Family and Addiction: Losing Your Family Due to Addiction

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Roughly 50% of marriages in which one spouse heavily abuses alcohol are likely to end in divorce. Up to 60% of all intimate partner violence between couples occur due to addiction and substance use disorders. A person’s risk for addiction increases by 50% if addiction runs in the family, or if a person grows up surrounded by drugs and alcohol. With statistics like these, it should come as no surprise that addiction can have a major negative impact on family, lead to loss of relationships, and even increase your children’s risk for becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol.

The effects of drug addiction on family are often far-reaching, and can be passed to your children, grandchildren, and future generations. While addiction does have the ability to break families apart, taking steps to overcome addiction can bring you closer to mending relationships that may have been broken on behalf of substance abuse. In fact, many addiction treatment centers offer unique family therapies designed to help you repair and rebuild relationships so you can get back to spending time with those you love the most.

Here’s a close look at the impact of addiction on families, and at what you can do to get back on track with sobriety and reunite with your family.

How Addiction Can Break Families Apart

Alcohol and drug addiction can change a person’s behavior in ways that make them unrecognizable to their family, and that can place extra burden on those forced to make up for their loved one’s mistakes and neglect. Addiction can lead to miscommunication among family members, frequent arguments that put entire households on edge, as well as verbal, physical, and emotional abuse. High levels of stress, tension, and negativity are common in households where one or more family members struggle with addiction.

Here are ways addiction can lead to loss of relationships among family:

Trust Issues

Lying and secretive behavior are common signs of addiction. Those with substance use disorders may lie to their loved ones about spending money on drugs and alcohol, or about spending time with negative influences who encourage their addiction. Sometimes addicts will lie to protect themselves, or in an effort to protect their loved ones from the negative, hurtful things that can stem from addiction.

Lying and dishonesty can compromise trust between family members, and lead to a wide range of other negative emotions such as fear, anger, anxiety, and frustration. Lying can make you seem unreliable and untrustworthy in the eyes of others — especially family members who love you and have come to depend on you.

Financial Hardship

Those who struggle with substance use disorders will often rank drugs and alcohol above the most important of financial responsibilities like car payments, mortgage and rent, groceries, and more. This can put the entire family’s well-being at risk, especially when families lose access to transportation, run out of money for food, or become homeless due to eviction or foreclosure. In situations where savings accounts are still intact, the effects of drugs and alcohol can still cause problems such as forgetfulness or memory loss that can interfere with paying bills on time.

The cost of drugs and alcohol is often relatively high for those with middle to low income levels. A person with alcohol use disorder may spend an average of $10 per day on alcohol, which equates to roughly $3,650 per year. A person who suffers heroin use disorder can spend anywhere between $150 and $200 per day, or up to $73,000 per year on this highly addictive opioid. Addiction even affects one’s job and work performance, and can lead to loss of employment and income, and increased costs surrounding health care, insurance, and legal fees.

Unpredictable Behavior

With repeated, consistent use, drugs and alcohol can change a person’s behavior and mood due to the way these substances affect the brain. Certain substances affect the brain differently than others, and can make you seem like a stranger to those who have known you for years. For instance, stimulants like methamphetamine can cause extreme agitation and violent behavior, while strong painkillers like fentanyl can cause users to behave more sleepy, confused, and distant.

Those who struggle with addiction often become unpredictable to their family members, who never know who they’re getting from day to day. Addiction can change you on the inside and out, and cause major rifts between you and loved ones who miss the real you.


Family members of those with substance use disorders will often isolate themselves from the addict and from others to escape difficult situations created on behalf of the addict’s behavior. Since drug and alcohol use can impair one’s judgement and inhibitions, a person who struggles with addiction may embarrass their children, spouses, and other family members, or do things to hurt the family’s reputation. The effects of drug addiction on family can cause extreme isolation as family members withdraw and distance themselves from these harmful, traumatizing situations and the people who triggered them.


A recent survey shows that addiction and substance use disorders are cited as the reason for 7.3% of all divorce cases in the U.S. Spouses of those with substance use disorders will often seek marital separation or divorce when a counseling approach fails to work at repairing the marriage, or when their addicted spouse continues to fail drug tests and lie about their addiction. Addiction can even cause rifts between the sober spouse and their own friends and relatives, as the sober spouse may enable, support, or be in denial about their spouse’s struggles with substance abuse.

Divorce and separation caused by substance abuse also greatly impacts the couple’s children, who tend to suffer from higher rates of depression, feelings of displacement, and other behavioral issues. Without strong, stable support systems, children of parents who divorce on behalf of addiction are often at high risk for addiction themselves, as they may turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate for stress, depression, and other behavioral and mental health disorders. Research shows that children who come from families that offer lots of warmth, love, and support either rarely or do not use drugs.

