When someone begins drinking or using drugs, he or she never sets out to develop an addiction. No one wants to create a problem in their lives. However, over time, with the right circumstances, a dependence can grow until someone is hooked in the cycle of addiction. And when that happens, typically other people in that person’s life will be affected too.
Whether it’s friends, family, co-workers, or neighbors, an addiction can have a widespread impact. For instance, one woman worked as a middle school teacher in Arizona. A couple of years ago, she was arrested and fired one morning for arriving to school drunk. Her story was published by the media and included comments by some of her students. They were disappointed as well as concerned. This is an example of how other people can be affected by the actions and decisions that one person makes.
Of course, the impact can be much greater than the example provided above. For instance, family members and spouses might feel the damaging effects of addiction more so than anyone else. Sadly, the person who is addicted frequently is in denial about any harm he or she may be causing others. In fact, that is one of the hallmarks of addiction – a person will continue to use the substance, negligent of any harm they may be creating and neglecting other areas of their life. One common symptom of addiction is that a person becomes obsessed about using, fantasizing about drinking or using drugs whenever they’re not. And even planning their day around being able to drink or get high.
Because of this, a person makes their substance use the focus of their lives despite the ways that his or her life might be falling apart. There might be more fighting going on at home. There might be more incidents at work that are cause for dismissal, and yet a person continues to use. This is precisely why an addiction can negatively impact the lives of others.
Of course, another way that someone else might be significantly affected by addiction is when someone is enabling that addiction. Enable means to assist. However, helping someone out in a co-dependent way often means doing for someone what they can do themselves. For instance, someone who is enabling an addict might take them under their roof and pay their bills, even though the addict might be perfectly capable of getting a job themselves and meeting their own needs. This is kind of dynamic is very common within relationships in which one person is addicted. The patterns of enabling and co-dependency are frequently present.
Lastly, another way that others are affected by addiction is when there is an unspoken addiction within a larger family unit. For instance, one of the parents might be addicted to alcohol or drugs and yet no one is saying anything about it. The addiction might be a large problem in the family without it ever being spoken about. Relationship patterns can become severely skewed in such a family.
If you or someone you know is addicted to drugs or alcohol, contact a mental health provider today. There’s a good chance you’ll be supporting to more than just one person.
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