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Chapter 9

Family Health and Rehab: How To Recover

A group of people holding hands.

Updated on

26 Apr, 2024

Families are bound together by love, shared experiences, and a deep sense of connection. However, when addiction enters the picture, it can unravel even the strongest bonds that hold a family together.

The effects of addiction extend beyond the person struggling with substance abuse. It sends ripples through the family, disrupting communication, eroding trust, and reshaping relationships.

So, how can families come out stronger, more connected, and on the path to recovery? Family health and rehab are closely connected, and we aspire to provide inspiration, guidance, and resources for those on the road to recovery.

The Impact of Addiction on Families

Understanding the Basics of Addiction

Addiction is a serious issue for individuals. There are many ways in which this disease can directly impact your loved one.

It’s important to understand these direct impacts. Why? Because they can easily lead to interpersonal issues and negative effects on families as a whole.

Untreated substance abuse and addiction can lead to serious physical health concerns. Those specific health issues depend on the substance or substances being abused.

For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that long-term, excessive alcohol use can cause or contribute to heart disease, liver disease, and many other health conditions. Other issues are common across many substances, such as the potential for overdose. Withdrawal can also cause a variety of physical health symptoms, like fever, fatigue, and nausea.

Addiction can also lead to risky behaviors that have consequences on physical health. Impaired driving is just one example. The thought processes and decisions that lead to these activities are more so mental and emotional health concerns, but have potentially serious physical consequences.

Mental health issues also need to be taken into account. Addiction is a disease that leads to changes in the way the brain functions, causing intense drug cravings and other symptoms.

Johns Hopkins Medicine explains that withdrawal from normal social activities is a common sign of substance dependence. So is spending an excessive amount of time looking for a preferred substance, actively using it, and recovering from the side effects of its use.

Addiction is a Disease

We’ve said it already, but want to make this fact clear: Addiction is a disease. It is not a choice.

The reasons why people use substances, and potentially develop an addiction, vary considerably from one person to the next. So do the substances that a person may be addicted to. However, the status of addiction as a disease is not in question.

As Indiana University Health explains, addiction essentially rewires the brain. Using substances releases dopamine. That causes people with addiction issues to seek out and prioritize substances. To feel good, or even just to feel normal, use becomes a top priority.

How Addiction Can Negatively Influence Families

Addiction leads to a variety of physical and psychological symptoms. Similarly, it can affect families in many ways.

Research published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Food and Drug Analysis highlights several issues faced by the families of people with addiction issues. These include economic burdens, familial tension, and conflict, among others.

Trust Issues and Addiction

Trust within a family unit can be severely harmed by addiction, for example. Normally, a certain level of trust exists between family members. For example, many parents trust that their teenagers or adult children, who they know understand the difference between right and wrong, won’t steal from or lie to them.

Addiction can harm that level of trust. A person with addiction issues tends to make getting, having, and using a substance their top priority. That can lead to issues that breach trust.

For example, an adult child dealing with addiction might steal money from a parent or sibling to pay for a substance. In extreme circumstances, the personal safety of family members can be threatened, which can quickly cause a loss of trust.

That’s a very direct example, but issues that seem less intense or invasive can erode trust as well. Lying about planning to attend a family dinner, for example. Or lying to cover up the time spent finding, buying, and abusing drugs.

Emotional Distress, Relationship Dynamics, and Addiction

Trust issues are an important example of the broader emotional issues that can arise in families due to substance use disorder. A lack of trust can make many other interpersonal issues worse.

A family member with addiction issues can cause conflict and tension. If family members learn a loved one has an addiction, they might worry about their safety or feel guilty about not helping them address the issue earlier on.

Conflicts over addiction can lead to arguments and frayed relationships. Consider a parent with addiction issues. The other parent may feel that they need to do more or all of the emotional and physical work within a household. That can lead to resentment, disagreements, and other negative outcomes.

Addiction can also change the dynamics of family relationships. Parents might feel that they have to take an active caregiver role to a previously independent adult child, or watch a younger child constantly and closely. Similarly, one parent or partner might have to take on many more household responsibilities if the other is dealing with addiction.

Two family members embrace during a group therapy session.

The Role of Family in the Rehab and Recovery Process

Unfortunately, families can suffer significant harm due to a loved one dealing with substance use disorder and addiction. However, families can also play a key role in rehab and care.

Providing motivation and support throughout the process can help a family member struggling with substance use disorder. By setting appropriate boundaries and serving as a responsible caregiver — as opposed to avoiding the issue or enabling destructive behavior — families can be a positive force in rehab and recovery.

The US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) explains families can play a crucial role in beginning the recovery process. “Family members may be more likely to notice when their loved ones are experiencing changes in mood or behavior. Being able to offer support, family members can connect those in need with treatment, resources, and services to begin and stay on their recovery journey.”


