Addiction Issues for Families of Addicts

The Addicts Family – You Deserve Happiness and Well Being Too


If you are the parent, spouse, sibling or other relative of an addict, you have felt the pain and dysfunction of their addiction. The disease of addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful. You may not see it at first, but you do catch up and feel its impact at some point.

I know this because I am an addict/alcoholic clean and sober nearly 24 years and I had to look back and take responsibility for the pain and suffering I caused. My parents asked and I know you are also asking yourselves, “What can you do?” Plenty is the answer, starting with getting help.

Please read on and learn about the disease of addiction. Your courage for being here at all is admirable. You will have the opportunity at the end to CLICK and learn how you can start your road to healing your family by setting your Complimentary Consultation with me. I can and will help you heal and find renewed family happiness and joy. All you need to do is CLICK now!

To find information about how your addict has affected your family, click below

  1. Affected by someone’s drinking or drug use
  2. Affected by someone’s gambling
  3. Grew up in a family where there was an addiction
  4. Someone in my life has an addictive addiction
  5. My adult child has an addiction problem
  6. Children living with a parent with an addiction
  7. Worried about a friend

I am affected by someone’s drinking or drug use.

Although every addict considers themselves unique and special, they do share common characteristics and experiences that I know you will identify with.

Often they blame themselves for their addiction and that there is no one they can share their pain with. These feelings often leave them feeling isolated, guilty and ashamed and prevent them from reaching out and asking for help.

Solution #1: You are not responsible for your addict’s disease.

Learning to separate yourself from your addict is a formidable task that requires the help of a skilled and experienced professional. This is a person who can help you begin to understand what seems hopeless. I can and will help you learn how the addictive cycle has upset the balance in your family and teach you how to take care of your needs first and foremost.

Please review these questions – they may help you to determine if your addict is causing disruption in your life!

  • Do you sometimes worry about what may happen to your addict as a result of their drinking or drugging?
  • Do you try to control/set limits how much your addict uses?
  • Do you sometimes feel hurt or angry because of your addict’s behavior?
  • Have you given up activities you enjoyed to protect your addict?
  • Do you sometimes feel embarrassed by your addict’s drinking or drug use?
  • Do you worry that others might find out about your addict?
  • Have special occasions been ruined by your addict’s drinking or drug use?
  • Do you hide or lie about the drinking or drug use of your addict?
  • Do you blame yourself when your addict is acting out and using?

I am affected by someone gambling

Have you just discovered a gambling problem in your family? Are you shocked? Do you feel responsible? Do you believe you should have known?

It is highly possible that you began to notice radical shifts in financial matters, but whenever you questioned the person, they always reassure you that everything was okay, even if their explanation did not quite add for you. You love them so you chose to believe them.

Solution #2: DO NOT BLAME YOURSELF FOR NOT KNOWING. Okay, blame yourself for the moment, but know that you can heal and stop in time.

Once you realize that you are the relation of a gambling addict, a range of feelings will emerge and new choices will challenge you about what you can do.

Please review the following questions. They may help you determine if your addict’s gambling is affecting you negatively:

  • Are you in denial that there is a gambling problem?
  • Are you trying to control the addict’s gambling behavior?
  • Are you arguing and fighting with greater frequency?
  • Do you alibi the addict to the children and/or others?
  • Do you work harder to fill the financial, social, and emotional gap left by the addict’s gambling losses?
  • Do you blame your addict’s associates?
  • Do you secretly fantasize the “One Big Score” yourself?
  • Are you expressing your anger toward the addict in unhealthy ways, like yelling at the children more?
  • Are you hiding funds to make sure you can pay the rent, utilities and feed the family?
  • Do you feel guilty when you don’t trust or are suspicious about the addict’s activities?
  • Are you searching through the addict’s wallet, clothing, drawers and briefcase looking for evidence?
  • Are debt collectors on your back?
  • Are you trying to anticipate your addict’s mood swings to avoid the assaults that come with gambling losses?
  • Have you ever threatened to leave because of your addict’s behavior?

Learning to separate yourself from your addict is a formidable task that requires the help of a skilled and experienced professional. This is a person who can help you begin to understand what seems hopeless. I can and will help you learn how the addictive cycle has upset the balance in your family and teach you how to take care of your needs first and foremost.

Did you grow up in a family where there was an addiction?

What does it mean to be a survivor?
Do I carry some of the personal legacies of being an adult child of addiction (AC0A)?
Parenting Issues
Relationship Issues

What does it mean to be a survivor?

