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How to Foster Family Unity After Addiction Rocks Your World

An article from Innovation in Aging notes, family relationships play an important role in the shaping of your life. Family is often foundational to your well-being as these linked or interdependent relationships inform each other. Your lives are intrinsically linked to each other as sources of social connection and influence, as well as meaning and purpose. However, a loved one’s addiction can wreak havoc on your family and those important connections. As a result, you may feel lost on how to reignite or foster family unity again.

Now, you may question if your family will ever feel whole again Or perhaps you wonder if there is even a point in trying to mend those wounds. While it can be challenging, trying to foster family unity can be a powerful tool for the recovery of your loved one and the family. At The Guest House, we believe in the value of community as a tool for healing. Through community, you are able to find a space in which sharing yourself is safe and impactful. When you can openly share your inner self with others, you open the door to a deeper understanding of yourself.

Moreso, the connection found in community building creates a bidirectional relationship. Through a bidirectional relationship, each family member feels that their thoughts and feelings are valued. When everyone feels valued, they are more inclined to share their joy, distress, happiness, and other emotions with each other. Thus, a sense of community fosters relationships in which you strive to connect and deepen your understanding of each other.

However, you may wonder how you can rebuild a sense of community and foster family unity. Looking at the impact addiction has on each family member showcases the importance of addressing the needs of the family.

How Does Addiction Harm Families?

According to an article from Social Work in Public Health, family is often your primary source of attachment, nurturing, and socialization. However, substance use disorder (SUD) disrupts and often corrupts these interdependent relationships as the cravings of addiction supersede the relationships. When your loved one’s behavior changes, it changes the whole family system as each member attempts to adapt to and maintain some sense of normalcy in a dysfunctional dynamic. Some of the ways SUD may impact your loved one and family’s behavior include:

  • Individuals with SUD may be physically, sexually, and or emotionally abusive toward:
    • Their children
    • Intimate partners
  • Parents with SUD may neglect their children’s physical and emotional needs
  • The household has poor communication
    • Certain topics become off-limits
      • Children may be lied to about one parent’s frequent shifts in mood
      • A parent may encourage children to keep their substance use a secret from other family or community members
  • Parents with SUD may be neglectful of their children’s developmental and educational needs
  • There is a role reversal in the family
    • For example, the child parents the parent with SUD because they are unable to take care of themselves or their child

Moreover, if your loved one is seeking or in recovery, this is another change in behavior that can lead to distress. For instance, the parent who encourages their children to lie about the other parent’s substance use may find it difficult to recognize their own enabling behavior. The enabler may be concerned with protecting the other parent from getting in trouble, or the enabler may be trying to save face for what they believe is for the betterment of the family’s image.

If family members have cobbled together a facade of normalcy, it can be difficult to shed the dysfunctional roles each member has taken on when it is left unaddressed. Thus, whether your loved one is in recovery or not, each family member is impacted in different ways by the presence of addiction in their lives.

Listed below are some of the ways SUD can negatively impact different family members:

Children and adolescents 

  • Impaired attachment
    • Children may find it difficult to maintain relationships
    • Difficulty establishing trusting relationships
    • Children take on adult roles of responsibility that are not appropriate for their age
  • Parentified children learn to parent themselves and their younger siblings
    • Children may have difficulty setting health boundaries in their relationships throughout their life
    • Informs a lack of awareness of their own feelings as well as an over-awareness of others’ feelings
  • More likely to be arrested as a juvenile as well as commit violent crimes
  • Abused children are more likely to experience exteriorized disorders and maladaptive behavior
    • Anger
    • Aggression
    • Behavioral issues
  • Neglected children are more likely to experience internalized disorders
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Social withdrawal
    • Difficulties forming peer relationships
  • Traumatic response to long or repeated separation from parents
    • Parental incarceration
  • Maltreated children are at an increased risk for poor health outcomes
    • Physical
    • Social
    • Emotional
    • Intellectual
  • Unpredictable parental behavior and poor communication
    • Anxiety
    • Fear
    • Guilt
    • Shame
    • Depression
    • Loneliness
    • Anger
    • Confusion
  • Lack of parental presence and participation negatively impacts educational well-being
    • Young children have less access to learning opportunities with disengaged parents
    • School-age children receive less assistance and monitoring of homework and academic progress
    • Children miss school more often
    • More likely to drop out of school
    • An anxious home environment can make it difficult to concentrate in school

