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Addiction's Consequences on Friends and Family: Recovering Together

Addiction is a family illness. Much of the rehabilitation work falls on the addict’s shoulders, but family members can support recovery by moving out of the co-dependency cycle. By becoming part of the solution, family members make it easier for addicts to maintain their new lives.

Family members are often trained by alcoholics and addicts to make their addiction easier to sustain. Co-dependent behavior is the most classically recognized symptom of this, where lies, manipulation, and unhealthy rescue attempts are learned. Families often take on guilt and responsibility for the addiction, which leads them to take on the negative consequences of the addiction itself so that the addict never needs to. Without consequences, it is easier for addicts to deny that they have a substance abuse problem. It is for this reason that many rehabilitation programs dedicate much of their time to helping addicts to get in touch with their consequences to overcome the denial that prevents a solid recovery. There are, however, many other ways that family

members suffer from their association with addiction.


Anyone, from an employer to a friend or family member, suffers from a number of debilitating and stressful effects as a result of addiction. Typically, preoccupation causes friends to become increasingly concerned with the many problems in the addict’s life. It is not unusual to put your needs in second place as you prioritize the addict’s unhealthy needs. Confusion arises because addicts learn to protect their addictions by telling half-truths. To those involved, it is difficult to make sense of the story that is being represented to them and difficult to pinpoint the problem. Addiction sucks energy out of all involved, which leaves friends and family members without room for additional, healthy relationships. Feelings of isolation and depression arise and worsen as the addiction progresses. Addicts and their families often dread admitting that treatment is necessary, but it is only in drug rehab that healing can begin for the first time.

Common Beliefs

Family members often fall into the false belief that they are responsible for the addiction. Few addicts are upfront with their families about the facts of their addiction: how much money they spend on substances, how much time they lose to them, and how many job failures they suffer as a result are seldom communicated to others, leaving friends with no idea what the problem is. It is natural to try to reach a sensible conclusion even when all the facts are not there, and most people are left with self-blame.

Enabling Behavior

Today, increased awareness among the public has meant that some addicts recover long before their lives fall apart. Nonetheless, enabling behavior from friends and family does make addiction easier for the addict to sustain, slowing down the journey towards recovery. By fixing the addict’s addiction-caused problems, you are also supporting the addiction. Financial support, housing, and similar provisions, when offered during active addiction, prevent the addict from having to face up to the fact that drug abuse is taking over their capacity to live a normal life. Treatment centers, including use an individualized family recovery approach to bring healing to all involved.


Those who use combative means to try to end the addiction give the addict someone to blame for the problem. Persecutors and enablers often become entangled in their own arguments, focusing all attention away from the cause: addiction. When the entire family’s well-being improves, the addict’s chance of recovery is far higher.

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