The effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on families is profound. Because of physical distancing precautions, families have been cooped up for extended periods. Feelings of isolation only added more stress to an already challenging time. Even with family members close at hand, the strain of the COVID-19 crisis has taken a toll.
When one of the family members happens to struggle with a substance use disorder, stress levels in the home are further increased. In some cases, the family member began their substance use in response to the pandemic-related feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, or outright fear—which the CDC reports was the case with 13% of Americans. For others, the family member had an SUD prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, and the stress has only worsened it. In both scenarios, the pandemic has had an adverse effect on families in which a family member has an SUD.
Effects of COVID-19 on Families
Never before have families had to cope with such unusual circumstances as they are with the COVID-19 pandemic. Sequestering people in their homes, preventing children from going to school, and financial repercussions due to sweeping job losses has pushed people to their limits. Making the situation even more difficult is the inability for anyone to predict just how long this will persist.
Families are struggling. Children miss seeing their friends at school, and many are falling behind academically. Teens are missing out on social events, participating in sports, and celebrating academic milestones. Parents are stretched thin trying to keep it all together in an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty.
SUD in Families
When picturing this typical example of how families are impacted during the pandemic, imagine how the strain caused by a family member’s SUD adds to the angst. It is likely that during lockdown periods, this family member increased their consumption of the substance. This may have caused increased financial stress due to funding the higher substance demands. Increased substance use also increases the risk for overdose and suicidal ideation.
For the family members, seeing their loved one struggle with an SUD can be devastating. It causes them to feel helpless. They must witness the impact of the substance use on their loved one while feeling powerless to help them. One person’s SUD will have a profound effect on the entire family. The damage is not limited to the family member with the SUD.
Support Resources for Families
When a family member struggles with an SUD, the family as a whole will need help. No one can get through such trying times without some sources of support. Family members can access communities that are designed with them in mind. These groups provide a caring and nonjudgmental place for offering mutual support:
- Adult Children of Alcoholics
- Codependents Anonymous
Families may also consider family-focused group therapy through a mental health provider. Family therapy can provide guidance for how to set healthy boundaries, how to avoid enabling behaviors or codependency. Family group is a safe space for sharing feelings about how the loved one’s SUD affects them, and to learn new coping skills as well.
Sometimes a family will reach out to an intervention specialist about their loved one’s SUD. The interventionist can provide the guidance needed for staging an intervention with the loved one. An intervention is simply a planned meeting with the loved one where the family can communicate through written letters how their SUD is negatively impacting their lives. Once their feelings have been shared with the loved one, the family will ask him or her to agree to get treatment.
An intervention isn’t always successful at achieving this goal, but it can plant the seeds that will eventually result in the family member agreeing to get help. The family can research treatment options and look into insurance plan coverage, so arrangements are prepared for when the loved one is ready to seek treatment.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs, holistic addiction treatment, drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to heal each individual with respect and dignity, and reflects on our ongoing commitment to meet new challenges. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.