Resiliency In Families Affected By Addiction

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on December 29, 2021

Building resilience can be an important strategy for families affected by substance abuse in the home. This can occur through the adoption of certain behaviors, seeking support from others, and engaging in treatment for a loved one with substance use disorder.

Family Resiliency In Addiction Recovery

Addiction is commonly referred to as a family disease. Within a home, a loved one’s substance use can affect the whole family unit: children, spouses, and parents alike.

Substance abuse in the home can have profound effects on:

  • family relationships
  • child welfare
  • physical safety and wellbeing
  • emotional health
  • ability to function healthily

Each family affected by addiction is unique. But there is hope for recovery.

One key focus of programs for both preventing substance abuse and helping families heal from it is identifying strategies for building resilience, or resiliency, among those affected.

Learn more about substance abuse in families

What Is Resiliency?

Resilience is commonly defined as a positive adaptation to forms of adversity, such as discrimination, childhood trauma, poverty, or substance abuse in the home.

As a concept, resilience has been described by some as a process. Others, as a trait or outcome—the most common conceptualization.

What resiliency, according to some researchers, might look like:

  • working or being enrolled in school
  • remaining calm in the face of disaster
  • using supportive coping strategies for responding to difficulties
  • no history of drug or alcohol dependence
  • having no criminal record or arrest history

The core of resilience is the ability of a person to function normally in their everyday life and overcome challenges in ways that are healthy and supportive to their overall wellbeing.

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What Resilience In Substance Abuse Families Is Not

Being resilient doesn’t mean that a person experiences grief, loss, or pain any less often, or to a lesser extent, than someone who is less resilient.

What resiliency is not:

  • denial
  • avoidance
  • caring for the needs of others over your own
  • putting on a happy face

What it does mean is that a person is better equipped to respond to difficult situations or distress, with positive outcomes. That is, again, a positive adaptation to adversity versus a negative adaptation.

A negative adaptation to adversity, on the other hand, can manifest in a number of ways: avoidance, denial, drinking, drug use, masking one’s emotions and struggles.

All of these can ultimately be harmful to a person’s physical health, mental health, and overall well-being.

Building Resiliency In Families Affected By Addiction

Overcoming addiction as an individual, and as a family, is possible—as is finding a path towards healing. This can occur through strategies for building resilience and finding addiction treatment.

Ways to build resilience in families affected by addiction might include:

  • Seeking support: Reaching out to friends, other family members, as well as treatment professionals for support can be highly beneficial for healing and coping with life stress.
  • Clear communication: Clearly communicating with one another, and talking about the tough stuff, can help family members feel heard, attended to, and supported.
  • Family connectivity: Rebuilding or maintaining strong connections within the family can be a protective factor for emotional, psychological, and behavioral problems.
  • Attending work/school: Regularly attending work and school can help families establish and maintain a routine that’s supportive to a happy and healthy lifestyle.
  • Focus on what you can control: Dwelling on setbacks or issues can cause unnecessary stress and increase the risk of turning to unsupportive coping habits.
  • Positive coping: Identify supportive coping strategies that you can use daily, such as writing, talking to a friend, exercising, reframing your thoughts, or meditation.

Challenges To Building Resiliency

Not every family will have the same needs, or can benefit from resilience-building strategies, as another family.

Cross-cultural considerations, as well as a family’s mental health and medical history, are often considered in resiliency programs for families who’ve been affected by drug or alcohol use.

More broadly, there can be a number of challenges families might face.

Other challenges, or barriers, to building resilience may include:

  • poverty
  • disability
  • mobility issues
  • lack of available support resources
  • substance use relapse
  • mental illness in the family
  • history of severe abuse or neglect

In addition, if the person with the substance use disorder is actively struggling with substance use, or is unwilling to seek help, this can also pose a challenge for the rest of the family.

Healing doesn’t always have to occur as a unit. But building resilience and making addiction recovery a family affair can help family members create a more supportive family environment.

Treatment For Families Affected By Addiction

Recovery isn’t a journey families have to embark on alone. In many cases, it’s best to look for a professional substance abuse treatment provider, such as a counselor or rehab center, for help.

Many treatment programs for substance use, for instance, will offer opportunities for family members, including children, to participate in their loved one’s treatment and recovery process.

Family treatment services might include:

  • family therapy
  • addiction education
  • family support groups
  • experiential activities
  • relapse prevention planning

Family members might also choose to seek professional support externally for themselves, through an individual counselor or psychologist. This can aid in the recovery process.

In addition, some schools and community centers also offer educational and skill-building programs for families who have experienced adversity.

Learn More About Addiction Treatment Options Today

Achieving recovery from addiction, as a family, is possible with hope and patience for the road ahead. For many, this will begin with finding treatment at a drug or alcohol rehab center.

For more information about drug or alcohol rehab centers, or how to find the right treatment program for a loved one, call our helpline to speak to a treatment specialist today.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.

These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on December 29, 2021
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