Addiction and Recovery During a Pandemic
How can we support family members of a person struggling with addiction? And how can we do so in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic?
We tend to think of addiction as one individual’s affliction. But every person who struggles with addiction has a family, and everyone who loves or lives with a person with addiction suffers.
Psychology Today writer Dan Mager offers us a clear illustration of the family’s relation to an individual’s substance disorder. He describes a mobile suspended over a child’s crib. When one part of the mobile moves, the rest of the parts move with it. Similarly, one family member’s movement through addiction causes the rest of the family members to shift positions as well.
Mager also illustrates the concrete ways in which an addiction rocks a family unit:
- It destabilizes the domestic ecosystem
- It confuses and problematizes interfamilial relationships
- It frequently endangers finances
- It inadvertently harms the mental, emotional, and physical health of the family members
In light of the current pandemic, social distancing and isolation place a heavy burden on people in recovery and their families. Dr. Timman Cermak, a physician and writer for Psychology Today, explains that substance use disorders and codependency gear toward and thrive in solitude. With pandemic-induced isolation, families who experience addiction are under substantial pressure. In addition, individuals who were doing well in recovery may be pushed back toward their vices under the stress of a narrow social life, lockdowns, quarantines, and social distancing.
Helping Families Help Each Other
Fortunately, four main approaches exist to support families.
This first approach pertains mostly to children who make up part of an affected family. The idea here is to protect the child from adopting an inclination toward substance use. Time spent with the child (dinner every night, a daily or weekly activity) works wonders to protect them from the mistakes of their parents or other family members. Encouraging the child in what they enjoy doing, promoting their accomplishments, and introducing them to constructive activities helps them process their own struggles in a healthy way.
Although this point may seem counterintuitive, being on alert for abnormalities or strange behaviors in each other can help family members recognize when someone is struggling or down. Then, the problem can be brought to light, allowing the whole family to support each other instead of letting one member suffer in silence.
Activating and Advocating
Being active in the search for solutions can help a family feel more in control of the situation. Doing research and being able and available to offer each other knowledge about the addiction and the various forms of treatment available can help a family regain a sense of strength and balance. If you know of a family who is struggling, finding information for them and helping them process it can relieve their stress and encourage them.
Persisting and Remaining Hopeful
Relapses are common. They do not spell failure. When families of a loved one in recovery know this, they can feel more hopeful and energized to keep working. Helping your own or another family remain optimistic in the face of relapse can benefit everyone.
Addiction and recovery usually involve a substantial amount of pain, discomfort, and doubt. Even if the addicted individual does not recover, their family members can still heal. In the end, although the family unit suffers with the individual, the individual doesn’t have to dictate the movements of the family as a whole. Family therapy can help families learn how to communicate, set boundaries, and support each other even if the person with the addiction is not motivated to recover.
We Are Ready to Help
If your family member has a substance use disorder, we can help. Great Oaks offers individualized addiction treatment as well as support for family members through our Family Program. In our family program, you will learn more about addiction and learn how to begin reestablishing trust with your loved one. You’ll learn how to create an environment to support your family member’s recovery and your own health, both during a pandemic and beyond.