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Siblings and Addiction

One of the most unfortunate things about the subject of addiction is that it affects much more than just the person who has the addiction.  The effects and impact of the addiction spread outward to the family members and other loved ones of the individual.  It is a sort of ripple effect and it can spread through both immediate and extended family.  The emotional and physical pain of the addict begins to affect everyone surrounding them.

One of the family members that tends to suffer greatly, in particular, are siblings.  Siblings can, unfortunately, be almost guaranteed to end up in the metaphorical crossfire of their brother or sister’s addiction.  When there is an addict struggling in the family, it can be an extremely turbulent time and siblings get caught up in it easily.  A newsletter from Family Drug Help states,  “We often refer to siblings as the ‘forgotten victims’ as they feel the impact of their brother or sister’s drug use just as much as other family members but often don’t have an outlet to express their hurt. Similarly, siblings of drug users are usually overshadowed by the using sibling. The focus rests solely on the problematic child and the remaining kids are often left wondering “what about me?””

The bond of siblings can be an extremely important and influencing one.  One addict child can influence their sibling in several different ways.  One of such is that sometimes, particularly if the sibling is younger, they can almost look up to the behavior of their older brother or sister.  According to an article from Lauren Goodman, M.S., MFT, “Another way I have seen younger siblings affected by drug and alcohol use in older siblings is to idolize the older sibling.  Sometimes the younger one thinks the attitude and behaviors of the older sibling are kind of cool.  They are introduced to marijuana or alcohol by their older sibling.  This is one of the only times their older sibling has paid any attention to them, and it feels really good.  So, they end up going down a similar path.”

A common problem that arises with siblings of addicts is that their needs tend to be cast aside by their parents.  This is never necessarily intentional, but the parents tend to focus on taking care of the needs of the addict child to ensure that they get the help they need and overcome the addiction.  But during this time, their other child(ren) can tend to be less of a priority.

The Importance of Making Time for the Siblings of Addicts

Parents who are in the midst of trying to take care of their struggling child must also remember that it is important in this time to focus on their other child or children as well.  This could include spacing off a particular set time to focus purely on them, and find out their feelings or thoughts about the situation, or even educate them about addiction.  While it can be difficult to make this time, it is more important than ever.  There are also counselors and family support groups out there that could be very beneficial for siblings to attend.  Such groups include Al-anon, Nar-Anon, or Ala-Teen.  These types of groups are all for family members of addicts that are struggling as part of the situation.  These can be very beneficial to help families get through the situation.

This situation can be compounded if the sibling is in a critical period of development in which they need parental guidance and advice.  A child needs their parent there to help them in their formative years, and the neglect of their needs can make this very difficult for them.  Not only are they upset about seeing the condition that their brother or sister is in, but they are also trudging through their own life difficulties.

When You or Your Loved One Are Seeking Help with An Addiction

When it comes to seeking treatment for addiction, the old saying of “the sooner the better” is absolutely applicable.  The reality is that addiction is an extremely progressive condition and can end up in a worse state very quickly.  Though, when seeking treatment for addiction, finding the right fit in a treatment center is critical to having the best chance at success.  Since every individual is different in their addiction, it is important to treat their particular difficulties and needs.  Finding these types of centers that individualize treatment can be difficult sometimes being that there are so many cookie cutter programs out there, but we can assist with that.  Give us a call today and we can help you to find the perfect fit in a treatment center.

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