Intimate partners

  • A partner’s SUD can lead to difficulties like financial and legal issues, which further increase:
    • emotional distress
    • Conflict between partners
    • impairment to physical and emotional intimacy


  • An adult child’s SUD can cause multiple stressful issues in and outside of the home, such as:
    • Economic hardship
    • Legal issues
    • Disturbs the family ecosystem
  • The disruption caused by SUD can lead to emotional distress and enabling behaviors

Moreover, the impact of SUD on different family members showcases the havoc addiction can unleash. The physical and psychological impact of SUD on the family also highlights how connection influences those feelings and actions.

Families are deeply connected by their relationships with each other. Those familial relationships are often based on support, comfort, and guidance for each other. However, addiction corrupts healthy lines of support, comfort, and guidance between family members. Therefore, rebuilding healthy social connections in your family can foster family unity and recovery for the whole family.

Value of Social Connection to Foster Family Unity

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), social connectedness is defined as relationships that foster a sense of belonging, being cared for, feeling valued, and supported. The emotions social connectedness fosters play an important role in your life as it influences your body, mind, and behaviors. Humans are naturally social creatures, so having connections that increase your sense of belonging can support your physical and psychological well-being. When you have access to stable healthy social connections, you are more likely to make healthier choices for your overall well-being. In addition, healthy social connections support building adaptive coping skills to manage the stressors of life.

On the other hand, a lack of healthy social connections may leave you feeling alone and less than others, which increases emotional distress. When you experience prolonged distress, you may find it more challenging to adapt to life stressors. Distress increases your gravitation toward maladaptive coping strategies.

Furthermore, social connectedness is not only valuable for individual well-being but for the community as well. Since the family is a community, social connectedness can help foster family unity through healthy examples of supportive and inclusive relationships. Through social connectedness, the community can develop or rebuild trust and resiliency in the family.

In addition, to helping the family, your ability to foster family unity through positive social connections can also support recovery for your loved one. As noted in an article from Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment, maintaining positive relationships and engaging in self-agency from the influence of negative relationships can support your loved one’s long-term recovery. A caring relationship with family members can be beneficial for recovery as the expectations and sense of obligation attached to positive familial relationships encourage reducing self-defeating behaviors.

However, you may question how to recognize healthy social connectedness. It is understandable that the dysfunction addiction has created in the family makes it difficult to recognize healthy connections. Listed below are some of the characteristics of healthy social connectedness:

  • Creates a sense of belonging
  • Close bonds with others
  • There are meaningful and regular social exchanges
  • You have a variety of different types of relationships with others
  • There is a sense of support from different community members
  • You feel loved, cared for, valued, and appreciated by the other members of your community
  • There is a sense of physical and emotional safety between community members
  • You have more than one person in your community that you can turn to for support
    • Emotional support
      • Sadness
      • Frustration
      • Anxiety
    • Physical support
      • Getting a ride to doctor’s appointments, the grocery store, school, and work
      • Short notice childcare support

The characteristics of social connectedness help highlight how close relationships can support wellness. Yet, you may wonder how to foster family unity. How do you foster social connectedness for the well-being of your loved one and the rest of the family?

A Family-Centered Approach to Foster Family Unity

One of the ways you can foster family unity is by actively participating in your loved one’s recovery. According to Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Family Therapy from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), family-based counseling in treatment works to understand the family system. Understanding family systems in relation to SUD treatment allows the family to explore substance use behavior’s impact on the functioning of the family.

