Siblings of Addicts

There’s no doubt about it; siblings are often the first friends people have. They are the first peers a child has and it’s often difficult for these individuals to imagine living without their sisters and brothers. But, sadly, separations and obstacles occur in the lives of siblings who are impacted by substance abuse. The siblings of addicts typically suffer from emotional pain and heartache that often creates an unavoidable distance between them and their loved ones.

Those who are trying to understand how to deal with an alcoholic brother or sister may struggle to do so without the necessary resources. Individuals who are working to figure out how to deal with a drug addict sister or brother should have access to helpful resources. We work to provide the help people need here at North Jersey Recovery Center.

About Addiction: What Is It and Who Does It Affect?

Addiction is a disease that can impact anyone from any walk of life. Substance use disorders in particular have been known to affect individuals of varying ages, races, and genders. Many young adults and older adults suffer from alcoholism. Countless teenagers, men, and women find themselves dealing with drug abuse and addiction. Unfortunately, this continues to wreak havoc on millions of families every year.

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When a person suffers from a substance use disorder (SUD), it means that his or her body depends on a substance. For example, an individual who has a cocaine use problem often feels “off” or abnormal when not using cocaine. This is due to withdrawal, which sets in minutes or even hours after a previous dose of alcohol or drugs. The type of withdrawal symptoms a person experiences varies based on the kind of substance the individual uses. But, regardless of what a person uses, the discomfort that comes from withdrawal is inevitable.

Sadly, withdrawal is often the driving force behind the continuous use of drugs or alcohol. As the symptoms begin to set in, individuals who suffer from addiction tend to look for ways to avoid withdrawal symptoms. In most cases, the answer is “more” — more alcohol, more drugs. Which inevitably leads to a vicious cycle of addiction.

The Impact of Addiction on Individuals and Families

Truthfully, the effects of addiction are life-altering and even life-threatening for those suffering from it. Individuals with alcoholism or drug addictions can find themselves dealing with very serious physical and mental health issues. It is no secret that addiction negatively changes the minds, bodies, and lives of those who struggle with it.

It is important to note, however, that the individuals who have addictions are not the only ones who suffer. Their family members and friends also feel the impact of this terrible disease. Often, the people closest to addicts are the ones who experience the most emotional pain. This includes the parents, children, and siblings of addicts.

The brothers and sisters of struggling individuals encounter severe problems as a result of their siblings’ addictions. In most cases, a person’s siblings are the first people to truly know them. They are the first individuals to play with them and learn about them. They grow together and learn together. Even when time, distance, responsibilities, and overall life separate brothers and sisters, the blood bond can never be broken. This can make it even harder for the siblings of addicts to work through the truth of their family members’ struggles.

How Addiction Impacts the Siblings of Addicts

The sad truth is that countless individuals all over the world are wondering how to deal with an alcoholic brother or sister. People all throughout the globe are desperately attempting to figure out how to deal with a drug addict sister or brother. Some of the ways in which addiction affects the siblings of addicts include the following:

It Can Cause Guilt, Shame, Depression, and More

Many times, the siblings of addicts experience guilt or shame due to their siblings’ struggle with addiction. This can happen for any number of reasons. Some individuals might feel as though there was something they could have done to stop the addiction from developing. Perhaps they feel that they should have noticed the signs of impending substance use disorders. 

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On the other hand, some siblings of addicts may believe that they did something to cause the addiction to develop. They may think that a certain action or behavior on their part actually lead to the occurrence of substance abuse in their loved one’s life.

Shame may also occur as a result of a family member’s addiction. Siblings of addicts often face the challenges that come with the stigma of addiction. Other family members or friends may look down on the struggling individuals and his or her parents, siblings, spouses, and children. This can be emotionally taxing on the siblings of addicts. It can also cause them to feel ashamed, even though they are not to blame for the situation.

Sometimes, people may even begin to suffer from anxiety or depression due to the addiction of another. Mental health disorders may develop or intensify in the lives of the siblings of addicts. This can certainly be problematic and lead to the need for professional mental health treatment.

