Family Secrets: Addiction and Related Stigma

Addiction and related Stigmas

It’s heartbreaking to see a loved one struggle to control their drug or alcohol use. While the descent toward addiction can be rapid, its effects tend to be devastating and lasting. Such grave consequences can be shocking and humiliating, making addiction one of the best-kept secrets in many families.

However, addiction doesn’t just affect the person struggling with substance abuse. Its impact touches every person around them, so keeping family secrets destroys the lives of more than just one person.

Addiction treatment is necessary for everyone affected by it, including the immediate family and relatives of someone with substance use disorder. Let’s explore the need for addiction recovery in family settings and where to get quality assistance for loved ones affected by the condition.

The Hidden Struggles: How Addiction Shapes Family Dynamics

The diagnostic criteria for substance use disorder (SUD) outline various ways the condition affects relationships with loved ones. Someone with addiction may:

  • Be unable to fulfill their obligations or responsibilities to their partner, children and other relatives
  • Risk or lose their job, impacting the quality of life for their dependents
  • Withdraw from social interactions and hobbies, making it challenging to spend quality time with them
  • Risk others’ lives if intoxicated when driving, cooking or caring for children
  • Behave erratically, including lashing out in anger or violence when under the influence
  • Cripple their family financially by taking unnecessary credit or using savings and investments to finance drug purchases

Substance abuse affects the affected person’s relationships with different family members. As the person becomes more dependent on drugs, people around them must adapt and adjust their actions to fill the gaps they leave behind. This can make spouses or partners take up more chores and responsibilities than they can handle. A study on drug use in marriage found that families with one spouse abusing illicit drugs experience higher rates of marriage dissatisfaction than their peers. Substance abuse is also cited as a cause for around 6% of divorces in the United States.

Substance use may also traumatize children in the home. A 2014 report on child abuse and neglect found that children who live in a home where at least one parent uses drugs experience more child abuse and child welfare check-ins than their peers. Moreover, children living with a parent with substance use disorder are also more likely to start abusing drugs.

Substance abuse can wreak havoc on families, destroying the dynamics and causing long-term damage to all affected.

Breaking the Silence: Navigating Addiction Stigma within Families

Addiction is a highly stigmatized mental health condition in American society. There are several types of negative stereotypes and attitudes toward people with substance use disorder, including:

  • Public stigma: These are the negative attitudes of whole societies toward addiction and people living with it. Public stigma may be expressed through language and widely perpetuated through various forms of media.
  • Self-stigma: This is an internalization of the public stigma that causes the addict to be ashamed of their condition. They may start keeping secrets from family to avoid experiencing humiliation from their relatives and the community.
  • Structural stigma: This form of stigma is built into institutions, directly limiting access to addiction treatment. If you have a family member with addiction issues, you may face structural stigma from your employers, government and health providers.

Substance abuse stigma is a pervasive phenomenon that can affect your family’s standing in the community. Social rejection and discrimination tend to be higher within intimate settings such as the family unit and close-knit societies. Thus, if a loved one struggles with the condition, you may consider keeping family secrets from the public by refusing to acknowledge or discuss the problem.

However, this doesn’t benefit anyone, especially not the person with a substance use disorder. It denies the person dealing with addiction the support of loved ones as they undergo detox and various therapies. The silence around addiction also makes resolving its impact on marriages and children difficult.

Helping a family member dealing with substance abuse access treatment might save their life. Remember, losing face within your community is nothing compared to losing a loved one to an overdose. So instead of keeping family secrets about addiction, speak up and get them the help they need to regain their health and happiness.

Supporting Loved Ones: Overcoming Stigma and Fostering Understanding

Here are several ways to overcome the stigma toward addiction and get quality treatment for the condition:


Substance use disorder is a health condition similar to other illnesses such as cancer, arthritis and diabetes. People who get addicted to drugs aren’t weak or lacking in self-control. The disease affects their minds, making it almost impossible for them to stop using drugs. Blaming their character, punishing them or isolating them won’t make them suddenly able to stop using drugs. Educating yourself on the disease, understanding its effects and learning about treatment are good ways of breaking the stigma surrounding it. Communicating this with the whole family and your community ensures people living with it know it’s not their fault and encourages them to seek treatment.

Leading With Love

Addiction is a brutal disease that can turn a loved one into someone you don’t know. They may lie, cheat, manipulate, steal and even use violence to continue taking drugs. While these challenges can make it difficult to support them, remember that addiction changes the brain. Your loved one is still in there, but they need patience to overcome the challenges of addiction.

Don’t get frustrated or yell when they deny having an addiction problem. Keep your feelings in check when they refuse to seek help and provide steady support as they go through the ups and downs of recovery.

Remaining Positive

Recovery is a difficult journey your loved one will take for the rest of their life. Detoxing and other forms of treatment can be exhausting and frustrating. Moreover, relapse is a common part of the recovery process. Such challenges can make it hard to support your loved one during treatment.

However, remember that over 75% of people with substance use disorder regain sobriety and lead healthy lives. Don’t get angry or give up when your loved one doesn’t meet your expectations during recovery. Instead, seek support from other family members and through therapy to ensure you remain a steady rock they can rely on whenever necessary.

Healing Together: Rebuilding Trust and Connection in the Face of Addiction

Family therapy is the best way of addressing the effect of addiction on the whole family. Treatment centers such as Restore Mental Health use this form of therapy to uncover the family dynamics resulting from dealing with addiction.

Exploring the cause of a loved one’s addiction can be an illuminating process that helps you find ways to safeguard other family members. Having open discussions about the negative consequences of addiction on your marriage or partnership and children also helps repair the bonds broken by substance use disorder.

Family therapy is particularly crucial for your loved one’s long-term sobriety. Addiction counselors use therapy sessions to teach all family members how to support the person during recovery to prevent relapses in the long term.

Seeking Help and Support: Resources for Families Affected by Addiction

Addressing the effects of addiction on the family unit is part of quality addiction treatment. When seeking rehab facilities for your loved one, look for one qualified to address the consequences of addiction on every family member. Restore is one such facility, so contact us to learn how we can help with safe and healthy addiction recovery in your family.