Some of the core principles of family systems in SUD treatment include:

  • The therapeutic value of family member involvement
    • SUD does not only impact the individual but their family as well
  • Fostering a non-blaming, collaborative approach
    • Allows everyone to have a voice in the process
    • Offers space for understanding and growth rather than judgment and shame
    • Everyone is committed to working together rather than against each other
  • Building harm reduction goals for long-term recovery
    • Introduces the family to positive coping skills for physical and psychological well-being
  • Expanding perceptions on what “successful” recovery looks like
    • Focuses on the wellness of the individual with SUD and the family
  • Acknowledging the value of relationships within the family and other social networks
    • Social connections act as a source of support and positive reinforcement
  • Placing value on the importance of adaptive family counseling methods
    • Incorporates family values, cultural beliefs, and practices into treatment
  • Recognizing the complexity of SUD and the importance of working with families to manage SUD
    • Looks at the impact of SUD on family functioning like any other chronic illness

Considering the core principles of family systems in family-based approaches to care offers insight into the value of collaborative work. Family-based approaches to care acknowledge that every family member is an integral part of the larger family system. Moreover, recognizing that you are all integral to the family can foster family unity as you better understand the interconnectedness of your relationships. Thus, the interventions available in family approaches to care can offer tools to foster family unity.

Ways to Foster Family Unity in Recovery

Notably in the Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, family interventions can help address multiple areas of concern surrounding SUD and the family. Family interventions can help address the impact of SUD on the family system, help family members support the individual with SUD, and help the family address the impact of SUD on themselves.

The value of family interventions to foster family unity is the reduction of the emotional burden of SUD. Addiction can put a significant amount of strain on the family and increase emotional distress. Prolonged emotional distress can make you feel overwhelmed, helpless, hopeless, and alone in your pain. Additionally, emotional distress can make it difficult to respond to stress in healthy ways. When you have access to family interventions in recovery, you can foster family unity as the family develops tools that enable them to cope more effectively with the stressors of SUD.

Listed below are some of the family interventions you can utilize to foster family unity:

  • Engage the family early in assessment and treatment
  • Increase the family’s understanding of SUD with education
    • Symptoms
    • Causes
    • Different therapeutic modalities
    • Recovery challenges
    • Relapse
  • Provide family treatment to address individual family member’s relationship with their loved one and SUD
    • Address family questions and concerns
    • Improve communication
  • Empower the family to lessen their emotional burden and improve their well-being
    • Learn new information
    • Develop new coping skills
    • Learn how to support a loved one without enabling them
  • Introduce family support programs
    • Learn about SUD and other’s experiences with family peer support
    • Encourage family members to work on and improve their own well-being
  • Provide support tools for children impacted by a parent or other loved one’s SUD
    • Encourage parents with SUD to talk to their children about SUD and the impact it has had on them and the family
    • Create an open dialogue to address children’s feelings, questions, and concerns
    • Provide age-appropriate information to help children learn about SUD, treatment, and recovery

Looking at family interventions showcases the value of recovery as a journey toward healing for the whole family. Further, the process by which you foster family unity is not in the distress SUD instills in you, but rather in opening yourselves up to connection. Thus, supporting your loved one’s recovery and building tools to foster family unity is found in your willingness to learn and grow together. Yet, every individual and every family is unique in what connection and recovery will look like.

Rebuilding Connections at the Guest House

As the CDC notes, social connection is a deeply personal thing in which every act of connection both small and large contributes to building deeply meaningful relationships. Moreover, social connection is not one-sided as everyone involved must contribute to building those meaningful connections with each other. Similarly, the collaborative nature of social connection further highlights the notion that you cannot force or foster family unity alone. To foster family unity, every part of the whole must work in collaboration to foster family unity together.

At The Guest House, we know recovery is not a linear process, but rather there are multiple stages to the recovery process. With multiple levels of care, we believe in meeting your loved one and your family where ever you are on your journey to recovery. Whether your family wants to help your loved one find support or you are trying to navigate family dynamics in recovery, multiple levels of care can address those needs.

Through a holistic approach to care, we provide a variety of tools for individualized treatment to heal the body with nutrition and exercise, the mind with therapy, and the spirit with community and self-discovery. When you have access to tools that support healing the whole person, it creates space to foster family unity for the whole family’s long-term recovery.

Having a loved one with a substance use disorder can put a strain on your family. Not only are you concerned for your loved one’s well-being, but their self-defeating behaviors can also negatively impact the well-being of the whole family. The impact of addiction can lead family members to enable substance use, increase conflict, and harm children’s physical and psychological well-being. However, your family can foster family unity and rebuild those intimate social connections. With family-based approaches to care, the whole family can increase their awareness of SUD and build healthier coping skills together. At The Guest House, we believe a holistic approach offers the tools and space to build those connections and community. Call us at (855) 483-7800 today.