By Alanna Hilbink
Family looks different for everyone. There are the people you’re related to by blood and the people you’re related to through marriage. There are also the people you choose to be close to because you share a mutual care for each other. When you’re addicted, your substance use affects everyone close to you. The things you do and say hurt those around you.
As you begin to see the effects of your addiction, you begin to realize you want to move forward in your life. You want to help those you once hurt. You want to make peace with your past. And you can do this. You can find recovery, make amends and heal your family.
How Does Addiction Affect Family?
Making peace with the effects of addiction begins with recognizing these effects. Addiction changes how families function. It changes the roles family members play. It changes how you and your loved ones interact.
As Psychology Today shares, “Whenever a family member struggles with any serious ongoing condition, everyone in the family is significantly affected. The equilibrium or balance of the family system shifts as each member changes and adjusts accordingly. These changes usually occur incrementally, subtly, and unconsciously.”1
Addiction is a powerful force. It’s slow to build, and this often makes it easy to overlook. Addiction’s effects become even easier to ignore when you’re distracted by drugs and alcohol. You can deny the increasing anger and selfishness. You can avoid your pain and your family’s suffering.
As you begin your recovery journey, you can no longer hide behind the same force that’s been causing the problems. You become more aware of how addiction has affected your family. You may feel guilt. You may not know what to do or if there is anything you can do.
While early recovery may seem overwhelming, take it one step at a time. Take care of yourself until you are strong enough to take care of those you love. Work with your treatment professionals. Determine how you can grow your recovery and heal your family.
How Can Families Heal After Addiction?
Incorporating family therapy into your addiction treatment goes a long way toward beginning the healing process. If your treatment does not include family sessions, encourage loved ones to find professional support and therapy for themselves.
You and your family can also participate in events like National Recovery Month, which takes place each September.2 This year, National Recovery Month focused on family and community recognizing, “Mental and substance use disorders affect millions of Americans and directly touch the lives of individuals, family members, neighbors, and colleagues. Families often deal with the complex dynamics of supporting loved ones living in recovery while, at the same time, learning how to take care of their own well-being.”
National Recovery Month and similar events raise awareness and encourage healthy conversation. They help you and your family better understand addiction and its effects. They help you and others find and access effective treatment options — and finding treatment is the first step in healing families. Once you find your own health and strength, you can turn your recovery outward and start making amends.
What Are Amends? How Do I Make Them?
Making peace with your past often involves making amends. Amends are more than apologies. They begin with recognizing harm done to yourself and others. They continue with repairing what can be fixed and moving forward with the right action.
The classic Alcoholics Anonymous book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions explains how to begin making amends: “First, we take a look backward and try to discover where we have been at fault; next we make a vigorous attempt to repair the damage we have done; and third, … we consider how, with our newfound knowledge of ourselves, we may develop the best possible relations with every human being we know.”3
As you recover from addiction, you see when and where your relationships with family members fell apart. You recognize the effects of your addiction on others. You can now right past wrongs and find peace.
How Does Making Amends Help?
Making amends is a healing practice. It helps the people you love find understanding. It helps you begin to forgive yourself. Forgiveness has real benefits. You build better relationships with family members. You help them to heal and, at the same time, support your own healing process.
The Atlantic reports that “an eight-hour forgiveness workshop can reduce subjects’ depression and anxiety levels as much as several months of psychotherapy would.” They also share that “forgiving people are markedly physically healthier than unforgiving ones.”4
Making amends allows you to forgive yourself and experience the direct benefits of doing so. It gives your family members the opportunity to forgive and find mental and physical healing as well. Having the ability to find peace and heal relationships is one of the many reasons a life in recovery is always better than a life trapped in addiction.
Where Can I Get Help for My Family and My Future?
You can stop the cycle of addiction. You don’t have to experience specific effects or reach certain low points before you can take action. You can begin to repair the past and move forward today.
Michael’s House offers the comprehensive treatment and support you need. Find recovery and find peace. If you’re ready to start your journey toward recovery and make peace in your life, call us today to speak with one of our admissions coordinators.
1 Mager, Dan. “Addiction as a Family Disease.” Psychology Today, May 2, 2016.
2 National Recovery Month. “Join the Voices for Recovery: Strengthen Families and Communities.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, September 2017.
3 W., Bill. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. Alcoholics Anonymous, February 10, 2002.
4 Khazan, Olga. “The Forgiveness Boost.” The Atlantic, January 28, 2015.