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How to Handle Shifting Family Dynamics in Recovery

How to Handle Shifting Family Dynamics in Recovery

When a loved one struggles with addiction, it can put the entire family unit under stress that is difficult to manage and carries significant residual issues for all parties involved. Often, the family member with substance use disorder becomes the primary concern of the entire group, leading to shifts in other members' roles and behaviors. Addiction affects on relationships have been studied and analyzed, but because each case is unique, families faced with these circumstances benefit from counseling and further work to manage the changes in their family dynamic.

Addiction Effects on Relationships

A family member with substance use disorder can bring about worries and problems to the rest of their loved ones that will overshadow other conflicts and dilemmas. They are often urgent and require everyone's full attention and efforts. Sometimes this shift in priorities leaves other family members behind, having much of their needs ignored or pushed to the wayside. This is seldom done intentionally, but the effects can be tremendous, especially with younger siblings and spouses not being given proper attention. Ultimately, addiction is far-reaching, way beyond the scope of the person suffering from substance use disorder, making it a "family disease."

Changes in Recovery

For people who are lucky enough to reach a stage where the loved one struggling with addiction enrolls in treatment and enters recovery, there is even more healing to be done. Once the recovery phase is reached and the healing truly begins, many of the previous problems and conflicts pushed to the wayside can come to the surface. While this is a normal part of the process, these feelings can be overwhelming for everyone involved. Of course, the family is happy that their loved one is making strides with their recovery journey, and their efforts are being noticed. Still, creeping feelings that have been repressed can come to the surface and cause conflicted feelings of anger, sadness, and resentment as well.

Coping with Shifting Dynamics

Substance use counselors and research have shown that attending family-oriented programming for all family members that have been affected by a loved one's addiction can significantly help in recovery. Recovery is no longer just the effort and journey for the person with substance use disorder; it's something the whole family can work on together.

During this healing process, family units will work individually and in a group to resolve the issues left sitting in a queue while their loved one battled addiction. This way, both group and personal conflicts can be resolved in a mediated setting with a professional therapist who can guide the conversations and conflict resolutions into a productive and positive direction.

Substance use disorder affects the entire family when one member is sick, and a multi-faceted approach to healing where all members are given the proper attention once the road to recovery is reached is the best way to help everyone heal as well as helping prevent relapse due to family stress once the rebuilding process begins after addiction.


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