That support can include setting up an intervention. This is a key early point in the addiction recovery process. Interventions can help support both family health and rehab for their loved one dealing with addiction.

Using a controlled environment to speak frankly but respectfully about the negative impacts of addiction is important. It can encourage a loved one to seek treatment. It also offers the opportunity for the family member facing addiction to take an active role in their own treatment.

Useful guidance for family members staging an intervention includes:

  • Educating yourself on addiction
  • Identifying and ending enabling behaviors
  • Using respectful but assertive and clear language
  • Setting boundaries related to your loved one dealing with addiction
  • Determining the consequences of refusing to seek treatment (i.e. ending financial support or requiring a loved one to move out)

It’s important to recognize the value of an intervention professional in these situations. Families play a crucial role in recognizing the need for an intervention. They also share valuable and powerful first-person accounts of how a loved one’s addiction harms the family and the individual.

However, interventions are emotionally charged situations. And most families don’t have the experience to lead one effectively.

Intervention professionals help to moderate interactions and keep things on track. They encourage family members to share their input and the consequences a loved one will face if they don’t choose to receive treatment. Infinite Recovery helps families find the intervention professionals who are best equipped to deal with the specific needs of their loved one.

Additional Support Beyond Intervention

Family members can serve as a key point of contact for the treatment center when a loved one chooses to enter treatment. They may answer questions about their family member, supply medical records, and share related knowledge.

For inpatient treatment in particular, contact is often limited between an individual and their family. However, families can still get in touch with their loved ones based on the facility’s guidelines, send packages, and more. These interactions can be meaningful for the loved one in treatment. They can encourage them to keep working toward their goal.

Following the end of inpatient treatment, providing a stable environment and rewarding good behavior can be crucial to continued progress in addiction recovery. Many families are in a unique position to offer this kind of support.

Family health and rehab for a loved one with addiction issues are closely connected. Families play an important role throughout the rehab process and after loved ones complete the most intensive parts of treatment.

A signpost in the forest holds two signs with arrows pointing in opposite directions, reading “old habits” and “new habits.”

Strategies for Healing as a Family

Understandably, families focus on their loved one when addiction becomes an issue. However, it’s important to recognize the effects of addiction on the family as well. Issues like emotional distress and damaged relationships shouldn’t be ignored. They are valid mental health concerns that need to be addressed so everyone can move forward.

Along with addressing these concerns, learning how to be supportive but also set boundaries is a vital step for families.

Recovery from addiction is a lifelong process. The path forward from initial treatment isn’t always perfect. People with addiction issues can and do relapse into substance use. However, many of them also get back on the recovery path.

For families, learning how to manage behaviors and reactions in this context is important for two key reasons:

  1. To effectively support the family member dealing with addiction and relapse.
  2. To support themselves by avoiding falling into patterns or behaviors that harm themselves and/or their family member.

It’s vital to understand that the behavior of a loved one dealing with addiction can be harmful. Some family members may feel anger or resentment.

It’s important to eventually address these issues. However, family members who want to engage in therapy need to give those other family members the time to come around to the idea of family or individual therapy.

Therapy and family rehab care help family members work through those concerns. As we’ve discussed in our article on family therapy, this service can help to:

  • Address fears, concerns, stress, and similar emotions related to a family member’s addiction.
  • Identify and change enabling, codependent, or otherwise unhealthy behaviors.
  • Improve communication within the family.
  • Build a stronger shared foundation for the family.
  • Learn how to deal with potential relapses.
  • Understand how to separate the disease of addiction from the loved one in treatment.

Addiction can deeply impact the family of the person actively dealing with this disease. A holistic approach to treating addiction goes beyond the individual. This form of family rehab care helps to address the harm addiction can cause to loved ones.

At Infinite Recovery, we recognize how important family is in effectively treating addiction. We use a therapy modality called family systems therapy to help our clients progress in treatment. Learn more about our approach to family systems therapy.

Additionally, we focus on supporting the family members of our clients. We regularly communicate with client’s families whenever appropriate and provide support as well.

Our offerings include a weekly online support group for families of our clients. We also offer a two-day, in-person family workshop each month. This event helps families learn more about addiction as a disease. It also facilitates interactions between families and loved ones in treatment.

A family speaks with a family therapist in an office.

Addiction, Family Health, and Rehab: Final Thoughts

Addiction, like many diseases, impacts family members as well as the person directly suffering from it. Family members who don’t understand the nature of addiction as a disease can be well-meaning, but engage in enabling or counterproductive behaviors that don’t support recovery.

Family-focused health and rehab efforts take the family into account when treating addiction. For Infinite Recovery, that means hosting regular educational sessions and support groups for families. Families can also take advantage of family therapy to address the harm that addiction has caused them — as well as better support their loved ones dealing with addiction.

Ready to transform your life? Reach out to us today.

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