I am NOT the problem! Our family is NOT the problem, they are the one who is actively bringing addiction into this family!
It’s Not My Problem, Right?
The “it’s not me, it’s you” system of thinking can be problematic to a family unit when someone in that unit suffers from a substance use disorder or alcohol use disorder. As care advocates for those undergoing an accelerated detox at Coleman Addiction Medicine, we see many families that do not believe they need to change and that the problem rests exclusively with their addicted loved one. They are invested in the idea that if the family member with the “problem” would just get “back to normal,” then everything will be fine. This is a detrimental way to view substance use disorder or alcohol use disorder in a family.
You may be thinking, “hold on, are you saying I am the one to blame for my loved one’s problem?” That is perfectly normal and understandable. You did not cause your loved one’s addiction and you can’t take full control over the problem. But there are ways in which family can unknowingly contribute to the dysfunction.
Your Role When You Are Not the Active Substance User
When someone you love is suffering from a substance use disorder, it can lead to many different, often confusing, feelings and emotions to arise. As a family, you have needed to allocate certain roles and responsibilities, and collectively make decisions on how to respond to your loved one and “their” disease to keep the system intact.
For example, if the parent is the one suffering from a use disorder, this can alter the roles children perceive for themselves within the family unit. The oldest child may take more responsibility and control over family decision-making, leaving the younger siblings to feel less responsible and potentially inadequate. Change involving one member of the family system leads to change in the system as a whole.
Understand How Addiction Impacts the Whole Family
The ultimate goal, paramount to anything else, is getting your loved one the treatment they deserve; to find a path to freedom from their disorder. But this can also be a good time to explore the idea of speaking with a professional who can help you understand how addiction impacts the family as a whole, and what can be done to begin healing in the family system.
Addiction and recovery can be compared to the stages of grief:
Recovery involves learning, growth, and healing. It is a process by which your loved one will learn and practice new patterns of living. They will develop awareness and begin to build the skills they need to live a life free from addiction. Being in recovery means that your loved one is participating in life activities that are healthy, meaningful, and fulfilling for them.
Amanda Pitts, LADC1, Executive Director
Amanda Pitts is the Executive Director of the Coleman Addiction Medicine. Amanda is an experienced Licensed Alcohol Drug Counselor (LADC1) with a demonstrated 16-year history in Behavioral Health and Addiction Treatment. Amanda holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston in Applied Sociology with a concentration in Forensic Services. She has a National Certification in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) and is a trained facilitator in Nurturing Recovery Programs.