Much has been written about the emotional difficulties of those suffering from addiction. There’s also some information on the effect addiction can have on romantic relationships, friendships, and parent-child relationships. However, the siblings of those struggling with substance abuse are another highly-affected group that isn’t talked about much. Being an addict’s brother or sister comes with its own set of unique challenges and it can be difficult to manage the family dynamics. Here we’ve collected some advice that can be helpful to siblings.
How Addiction Affects Siblings
Our relationships with our brothers and sisters are some of the longest in our lives. As we’ve experienced so many of our formative years with our loved ones, the connection we have with them can often be multi-layered and complex. We all have different levels of closeness and trust with our siblings and the struggles of addiction in the family can add an additional level of challenge in maintaining a healthy relationship.
For instance, many people have experienced being stolen from, lied to, or abused by their sibling who has issues with substance abuse. In other cases, older siblings may feel a sense of responsibility in taking care of the troubled younger ones and become too enmeshed. Those who’ve had a strained relationship with their siblings may feel a misplaced sense of guilt about their sibling’s addiction and blame themselves for their brother or sister’s issues. In the worst-case scenario, they may become influenced by their sibling’s behavior and also go down the path of addiction in the future. In all cases, issues with addiction can be incredibly stressful and it can leave a major psychological impact on every member of the family. While attention may naturally flow to the sibling who’s actually experiencing issues with addiction, it’s important not to neglect the needs of the siblings.
How to Deal with a Sibling Who Struggles with Substance Abuse
It may be challenging to manage your behavior as the brother or sister of an addict. You may feel lost, confused, and unsure about what’s the best way to behave. What’s most important is that you take care of your own emotional needs. Resist the urge to prioritize your struggling sibling above yourself, as your mental health is equally as important. Don’t isolate yourself or become too heavily involved in your brother or sister’s problems. Focus on your own wellbeing and pursue your personal goals. Establish strong boundaries and don’t help them out more than you’re comfortable with. For instance, you may refuse to lie on their behalf or lend them money. Finally, accept that they’re in control of their own lives and you can’t force them to change — so focus your energy on yourself instead.
Are you ready to get help for yourself or for your loved one? Please don’t hesitate to contact us at Hickory Treatment Centers — we’ll be happy to discuss your options or help you schedule an appointment.