What makes one individual abuse alcohol, drugs, sex, eating, gamble to the point of losing their health, their family and their self-respect? Addiction is a disorder whose power is difficult to comprehend, stripping away personal, social and physical assets.

“It’s impossible to understand addiction without asking what relief the addict finds, or hopes to find, in the drug or the addictive behaviour. Far more than a quest for pleasure, chronic substance use is the addict’s attempt to escape distress. From a medical point of view, addicts are self-medicating conditions like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, or even attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Addictions always originate in pain, whether felt openly or hidden in the unconscious. They are emotional anesthetics. The question is never “Why the addiction?” but “Why the pain?”. – Dr. Gabor Mate: In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.

On the other hand, living with addiction as a concerned significant other is like being on a roller coaster. You may feel angry, frustrated, helpless, confused, hopeless, desperate, guilty and ashamed. The stress of living in a constant state of chaos, constantly worrying about your loved ones in addiction eventually takes its toll. You may carry the belief that the person in addiction must be convinced or persuaded to do the right thing. You may be searching for the right questions to ask, the proper arguments, give the critical information, provoke the decisive emotions, or pursue the correct logic to the initiate change.

Family life is often structured around addiction. Young people report a wide range of difficulties, such anxiety, social stigma, violence and parental absence. Children are at risk of developing addiction, mental health problems, behavioural problems and relationship problems. Many feel isolated and unable to speak about their experiences to friends and family. It’s extremely difficult to estimate the extent of the ripple effect caused by addiction to the families and society.


Counselling and psychotherapy can help!1,2,3,4,5,6,7.



1: Copello, A. (2010). Alcohol and drug misuse: A family affair. Healthcare Counselling & Psychotherapy Journal. Vol. 10, Issue 4.

2: Copello, A., Templeton, L. & Powell, J. (2010). The impact of addiction on the family: Estimtes of prevalence and costs. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy. Vol. 17 (S1), 63-74.

3: Crnkovic, A.E. & DelCampo, R.L. (1998). A systems approach to the treatment of chemical addiction. Contemporary Family Therapy. Vol. 20, 25-36.

4: Hentsch-Cowles, G. & Brock, J. (2013). A systemic review of the Literature on the roles of the partner of the sex addict, treatment models, and a call for research for systems theory model in treating the partner. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity. Vol. 20, 323-335.

5: Orford, J., Copello, A., Velleman, R. & Templeton, L. (2010). Family members affected by a close relative’s addiction: The stress-strain-coping-support model. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy. Vol. 17(S1), 36-43.

6: Roozen, H.G., Waart, R. & Kroft, P. (2010). Community reinforcement and family training: An effective option to engage treatment-resistant substance-abusing individuals in treatment. Addiction. Vol. 105, 1729-1738.

7: Selbekk, A.S., Sagvaag, H. & Fauske, H. (2015). Addiction, families and treatment: A critical realist search for theories that can improve practice. Addiction, Research & Theory. Vol. 23(3), 196-204.