If you were a child in a family suffering from addiction, you are a survivor. As a child, you figured out your own coping mechanisms to survive the secrets, turmoil and fear. You probably learned the three rules of living with addiction: don’t talk, don’t trust and don’t feel.

I know that every survivor’s pledge is never to allow that to happen with your family, yet here you are despite your best intentions. You may be having problems with your marriage or raising your children. Perhaps you find yourself repeating the same patterns you learned as a child. Maybe you have over-compensated by imposing strict rules when there were none for you, of eliminating rules if you experienced nothing but discipline.

Whatever is going on, do not lose hope. There is help available only a CLICK away.

Please review the following questions and see if you can identify with any of the adult child of addiction (AC0A) issues?

  • Are you overly responsible or very irresponsible?
  • Are you afraid of intimacy?
  • Do you lie or exaggerate when it would be just as easy to tell the truth?
  • Do you have trouble following a project through from the beginning to end?
  • Do you judge yourself without mercy?
  • Do you have difficulty letting go and having fun?
  • Are you constantly seeking approval and affirmation?
  • Are you extremely loyal even when evidence indicates the loyalty is undeserved?
  • Do you over-react to changes over which you have no control?
  • Do you hate holidays?

Many people will be able to answer “yes” to some of these questions. Anyone who has grown up with chronic stress in the family will possess some of these characteristics. These traits can also be passed along from one generation to the next. Children learn by example, and will often adopt the behavior patterns of their parents.

“I have always been afraid of success and
afraid of failing. I have become
super responsible, a real high achiever.”
Betty, late 40′s

Parenting Issues

People who have grown up in families with addiction tend to experience difficulties in parenting. There may be difficulty with discipline – in setting “bottom lines”. You may not want to make your parent’s mistakes, but you may not know how to do things differently. You may be striving for perfection and your expectations may be too high. The result can be frustration, self-doubt and disappointment.

“I was looking for a rule book
for life, for my kids.
I was looking for a rule book on parenting.”
Amanda, late 20′s

Relationship Issues

Often grown children of addicted parents choose partners with similar backgrounds or addictions. Sometimes it’s because the partner seems familiar or “comfortable”. Sometimes it’s because of the past relationship between parent and child. If the child took care of the parent, he or she may be looking for a partner who is just as needy.

“I think the biggest effect
of having an emotionally unavailable
father is that I get myself
into relationships with emotionally unavailable men.”
Carol, late 20′s

“Today I know I deserve a lot more.
That gives me a lot of hope.”
Phyllis, early 30′s

Someone in my life has an addictive addiction

What is happening to my family?
I feel like I’m going crazy! What can I do?
What if I’m the only one who thinks there’s a problem?
I feel guilty. I think it’s my fault. If I just behaved differently ..
If I just hang in there and love him/her enough he/she will stop the harmful behavior.
There is nothing I can do until he/she “hits bottom”
How do I help someone who doesn’t want help?
What about the children? They don’t know about it.
What should I tell the children?
If my partner does go to rehab what should I do when they come home?

What is happening to my family?

It doesn’t matter what the addiction is (alcohol, drugs, gambling or any other self-destructive behavior), the effect on family and friends is the same. That is because a family circle is like a mobile that hangs in a window or over a baby’s crib. The entire family acts together to maintain a balance. When one member is addicted, all the others are affected. They are forced to act differently to maintain a balance. Maintaining a balance is tough to do because you never know what the addicted person might do next. For many it is difficult to cope without help. Every family of an addicted person is in distress.

Seeking professional help is the first and most important step after admitting there is a problem.

Confusion: At first, you may not recognize that addiction is the issue. You may not understand your own feelings and think something else is wrong. When you finally understand the reason for your confusion, you can see how the addiction is affecting the whole family.

Stress: Confusion can lead to stress. Family members argue a lot and try to control the addiction. This rarely works. As a family member, you may feel rejected, frustrated and alone. Not knowing where to turn, you may start avoiding outside contact.

Exhaustion: When the stress begins to take its toll physically and emotionally, exhaustion may result. You may feel trapped, helpless and overwhelmed. You could actually become physically ill.

I feel like I’m going crazy! What can I do?

Being in a relationship with an addicted person can create a great deal of chaos and emotional upheaval.

If the addiction is not identified or agreed upon as a problem, it is easy to conclude that it is your mental health that is failing. Once addiction is acknowledged as the source of stress, what you are experiencing will be understood to be normal in a “crazy-making” situation. You may doubt your sanity, but it’s unlikely you’ve lost it.