It Strains Sibling-Sibling Relationships

More often than not, siblings who are not suffering from addiction may find themselves drifting away from their brothers or sisters who are. This is not always intentional and is rarely meant to be hurtful to those dealing with substance abuse. However, family members often do not know what they can do to help their struggling loved ones. Or, they are simply distancing themselves to avoid enabling the individual’s addiction. 

This is far from easy and it typically takes a toll on the siblings of addicts. After all, it can be difficult to distance oneself from a person they’ve known and loved for so long. Sadly, the strain addiction causes sibling-to-sibling relationships can be irreversible in some instances. However, this is not always the case. Some siblings are able to reconcile after addiction recovery takes place.

It Strains Parent-Sibling Relationships

The siblings of addicts may notice that their parents are paying more and more attention to their suffering child. This can be very hurtful for individuals who are not struggling with addiction. It can cause resentment and tension in the family.

Siblings may resent their struggling brother or sister for having developed a substance use disorder. They may also resent their parents for one reason or another. Perhaps the parent is enabling the addicted child, which could make their other children understandably upset. In other instances, parents may be doing all they can to help their addicted son or daughter. However, this might take most of their time and attention, leaving very little for their other kids.

Whether siblings of addicts are children or adults, it can be hard for them to connect with their parents who are so heavily engaged in the life of their struggling child.

Enabling May Occur

The siblings of those who suffer from substance abuse may begin to unintentionally enable their siblings’ addictions. They may pay their struggling brother’s bills. They may also provide their struggling sister with money for food, which might be used to buy more drugs or alcohol. 

Enabling can also come in the form of lying or “covering for” the individual who is using alcohol or drugs. This can include making excuses for a sibling’s lack of attendance at family events. It might involve lying to cover up a sibling’s substance-induced incapacity. 

Sometimes, adult siblings of addicts may take on the financial or family-related responsibilities of their struggling brothers and sisters. For instance, they may care for the children of their addicted siblings. These individuals may also provide excessive financial support for their siblings. These actions, as helpful as they may seem, might enable addicted individuals to continue abusing drugs and alcohol.

It May Lead Siblings Down the Same Path

In some cases, the unfortunate truth is that siblings of addicts may begin to struggle with addiction themselves. They may turn to alcohol or drugs in an attempt to ease the emotional and mental heartache they feel. This, of course, can only worsen the situation. But, often, the siblings of addicts are simply unsure where to turn or how to help. It may seem as though this is the only solace or escape they can find.

How Siblings of Addicts Can Help

Thankfully, all hope is not lost. Those who suffer from addiction can get the help they need to recover from substance abuse. Their family members can find support and get guidance regarding how to help and heal throughout the recovery process.

One thing siblings of addicts can do to help is to stage an intervention. This process allows families to sit down with struggling individuals and convince them of the importance of getting professional treatment for addiction. Siblings may be able to help get their brothers or sisters the assistance they need. 

Another thing siblings can do is end enabling behaviors. It is not always easy; it’s far from that. However, by bringing an end to enabling behavioral patterns, the siblings of addicts can help their sisters or brothers to see the seriousness of their conditions.

Let North Jersey Recovery Center Help Your Sibling Today!

If you have been trying to figure out how to deal with an alcoholic brother or how to deal with a drug addict sister, allow us to help you. Here at North Jersey Recovery Center, we work to offer support and guidance to those who need our help. Our team strives to offer addiction treatment, making excellence and professionalism the main factors of our approach. 

Siblings of addicts can find healing and hope through family therapy and support. So, if you are struggling with a loved one’s situation, please know that you don’t have to do it alone. We are here to help you through this journey. Allow North Jersey Recovery Center to assist you and your family today.

Now is the time to make a change in your family. Today is the day to help your sibling to take a step in the right direction. To learn more about our services, programs, and how we can help, please contact us. We look forward to hearing from you and helping to guide you and your family to brighter days!

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by njrc