The life of an addict goes on spiraling downwards for as long as they are addicted to their drugs or alcohol. It’s only if they firmly decide to recover by working programs or attending counseling with commitment can they save themselves. Otherwise not only the addict, but the entire family can end up destroyed by this addiction.
With time, family members tend to experience shame, resentment, anger, worry and self-pity towards the addict. These emotions often make them feel shameful, secretive, depressed and make it difficult for them to sleep. Family members end up eventually following the same spiral downwards like the addict.
The 4 phases
In fact, there are 4 phases of the “family illness” which the family goes through before entering recovery or “bottoms out”. The first stage is where they act out of genuine concern and are just beginning to experience the effects of alcohol and drug abuse by their loved one. They don’t have an idea of what they are up against at this stage.
The Defense stage is the second stage which happens after the “first block-out” where the family members just block out the reality of the situation and go in and out of denial. This is when addicts usually have “blackouts” or periods where they don’t remember anything, usually when seriously impaired or while coming off heavy drug or alcohol use.
Family members are preoccupied with the addict’s behavior at this phase and protect them by lying to the employer, friends and other family members about his behavior. They not only tolerate the addict’s behavior but also feel responsible for the family problems so much that they don’t remember the addict’s negative behavior and just minimize the consequences.
Trying to become perfect
The Adaption Phase comes after repeated “blackouts” where the family members change their behavior to adapt to the addict’s behavior. This is when the family members either become obsessed with the addict or start using drugs or drinking themselves.
Family members try to become “perfect” to make the addict happy and change ways. Family members now start feeling like they have “lost their minds” and become absent-minded, feel like failures and require medical or mental health care. All this is because they have given so much to others that they don’t have anything left to care for themselves.
Bouts of anxiety and depression
Next is the Exhaustion Phase when family members lose their self-worth and experience bouts of anxiety or depression. They have no more excuses to give, and their lives are now ruled in fear. This is when they have reached their “bottom”.
Similar to when an addict reaches their bottom, family members too must decide to admit the problem and recover or face insanity or death. They can’t let things do the way things are at this point. They have to instead admit their problems and accept help in dealing with both themselves and the addict.
So this shows that it’s not the addict but the family that is most hurt because of the addiction. They can’t see their loved one wasting away due to their addiction and end up bearing the brunt of the situation.