Taking care of yourself by seeking counseling for your emotional support is the best way to feel more in control of your mental health.

What if I’m the only one who thinks there’s a problem?

Trust your intuition that there is a problem and share your concerns with other people. Get solid information about how addictive behaviors differ from social behaviors.

Find out what other friends and relatives have experienced with this person. People with addictions often work at keeping secrets about their behavior, so each friend or relative may only know a little piece about the level of the problem. Only by sharing the entire picture will you be able to confirm your perception that there is a problem.

I feel guilty. I think it’s my fault. If I just behaved differently ..

Families often feel that their behavior towards the addicted person either caused the addiction in the first place or influenced the ongoing addictive behavior.

Even if you were the most stressful parent or partner in the entire world (and what are the chances of that?) your loved one makes their own choice to abuse alcohol, drugs or gambling. We all face stress in life and not everyone handles it by getting involved in an addiction.

You have probably tried many different approaches to influence the addictive behavior but with limited results. Being nicer or tougher, louder or quieter will not stop the addicted person’s behavior in the long run. One spouse described preparing her husband’s favorite meal every payday thinking that this would keep him from choosing to go out drinking. Another said she used sex to keep him at home and he still went out, after having sex. In another instance, parents concluded that if they hadn’t been so hard on their child the child would not be involved with drugs.

When you stop trying to figure out how you impact the other’s behavior or accepting blame for someone else’s choices you will have more energy for your own life.

If I just hang in there and love him/her enough he/she will stop the harmful behavior.

It is natural to want to love and protect someone you care about. But, when you are dealing with addiction you have to consider what message you are sending the addicted person by hanging in there through thick and thin.

Tolerating bad behavior adds stress to your own life and does not motivate the other to change.

A clearer message will be sent when a family follows through in allowing the addicted person to experience the natural consequences of their behavior. For example, an addicted person will be more motivated to change if the spouse clarifies to those that need to know (children/parents/employers) that Joe is not available because he is suffering from a hangover rather than the spouse covering for his absence.

There is nothing I can do until he/she “hits bottom”.

This statement is true. But, what you do have the power to do is to “raise the bottom”.

Raising the bottom occurs when we allow the person with the addiction to experience the consequences of the choices they are making. For example, if the addicted person spends all their rent money on gambling or drugs, if you cover the rent for them and bail them out, they will not have to face the more unpleasant prospect of dealing with a landlord and the possibility of eviction.

Hitting bottom occurs when consequences start to accumulate that can no longer be ignored. The bottom will be different things to different people, but will only be reached when the consequences of addiction are no longer being solved by family and friends.

How do I help someone who doesn’t want help?

Solution #2: Accepting your powerlessness

Trying to change the other person: You can’t!! This approach only seems to wear family members out and does little to help the addicted person move towards change. If I can’t change the other person, what can I do?

Many people say: “There is no point in going for help because he/she won’t change anyway.” Living with this belief they experience a sense of frustration and hopelessness. It is easy to believe that nothing will improve for you until the addicted person changes but, this is like putting someone else in charge of your well-being.

Family members are often pleasantly surprised with the results when they shift the focus away from what the addicted person needs to do. Focusing instead on what they can do to achieve more peace and stability for themselves produces far more results for families affected by addiction

You do not have to do it alone. It is certainly not a sign of weakness to ask for help. Nor does it take superhuman strength. Remember, you are one CLICK away from getting the help you need and deserve!

Give clear messages that take a firm position about not tolerating addictive behavior. For example: you may have to tell your mother that you will no longer trust her to take care of your children because her use of alcohol makes her unreliable. You may tell a gambler that you will no longer lend them money. Following through on these kinds of statements will go a lot further than another plea for the addicted person to seek help.

What about the children? They don’t know about it.

Children may not know about the actual alcohol/drug intake or gambling activity, but even very young children detect when something is wrong in their households.

Children notice that Mommy or Daddy is crabby and tired. They register that the parent is not available for help with activities. They are affected by a parent’s inability to keep up with responsibilities.

When a parent seems preoccupied with something else, children will often assume that this somehow is connected to them. “Maybe Mom is home less often because I am making her mad.” “Maybe Dad forgot my birthday because he doesn’t love me.” It is common for children to think, “I must have done something wrong” when in fact, it has nothing to do with them.

It is really helpful for the children in the home if the parent who recognizes that there is an addiction problem seeks helps and gives the children age appropriate information about their concerns.

What should I tell the children?

Each family will need to decide what specific information their children will need about an addiction problem.

