Drinking, Drugs, and Families

Article | March 2018

Drinking, Drugs, and Families

When one member of a family has a drug or drinking problem, everyone is affected. And everyone can help make the situation better - or worse.

It’s everyone’s problem

If someone you love has a problem with drugs or alcohol, it's your problem, too. The way they act affects how you feel, and may affect how you behave. Maybe you've felt suspicious about unexplained financial problems. Or maybe you've been angry and disappointed over spoiled or cancelled plans. You might have covered for a missed appointment, broken promise, or absence from school or work.

Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse might be a factor. You probably wish your loved one would change. The whole family may be at risk if the problem continues. But, believe it or not, a better family life may start with changing yourself.

Harmful "help"

Families often make it easier for the abuser without meaning to. This is called enabling. It’s often done out of love and good intentions. But it only harms the abuser and the rest of the family. An enabler may:

  • Deny that there’s a problem, or dismiss the problem as a small one
  • Take over the abuser’s responsibilities
  • Rescue the abuser from the consequences of his or her drug use
  • Reinforce drug use by being present in situations where it's used

All these behaviors let the abuser keep using alcohol or other drugs. This harms the abuser, and it hurts the enablers, too.

What to do?

If someone in your family has a drug or alcohol problem, try these steps:

  • Learn more about the drug your loved one is using. And learn about substance use disorder patterns. Chemical dependency is not caused by lack of willpower or weak morals. It’s a treatable disease.
  • Get help for yourself from a health professional who specializes in chemical dependency issues.
  • Join a self-help group for families of people with substance use disorders, such as Al-Anon.
  • Stop rescuing the abuser from the effects of his or her actions.
  • Work with a health professional to plan an intervention. Get your loved one into treatment. And work on building healthier family habits for the future.
  • Take good care of yourself, and expect a tough road ahead.

Becoming a drug-free family takes time, hard work, and patience. But a healthy family is worth the effort and heartache.

Cigna Can Help

If you have coverage through Cigna, we are available by phone at 1 (877) 622-4327 any time to help you understand what services are available to support you during this time.

Drinking, Drugs, and Families

This material is provided by Cigna for informational/educational purposes only. It is not medical/clinical advice. Only a health care provider can make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment plan. For more information about your behavioral health benefits, you can call the member services or behavioral health telephone number listed on your health care ID card.