Family Focused Strategies for Addiction Intervention

Addiction Always Hurts The Entire Family

When a loved one begins to abuse drugs or alcohol, their relationships begin to change. Everyone reacts to addiction in their own way. However, a substance habit always brings more dysfunction into the home.

At Family First Intervention, we understand how difficult it can be to deal with these changes. One of our goals is to educate families on how to react to a family member under an addiction.

How Does Addiction Lead To Dysfunctional Family Roles?

Undiagnosed mental illness hurts communication between family members. An untreated substance abuse problem is no different.

We at Family First Intervention have identified five of the most common reasons that a substance abuse problem brings misery down, even on healthy households:

  1. Substance abuse is secretive and isolating. This naturally creates tension between formerly close family members.
  2. Substance abusers are driven by their addictions to turn family members against one another. This negative attention provides cover for an addict’s behavior.
  3. The stronger the relationship between an addict and a family member, the more likely that loved one might be guilted into covering for the addiction.
  4. Family members who tend to avoid conflict may have trouble acknowledging the addiction even exists.
  5. Family members may react negatively to a loved one’s addiction. This is often due to unresolved personal baggage.
  6. If dysfunctional family roles are left unaddressed, the more damaging and lasting an impact they can have on the entire family

The Most Common Dysfunctional Family Roles

Now we understand why and how loved ones assume dysfunctional roles.

To better understand how these harmful behaviors play out in the household, we’ve identified the most common dysfunctional family roles that loved ones can act out:

  • The Guilty Party = This role is often filled by a mother or grandparent. The blame themselves for their loved one’s addiction. The thought of putting their child into treatment makes them feel even more guilty.
  • The Redeemer = Paternal figures may take it upon themselves to fix the problem. They are resistant to treatment because they do not want to admit they can’t do it alone.
  • The Inside Man (or Woman) = This is an aunt, uncle, or sibling who doesn’t take the addiction as seriously as they should. They may be substance abusers themselves and will cover for a loved one’s substance abuse.
  • The Denier = Parents may flat out deny that the addiction is real in order to avoid feeling like they are responsible in the first place.
  • The Saboteur = This may be a sibling who feels jealous about all the attention their addicted family member is getting. They may act out or undermine the intervention to receive negative attention.
  • The Enabler = A friend or significant other supports the addiction. They may also be substance abusers or may not realize that a loved one is in serious trouble. May lend money or cover for an addict’s behavior.
  • The Clueless = This role is filled by a child, younger sibling, or grandparent. This family member supports their loved one’s drug habit out of ignorance, usually in the form of monetary gifts.
  • The Apathetic = Some family members don’t want to be bothered. They see a family member’s addiction as their own problem and don’t feel responsible to help. They are likely to hinder the intervention through negligence.

Family Roles in Addiction

No One Adopts Dysfunctional Behaviors On Purpose

In most cases, dysfunctional family roles start with an instinct to help. Dealing with these issues without outside help can be nearly impossible. Most family members believe they are being helpful, even if that isn’t the case.

The closer a loved one is to the addict, the more likely they are to take it upon themselves to fix the problem. Unfortunately, no one person can solve an addiction.

That being said, it can be very difficult to figure out who is helping and who is hurting without an expert’s input. That’s why working through the problem with the help of an intervention specialist is so vital.

Fill Positive Family Roles Instead of Negative Ones

Identifying dysfunctional family roles is not a scheme to place blame or direct negative attention. Loved ones must be aware of how their behavior is impacting the rest of the family. It’s simply the first step to making a positive change.

Family members must understand that if they are not playing a positive, intentional role then they may in fact be slowing down the recovery process. Everyone has a role to play. Recovery starts when loved ones get on the same page, start playing the right roles, and stop pointing fingers.

More Resources for Dealing With A Family Addiction

Family members are doing their best to help their loved one struggling with substance abuse. These encouraging, advice-filled resources can help make this challenge less overwhelming:

Advice from Intervention Expert Mike Loverde

The following videos from addiction intervention specialist Mike Loverde provides helpful, down-to-earth solutions based on his real life experiences. He offers advice that families struggling with a loved one’s addiction need to hear:

Is Your Family Waiting For Your Loved One To Want Help Or Hit Bottom?

Addiction is a family disease, everyone is effected, everyone is involved. Together we can begin the journey to life-long sobriety from drugs or alcohol.

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