Start by considering how the children have been or will be affected by living with addiction. Adults can then share information that is age appropriate that will reduce each child’s stress related to these areas.

When children are not given information, they often reach inappropriate conclusions about what the problems are or how they are responsible.

When parents think they can wait until children are a certain age before they are told of the addiction problem, they discount the reality that these children have already been exposed to situations that they will need help to understand. Parents also miss that children are scanners and know a whole lot more than you do about what is going on. They are to young to have built up mental filters. They do not know what to do, but they do not to duck or take cover.

What should I do when he/she comes home from a residential rehabilitation program?

Strained family relationships do not magically heal once an addicted person completes rehabilitation.

Families often describe feeling very cautious around the recovering person. They fear doing or saying something that might set off the addiction again. When this tension is acknowledged, families, including the addicted person, can reduce any unrealistic expectations that everything will feel better right away.

There are many challenges ahead for a family in early recovery (2-3 years). It takes time and effort to rebuild trust and other aspects of a healthy relationship.

Families often benefit from outside supports during this time. The addict and the family need separate counseling with periodic joint sessions to measure the family’s progress. Learning to separate yourself from your addict is a formidable task that requires the help of a skilled and experienced professional. This is a person who can help you begin to understand what seems hopeless. I can and will help you learn how the addictive cycle has upset the balance in your family and teach you how to take care of your needs first and foremost.

My adult child has an addiction

Is my adult child into addictive behaviors (e.g. Drugs, alcohol, gambling and other self-destructive behavior)?

How will I know?

Warning signs that a friend or family member is abusing drugs

Drug abusers often try to conceal their symptoms and downplay their problem. If you’re worried that a friend or family member might be abusing drugs, look for the following warning signs:

Physical warning signs of drug abuse

  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual.
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns. Sudden weight loss or weight gain.
  • Deterioration of physical appearance, personal grooming habits.
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing.
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination.

Behavioral signs of drug abuse

  • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school.
  • Unexplained need for money or financial problems. May borrow or steal to get it.
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors.
  • Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies.
  • Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities).

Psychological warning signs of drug abuse

  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude.
  • Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts.
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness.
  • Lack of motivation; appears lethargic or “spaced out.”
  • Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid, with no reason.

What can I do to fix the problem?

What if my adult child is living with me/us?
What about my grandchildren?

Solution #3: It is not your fault. You are not evil.

What if my adult child is living with me/us?

When adult children remain in the home or when they return home because of the consequences of their addictive behaviors their parents often feel like failures. If you are living in this situation you may question your parenting – “what have I done wrong that this is happening? If only I had been a better parent things wouldn’t have turned out this way.” There is often a sense of loss. “Things weren’t supposed to turn out this way. What happened to all the dreams I had for my child.”

You still have dreams! Things turned out the way they did, but hope is still on the horizon.

One thing that parents often forget is that the home is their house and they have the right to determine what is acceptable within their own home. For example, when an adult child is living in his/her parent’s home the following expectations are reasonable:

  • Take responsibility for your own needs such as sleep, food, clothing, healthcare, etc.
  • While in the parental home he/she will not engage in activities the parents are not comfortable with.
  • Solves own problems.
  • Is thoughtful and respectful of others’ needs
  • Will share household chores and responsibilities.
  • Will respect parent’s privacy.
  • If unemployed commits to education or serious job searching.
  • Manages own finances including contributing a share of their earnings to cover household expenses.

A word about the expectation: “While in the parental home he/she will not engage in activities the parents are not comfortable with.” Adult children addicted to drugs, alcohol or other self-destructive behaviors often attempt to remain in or return to the family home. If a parent allows their child to live with them without them taking active action (enrolment in a rehabilitation program, regular attendance in a support group, other visible action) to turn their lives around the parent is supporting the child in their addiction. This is called enabling.

People tell me just to “throw him/her out”. This is a parent’s worst nightmare. It goes against everything we believe about how families work, how we care for one another.

Please review the following questions and see where you can identify:

  • Have I honestly done everything possible to convince them to get help?
  • Have I sought help, advice and support for myself (professional family services, support group)?
  • Have I reached the limit of what I can tolerate (emotionally, physically and mentally?

If this is your situation it may be time to recognize that for everyone’s health and well-being you are not able to live with the active addict and their addiction in your home any longer.

Your child is an adult. Adults respect one another by allowing one another to make their own life choices. If your adult child has chosen to continue with self-destructive behavior, the consequence of this choice is that he/she can no longer live in the family home. It doesn’t mean that parents don’t love and care; it means parents do what is needed for all concerned even when it hurts.

