Addiction doesn’t develop overnight. For those who develop the disease, it occurs as a result of a confluence of different factors, which can include such things as having a family history of substance abuse, being in a peer group with other substance abusers, or due to a number of other reasons. When it develops, the disease of addiction triggers an oftentimes profound transformation, turning even the mood good, honest individuals into dishonest, desperate shells of their former selves. And unfortunately, their loved ones often have a front-row seat for this downward spiral.
As a disease, addiction is unique in that it involves both physical and psychological deterioration. After prolonged substance abuse, individuals experience deterioration of their physical health, but there are many cognitive changes as well, including impulsivity, dishonesty, aggression, anxiety, and so on. However, while many focus on how addiction affects those who become chemically dependent, the disease also affects virtually everyone in each addict’s life. In fact, addiction can cause great devastation to the family unit, potentially damaging relationships beyond repair.
How Addiction Affects Families
When an individual develops an addiction to alcohol or drugs, his or her family also experiences many negative effects. During the onset of the addiction, the family will often begin noticing that the individual is exhibiting odd behaviors. However, by nature addicts are secretive, desperately trying to keep their substance abuse from others and especially from their loved ones. As the substance abuse behavior worsens, the family becomes increasingly aware of the presence of some underlying issue. In some instances, the family members may find the individual’s paraphernalia or the individual may return home while intoxication on some occasions. If confronted, the individual will often continue to deny his or her substance abuse. Meanwhile, the escalation of substance abuse behavior means that the individual is trying to sustain a growing alcohol or drug habit, often resulting increasingly desperate behavior.
Unfortunately, this frequently causes addicts to steal from their own loved ones in order to obtain the money necessary to get another fix; due to this major breach of trust, this betrayal further fractures the family and damages relationships. The secrets, broken trust, worry, dishonesty, and resentment that accumulates between members of a family taint the peace and empathy of the family dynamic. Even when the addict begins the recovery process, the family members often have many thoughts and feelings relating to the experience of addiction in the family that go unaddressed and unresolved. Families often feel unsure of how to proceed, how to heal, and how to either encourage an addict to begin the treatment process or support their addicted loved one through recovery. However, forms of family therapy and family-based support groups can offer families and addicts’ loved ones a way of healing.
Nar-Anon: The Support Group for Families Affected by Addiction
Most are familiar with twelve-step recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Offering a supportive fellowship to individuals suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction, twelve-step programs provide a blueprint for physical and spiritual recovery. Members work the Twelve Steps in order to overcome the varied effects of addiction, which allows them to experience spiritual fulfillment. Similarly, Nar-Anon is a twelve-step support group intended for the family members and loved ones of addicts. In practice, Nar-Anon is a companion program to Narcotics Anonymous in much the same way as the family support program Al-Anon is a companion program to Alcoholics Anonymous; family members are encouraged to attend Narcotics Anonymous with their addicted loved ones in order to support the addict’s recovery, but attend Nar-Anon in order to receive familial support from other addicts’ loved ones.
According to the program’s literature, Nar-Anon is intended for those who have personally experienced the desperation that comes with witnessing a loved one’s struggle with addiction. Individuals who attend Nar-Anon meetings take comfort in being part of a fellowship with others who have experienced what it’s like to have an addicted loved one. Much like Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon, Nar-Anon is a spiritual rather than religious program, allowing individuals to incorporate their respective faiths into the process of overcoming the effects of addiction on families and addict’s loved ones. And while family therapy is often led by professionals, Nar-Anon groups are self-run, which means that meetings are led by members who have personal experience in dealing with a loved one’s addiction.
Moreover, while addicts come to accept their powerlessness over addiction as part of the Twelve Steps of Narcotics Anonymous, individuals working the Twelve Steps of Nar-Anon will similarly accept that they are powerless over their loved ones’ addictions. While working the steps is inherently useful, the greatest value of family support groups like Nar-Anon comes in networking and forming supportive relationships with others who can offer insight and guidance on shared experiences. Many have found it useful to hear others’ perspectives concerning what it’s like to deal with a loved one’s addiction, allowing them to cope with a very difficult and emotional experience.
Find Peace in Recovery with Recovery Hub
There are a variety of support groups available for both addicts and their loved ones. Nar-Anon has been an instrumental resource in many families’ recoveries from the effects of their loved ones’ addictions. If you or someone you love would like to learn more about Nar-Anon or other treatments and support groups for addiction, call Recovery Hub today at 1-888-220-4352. With a free consultation or assessment, you or your loved one can begin the journey to a new life of health and happiness.