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Addiction’s Impact on Family Members

Addiction is not a spectator sport – the collateral damage affects the entire family. This is a well-documented fact, and professionals in the field work diligently to help the non-addictive family members recover from the trauma and learn to cope with the addiction. Relationships within the family are noticeably strained, often financial security is adversely affected and family members frequently experience trauma symptoms including:

• Depression that cannot be attributed to physical illness or other life events • Changes in personality such as irritability and discouragement • Obsessive worry about the welfare of the addicted individual • Severe feelings of helplessness and anxiety • Loss of sleep and appetite • Confusion and helplessness concerning how to help the addicted individual • Hyper vigilance concerning ways to help the addicted loved one

As a professional interventionist and licensed therapist, helping non-addicted family members is an important part of my job. Scientific research indicates clearly that an addicted individual best heals in a social setting, and this same body of research suggests that the family members of addicted individuals heal best in a social environment as well. In my work as an addiction counselor and professional interventionist, I use many resources and groups to help the family members heal from the devastation that addiction brings to the family.

Addiction is a family disease that impacts all of the family members in destructive ways. Therefore, all family members need to explore the opportunities and methods available to resolve the trauma they are experiencing at the hands of addiction. The good news is that treatment for families has progressed to the point where we are able to offer very promising therapies to restore emotional balance, well-being and intimacy to the family unit.

The message here is that self-care for the family is just as important as addiction treatment for the addict! Throughout the active addiction of a loved one, even after you have intervened and have the addicted family member in treatment, I strongly encourage you to seek help for yourself through a professional counselor, your church or support groups such as Families Anonymous or Al-Anon.

Joseph Kirkpatrick, PhD, LPC, CAI is a seasoned Addiction Specialist and Professional Interventionist who has been working with addicts and families for decades. Please visit his website at for more information or call 678-316-3991 for a complimentary consultation.

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