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Characteristics of the Addict’s Family

1. DENIAL OF THE SITUATION

Just like the addict, the rest of the family is also often in denial about the addiction. They try to keep up appearances to the outside world, acting as if nothing is wrong and everything is ok, keeping the addiction a secret. They may feel embarrassed about what is happening at home and recognise that what is happening is painful for them. While some people only hide it from the outside world, others completely deny it, even to themselves.

This denial prevents one from recognising a specific problem that affects the family, as a consequence of addictive behaviour, such as when the addict loses their job, and they blame it on others or bad luck. 

2. SUPPRESSION OF STRONG EMOTIONS

Addiction prevents family members from expressing the intense emotions which they experience, and, with time they even learn not to feel them. The most intense emotions, above all anger, are seen as dangerous. Members of families affected by addiction try to maintain a type of emotional silence attempting not to disturb the addict, as they fear their reactions, above all the violent reactions which addicts often display. Nor do they talk about addiction, as it is a highly emotional topic. It is as if the expression “If you do not express or say anything, perhaps nothing is wrong” has been imposed.

The problem is that emotions cannot simply be suppressed selectively. Either you feel everything there is to feel or you stop feeling completely. Therefore, by suppressing the most intense emotions, all others are also suppressed.

This means that people end up having problems knowing what they feel and find it hard to identify their own emotions. This is the reason it is not uncommon that anger feels like anxiety or stress and depression feels like irritability. Given that emotions are very important to guide us, take decisions and relate to people, difficulties in knowing what you feel can end up creating all sorts of problems, including problems in relationships with other people outside the family.

3. ATTEMPTS AT CONTROL

Members of the family try to do everything they can to make the addict quit, but these attempts fail over and over again. They also try to control each other. The family can become divided between those who think that the addict should be cut off and asked to leave the house, and those who defend the addict, finding excuses for them and covering the consequences of their behaviour.

4. ROLE REVERSAL

Attempts to control, suppress feelings and not talk about certain issues are invasions of privacy that violate psychological boundaries. Boundaries between generations are also broken down. In a normal healthy family, parents do not share certain information with their children and they do not rely on them for emotional support or advice. However such high levels of stress in the addict’s family mean that children sense the upset in their parents and feel obliged to look after them, save their family, thus taking responsibility for things that children should not be responsible for. They need their parents to look after them and not the other way round.

5. MISTRUST AND INTIMACY PROBLEMS

Life in the family of an addict is chaotic and unpredictable. Nobody knows what the addicts mood or behaviour will be like at any time. The high stress level that this creates combined with suppressed emotions mean that little by little family members cease to react to the emotional needs of others, they don’t do what they say they'll do, they aren’t there to provide support, they aren’t empathic and understanding and the trust and intimacy which there once was between them becomes fragmented. This is why it is not unusual for children to end up becoming adults who perceive relationships as stressful and destructive, with problems experiencing intimacy with others.

6. BEHAVIOURS WHICH NURTURE ADDICTION

To ensure survival of the family, the addict’s partner doesn’t have any other option than to undertake the chores and obligations that were previously the responsibility of the addict. If the addict loses their job, the reduced income can mean they can no longer pay the bills. If they are lucky, they may find a way of making more money, paying the bills and supporting their family, but by doing so they are also preventing the addict from suffering the negative consequences of their behaviour. The addict may continue with their addiction without experiencing really serious consequences, because their partner ‘takes care of picking up the pieces’ and provides for the family. Thus, the family of the addict falls into a cycle which perpetuates the addiction.

7. CODEPENDENCE IN ADULTS

The children of addicts do not learn to clearly identify their emotional needs or their emotions, although as adults they are very sensitive to the surrounding emotional atmosphere. They understand love as something that consists of satisfying the needs of dependency, instead of seeing it as something based on true concern for the wellbeing of the other person. This means they feel better in relationships where their partner is not completely independent, as is the case with addicts, and therefore it is not uncommon that they end up having a partner who is an addict.

For the above reasons, people who have grown up in a family with a parent who is an addict can need help from a psychologist to overcome these problems and maintain normal healthy relationships as an adult.


If you have any doubts whether you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction you can complete this simple questionnaire


1. Do you often think that you might have a problem with alcohol or any other drug?

0: Never / 1: Rarely / 2: Occasionally / 3: Regularly / 4: Very often / 5: All the time

 

2. Do you drink or take any other drugs in the mornings, before leaving home?

0: Never / 1: Rarely / 2: Occasionally / 3: Regularly / 4: Very often / 5: All the time

 

3. Has your family ever complained about your drug use? 

0: Never / 1: Rarely / 2: Occasionally / 3: Regularly / 4: Very often / 5: All the time 

 

4. Do you drink or take any other drugs to relieve anxiety?

0: Never / 1: Rarely / 2: Occasionally / 3: Regularly / 4: Very often / 5: All the time

 

5. Do you end up drinking/using more than you had planned to? 

0: Never / 1: Rarely / 2: Occasionally / 3: Regularly / 4: Very often / 5: All the time

 

6. Has your relationship with your partner ever been affected by your using?

0: Never / 1: Rarely / 2: Occasionally / 3: Regularly / 4: Very often / 5: All the time

 

7. Do you feel guilty or regretful after using drugs?

0: Never / 1: Rarely / 2: Occasionally / 3: Regularly / 4: Very often / 5: All the time

 

8. Do you spend a lot of money on drugs?

0: Never / 1: Rarely / 2: Occasionally / 3: Regularly / 4: Very often / 5: All the time


9. Have you ever been in trouble with the law, had your driving license taken away or had an accident as a consequence of your drinking or drug use?

0: Never / 1: Rarely / 2: Occasionally / 3: Regularly / 4: Very often / 5: All the time

 

10. Have you ever promised yourself or others that you are going to give up your drug use and not managed to?

0: Never / 1: Rarely / 2: Occasionally / 3: Regularly / 4: Very often / 5: All the time

 

RESULTS:

20 To 24 POINTS:

It is very likely that you have a problem with addiction and it would be wise to visit a specialist to get a professional opinion.

MORE THAN 24 POINTS:

You almost certainly have a problem with addiction and need immediate professional help.

IF YOU THINK THAT EITHER YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAS A PROBLEM WITH ADDICTION AND THINK THAT WE COULD HELP YOU CALL US ON THIS NUMBER: (+34) 913 928 251 

OR SEND US A MESSAGE HERE: CONTACT US →

ALL INFORMATION WHICH WE RECEIVE WILL BE TREATED AS STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL