Among the many services and programs we provide at Wellspring center for Prevention is a Referral and Information helpline.
Someone seeking help for themselves or a family member can call the helpline (732-254-3344) any time between 8am and 9am and a staff member will provide assistance. We also provide an online helpline at www.helptool.org.
I am telling you this because recently I picked up a help call from a mother living in New Brunswick. She was upset because her husband’s drinking was getting out of control and was causing a major upheaval in the family. I provided her with referrals and information and hung up hoping that she was able to use the information to get her husband and her family the assistance they needed.
But it made me realize that many of you might not be aware of an existing, and not-so-hidden problem.
We all are aware that alcoholism and drug addiction have obvious and well documented effects on chronic substance abusers. We know for a fact that the prolonged abuse of drugs and/or alcohol will deteriorate a person’s physical health, impair his or her mental functioning and damage the spirit.
But what most folks forget is how these adverse effects can impact the addict’s immediate family. That’s because nearly every person in contact with a substance user is impacted in some way. What we know is that it is rare that the impact of addiction is limited solely to the addict.
Everyone around is affected in some way. Frequently, the people who spend the most time around the addict are friends, family and co-workers – these are the people who are likely to be most impacted by drug addiction or alcoholism.
Family members, especially non-addicted spouses, are forced to pick up the slack for the addict, make excuses for their behavior and potentially endure sexual, physical and emotional abuse. In many cases, extended family members and close friends have to help financially and in other ways to account for the ignored responsibilities by the addict.
Most importantly, children suffer in school and socially and are more likely to be involved with drugs and alcohol as adults. Which is why nearly every person in contact with an addict is impacted in some way. And, substance use recovery is most successful when the friends and family members closest to the addict are involved.
Because substance use damages the whole family, treatment and recovery must work with and heal the whole family.
Our society has moved further and further away from what is considered the “traditional nuclear family.” There are single-parent homes, blended families and homes headed by grandparents, just to name a few family unit variations. Each of these family structures and more will affect the substance user’s overall impact on the family.
If young children are a part of the family, their ages must also be factored into the effect of substance abuse. The same can be said for older adults who have adult children. The severity of addiction and the type of substance dependence also factor into the overall impact of addiction on a family.
Lastly, each addict’s situation is different, which means that each family’s situation is unique. This makes it impossible to assign a universal causal relationship between substance abuse and family functioning. It is worth noting that in most families, the impact of addiction is overwhelmingly negative, with few exceptions.
We should also be aware of these facts. And we should all realize that the family next door may be experiencing the upheaval of substance use. And, we should all know that help is available. Sometimes as close as a phone call or the click of a mouse.
Whether you call the Wellspring helpline, visit our web portal, or call 1-844-276-2777 for the statewide Addictions Access Center, make sure you reach out.
To paraphrase a well-known mantra: Addiction is a Disease - Treatment is Available - Recovery Brings Joy!