Among the most important things to understand about addiction is that the person with the addiction isn’t the only one who needs help. The behavior of a substance abuser often mimics a variety of psychiatric disorders, ranging from manic depression to psychosis. The unpredictable nature of these behaviors puts a huge amount of stress on family members.
In fact, after years of living with someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol – someone with a serious brain injury – the daily stress can cause dramatic changes in the brain chemistry of each member of the family, leading to a host of conditions, including depression, anxiety, insomnia, and even their own substance abuse. These family members will also have developed many unhealthy coping skills, which all must be unlearned if they are to begin healing and return to a normal life. Compounding the situation are the common beliefs that the one with the addiction is the sole problem, and that their treatment will cure them quickly, making everything better. In addition, the changes outlined above build up so slowly – over years as the addiction develops – the family doesn’t even realize anything has changed.