Addiction is a Family Disease

What many people don’t understand is that addiction is a family disease. When a loved one is suffering from addiction, it is important that the whole family comes together and takes a hands-on approach in their recovery. However, this can be difficult for many people, given the impact that the addiction has had.

Damaged Relationships

One of the largest red flags, and hallmarks, of substance abuse is damaged relationships within a family. This can include divorce, families splitting up, parents evicting their children, or parents leaving their families in favor of substance abuse. Family members can also turn against each other because of their choices on how to deal with the person suffering from addiction. This causes family members to “pick sides”, stop talking and hold grudges against each other.

Emotional turmoil

There are so many emotions when there is a member of the family suffering from addiction. Family members feel helpless, they feel resentment and they feel angry. People in the family, especially parents of children suffering from addiction, will blame themselves for the addiction. This will affect their self worth and self esteem, which will eventually permeate through the rest of the family.

Addiction can create dishonesty and mistrust, which can also spread throughout the family. Individuals may consistently lie to their family about their substance abuse for a myriad of reasons, and this causes family members to argue and grow angry.

Negative Roles

Addiction fosters many negative roles within a family. There is usually always an enabler; which is someone who turns a blind eye to the addiction. They actually also provide resources for the person suffering from addiction to continue using. This is usually a spouse, parent or close friend and can be happening knowingly or unknowingly.

People suffering from addiction can usually find ways to manipulate the people around them, most notably their enabler, in order to continue their use. This can include the enabler giving them money, a place to use, a car to drive, not giving them any boundaries, or even using with them. The enabler often believes they are helping the person suffering from addiction out of love by making sure they are okay and not out on the street. The enabler is also often be in denial when other family members confront them, and this can lead to problems in the family.

Effects on Children

The most innocent victim of people suffering from addiction tends to be their children, especially if they are very young. The damage that is done to children by their parents’ addiction are often silent, and will usually surface later in life. Even if the children of people suffering from addiction are loved and cared for by other members of the family – such as their grandparents – there are still devastating effects. Children learn by example, and when they see their parent using poor coping skills to deal with stress and trauma, they will mimic it. Even if they grow up promising to not be like their parent, it is still ingrained in their brain from childhood and tends to resurface even with the best of intentions.

Children who see their parent angry and negative due to their addiction is traumatizing in itself. It can also be especially traumatic if a parent is in and out of treatment throughout their life, constantly “letting down” their children and turning back to drugs. This can also lead to children being taken away from their parents, whether it be by family or by law enforcement. Children will then suffer from a feeling of abandonment throughout their lives, which can cause life-long consequences.


If an addiction is severe enough, it can lead to abuse within a family. This can include emotional and physical abuse. Between spouses, both can occur frequently. People suffering from addiction often lie, cheat and steal in order to sustain their substance abuse and when confronted, it can lead to a volatile situation.

The constant arguing and negative emotions between family members and a person suffering from addiction is a tough form of emotional abuse to deal with. To constantly be surrounded by negativity and bad energy is exhausting and hard to deal with.

Family members of someone suffering from addiction will often distance themselves completely from their loved one for their own safety and mental health. Alternatively, they can become even closer to their loved ones with the intentions of helping them. Spouses often stay in volatile situations because they know their loved one is suffering from addiction and it isn’t the “real” version of them. This can further spiral the abuse, and can even lead to legal troubles.

About Pinelands Recovery Center

Addiction is a family disease, and should be treated as such. When a loved one is suffering from addiction, it is important that the entire family is involved in their recovery and allow them to ask for forgiveness for their misgivings. Giving a loved one a supportive environment and boundaries for when they leave treatment is important for not only the person suffering from addiction – but for the entire family, as well.

Pinelands Recovery Center of Medford is widely known as one of New Jersey’s finest, most respected addiction treatment facilities. With comfortable 30-bed accommodations and a 24-hour professional staff, we can offer clients a serene, relaxing environment amid the lush piney woods. This stress-free setting with its sense of warmth and welcoming enables you to feel comfortable and confident about your clean and sober life ahead.

We will establish clear goals, both general in nature and specific to your needs. We continue to monitor those goals, to make sure that our clients are progressing and buying into their recovery plan. We thrive on assisting clients in feeling connected to the recovery community, share and demonstrate effective coping techniques, help clients to modify attitudes and patterns of behavior and everything else you will need to be happy and productive living a sober, healthy life.

We ensure that clients complete their planned concrete tasks, encourage hope, optimism and
healthy living. Our recovery program is not a revolving door treatment program; it is a recovery model designed to help clients go on to lead productive, happy lives. For more information, visit