The Dynamic Between Family and Addiction

family and addiction

Untreated addictions often lead to divorce.

Addiction can impact anyone who has a relationship with the addict, regardless of whether that person is related by blood, or happens to be a spouse, partner, and other loved one who has chosen to be part of that person’s life. The presence of addiction in an environment will often affect everyone who lives and spends time in that environment, including those who don’t even use drugs and alcohol. Other factors that play into the dynamic between family and addiction are genetics, enabling, and codependency.


Research shows that healthy family members are at greater risk for abusing drugs and alcohol if a sibling or spouse is already abusing these substances. Being around people who use drugs can influence you to start using too, especially when substance abuse is treated like a normal behavior. The influence of your home environment is an important factor when it comes to addiction in children, since parents and older family members who use drugs can often directly or indirectly influence children in the household to develop their own problems with substance abuse.


People with a family history of addiction are often 50% more likely to also suffer from addiction on behalf of genetics. Children of those with substance use disorders are found to be eight times more likely to also develop an addiction. But even though a person is genetically predisposed to suffer from addiction, that person still has the power to avoid addiction by taking necessary steps to reduce their risk, and seeking treatment when needed.


Enabling is common among family members of those who struggle with addiction, and is characterized by behaviors that support or encourage continued alcohol and drug use in the addict. A person who practices enabling may use drugs and alcohol with the addict, or make excuses for the addict when addiction causes problems. Enabling in any form is unhealthy for everyone in the family, and can lead to more serious complications surrounding family and addiction later down the road.


Codependency is closely linked to enabling in that a codependent partner often ends up being controlled by the addict’s behavior, and enables the addict by catering to their needs and demands. Codependency is often characterized by suffering ongoing feelings of anxiety about the addict, being unable to say no, and remaining in a constant state of fear of being abandoned or rejected by the addict. Those who are codependent on partners who suffer from addiction will often sacrifice their own well-being so their partners can continue abusing drugs and alcohol.

How to Overcome Addiction and Get Your Family Back

Despite how guilty, ashamed, or hopeless you may feel after losing your family due to addiction, you can earn back your family’s trust and love by making the decision to overcome addiction. Fighting and overcoming substance abuse will allow you to become healthier both physically and mentally, and bring you one step closer toward repairing the relationships between you and your loved ones.

Follow these steps to overcome addiction so you can get your family back as soon as possible.

Admit That You Have a Problem

Those who suffer from substance use disorders are often in denial, or unaware that they have a problem with addiction at all despite concerns from friends and family. The first step toward getting your family back is to overcome denial, and admit that you have a problem with addiction and are willing to get help. Seeking addiction treatment will allow you to heal broken relationships, free yourself from feelings of shame, and face the root cause of your addiction so you and your family can enjoy a healthier, happier life together.

Seek Addiction Treatment

Since addiction affects each individual and family in unique ways, there are countless treatment options you or your loved one can choose from that can all be customized to treat the health and recovery needs of the addict. Substance use disorders are commonly treated using detox and therapy — both of which address the physical and psychological causes of addiction. Addiction treatment can be conducted at an inpatient or outpatient rehab center, though inpatient rehab is often the recommended option for those who also want to repair family relationships.

Drug and alcohol detox treatments can be conducted naturally in safe, controlled medical environments overseen by doctors and nurses, or can be conducted with the use of medications that eliminate or relieve some or all withdrawal symptoms — including cravings. Therapy may involve a combination of counseling, support groups, and relapse prevention training — all of which can teach you or your loved one the skills needed to live a healthier, more fulfilling addiction-free life. Family therapy is available to those who need help mending family relationships while overcoming addiction.

Use our rehab directory to explore rehab centers and available treatments in all cities and states across the U.S. Select our live chat option if you need help choosing the best rehab center in your area that also offers family counseling services.

Join a Support Group

Support group therapy can benefit those who need help recovering from both addiction and loss of family on behalf of addiction. Support groups offer a safe place for recovering addicts to talk openly about their feelings and emotions surrounding family and addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and other support groups will give you the opportunity to bond with others in recovery who may also have lost family and need a strong, solid support team to help them fight addiction.

Find Affordable Treatment

Today’s addiction treatments can be made affordable for nearly anyone on behalf of health insurance, private insurance, government funding, sliding scale fees, and many other options. Some patients qualify for free or low-cost addiction treatment after providing proof of income or demonstrating that other factors are interfering with their ability to pay for treatment. Talk to your health insurer about coverage for addiction treatment, or learn how to get into rehab without money based on certain qualifying factors.