What about my grandchildren?

Addiction is as complex as it is destructive to all family relationships. When you’re adult child has children it is even more distressing. Some questions that commonly arise are:

  • What do I do when I suspect my grandchildren are being neglected?
  • Am I responsible for preventing hurt from happening to my grandchildren?
  • How can I decide what action on my part will benefit my grandchildren?
  • I thought I was finished raising a family – what do I do now?
  • What resources are there for me? I feel confused and unsure as to what will be helpful and what will not?

Correct information is essential. Educate yourself on the topic of addiction. Reading is helpful, but even better is contact with support groups and professionals in the field. Not only will you inform yourself of the dynamics of addiction in family systems but you will also learn of resources available in your particular community for persons dealing with this issue.

Seek professional help for yourself in dealing with the crisis and making decisions for yourself that will be healthy and life-giving both for you and your family.

Every family is different and every grandparent has his or her own particular needs. You are not alone and there is help available.

Families often benefit from outside supports during this time. The addict and the family need separate counseling with periodic joint sessions to measure the family’s progress. Learning to separate yourself from your addict is a formidable task that requires the help of a skilled and experienced professional. This is a person who can help you begin to understand what seems hopeless. I can and will help you learn how the addictive cycle has upset the balance in your family and teach you how to take care of your needs first and foremost.

Children are living with an addicted parent.

Rules – don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel.
Secret Keeping
Coping Roles
Feelings – What to do with them?
Self Blame


There are three unwritten rules when you are living with addiction. Don’t talk, don’t trust and don’t feel. All three rules must be broken to begin the healing process. Children living with addiction need to know they can talk to someone about their situation. They need to learn how to share their feelings and how to stay safe.

Secret Keeping

Addiction of alcohol, drugs, gambling and other self-destructive behavior affects all members of a family, not just the person with the addiction. Often, children of an addicted parent or guardian try to cope with their situation in secret. They may have been told not to talk about “family business” to outsiders. Sometimes, they remain secretive because of their own shame and fear. The silence is an attempt to maintain appearances or to preserve the family balance without causing further upset. The silence also makes it more difficult to understand the children affected.

“Even if I had a friend, I
wouldn’t bring him home.
I wouldn’t want him to know
what my family is like.”
Steven, 12 years old

Coping Roles

Children who live with addiction – or other problems at home – may respond by taking on certain roles that help them cope. The coping behavior can have negative consequences (acting out, withdrawal) or may be seen as positive (ambition, humor).

Over-achievers assume many adult responsibilities. This might be an attempt to restore family pride or to seek adult approval. Or the maturity just might be a necessity for survival at home. Either way, it is not healthy for a ten year old to take on the role of an adult.

Sullenness, defiance and blaming may be a role a child assumes which provides the family with a focus other than with the real problem of addiction.

The remote and undemanding child offers relief to the family. These children, when outside the family, may seem quiet, solitary and withdrawn.

In the class clown role a child often establishes self-worth by making others laugh and forget their conflicts temporarily.

“Sometimes I feel a hundred years older
(than my parents).”
Cheryl, 14 years old

Feelings – What to do with them? Get them professional help!

Feelings are neither good nor bad. It is the behavior associated with the feelings that may be positive or negative. With no outlet for their feelings in the stressful family teenagers who live with addiction are at risk of turning to alcohol, drugs or other addictive behaviors as a way of altering their feelings – as a way of feeling good about life and themselves.

“I can’t talk to anyone because
no one would understand.”
Nora, 13 years old

Self-Blame – Get them professional help!

Children of parents with an addiction often think they are to blame for the addiction. As a result, they may feel extremely guilty. They may also think their survival depends on fixing the problem. Youngsters need to be relieved of the responsibility for their parents’ actions. They need to know they cannot cause, control or solve their parents’ problems.

“If I wasn’t so bothersome maybe my
Mom would stop drinking.”
Tiffany, 11 years old

Resilience – Don’t be fooled – Get them professional help!

The good news is that children are resilient. Many children who live with addiction survive the experience well. Those who need assistance can learn how to feel better about themselves, make friends and seek help when they need it. Informed, supportive adults who are willing to listen can make the difference.

If you have made it to this point, I praise and compliment your willingness and passion to learn and heal. It is my hope that you now know that taking care of you comes before taking care of your addict.

Remember, you are 1 CLICK away from getting the skilled, compassionate and personal care you so richly deserve. Don’t wait any longer, start your healing journey by CLICKING now!

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