease to be able to keep their jobs. Soon, they will be unable to get new employment and the whole family suffers because of this. The monetary problems even get worse from here and families find themselves buried in debt and without financial stability as the addicts’ appetite grow bigger and bigger. Even the most well-off families get financially crippled due to the consequences of addiction.
However, the financial tally pales at the other costs of addiction–which none can put a price tag on: broken marriages, shattered families, unrealized dreams, as well as uncertain futures, violence, hurt, stress, and even trauma to the family members.
The emotional effects of addiction to all members of the family can be disastrous. The addicts’ behavior have changed over time, which may be brought about by the compulsive habit and the physical and psychological effects of the substances to the brain itself. This may cause the addicts to wreak havoc to their families’ dynamics and cause emotional and physical abuse to their spouses and children. They may also cause risks to their families’ safety, security, and mental health conditions. Meanwhile, children exposed to the virulent environment of living with an addict in the family can greatly increase the potential for the cycle of addiction to continue to them and the generations to follow.
*not her real name