When Addiction Runs in the Family
The American poet Suzy Kaseem once said, “Family, like branches in a tree, we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.” While this is a beautifully positive quote, it can also be reframed in a much more devastating light. This interpretation can be gleaned if you have dealt with addiction in the family. Addiction is a family disease, not just in the immediate, but can be traced back generations.
People who struggle with substance abuse are often not the first in their families to do so. Addiction tends to run in family lines. However, if you are struggling with family addiction, you have a unique opportunity to be the first to heal it. This healing can also reverberate through your family now and moving forward.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, you have a choice to make. Are you going to continue the struggle and persist to play the victim, or are you going to face the struggle ahead and begin the process of recovery?
Addiction in the Family Is Not Unique
It is not uncommon to have a legacy of addiction in a family. In fact, there is a much higher chance of an individual developing addiction if it has already existed in the family.
According to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “1 in 8 children in the United States aged 17 or younger were residing in homes with at least one parent who had a past-year substance use disorder (SUD),” and “Although many children living in households with a substance-using parent will not experience abuse or neglect, they are at increased risk for child maltreatment and child welfare involvement compared with other children. In addition, these children are at an increased risk for engaging in substance use themselves.” If you feel alone in your familial experience of addiction, know that you are not.
While these statistics are very real and troubling, you do not have to be one of them. You have the chance to break the cycle of family addiction. There are many roads to recovery. One of which is utilizing a 12-Step program. These programs can help you better understand the struggles of addiction and offer a step-by-step process of how to recover.
Understanding Addiction as a Disease
There is a belief that is often discussed in 12-Step meetings that goes, “You are not a bad person that wants to inflict hurt, rather you are a sick person that needs to get well.” According to the American Medical Association and the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is now defined as a medically diagnosed disease, and like many diseases, many believe that addiction can be passed down from previous generations.
Yes, many well-respected professionals believe addiction exists genetically in families. However, it would be irresponsible of us to present this as an absolute. What we can say is that addiction runs in families more often than not, and if this is the situation you currently find yourself in, there is a solution.
The Healing Can Start With You
Many people struggling with active addiction can feel as though they are the victim. This is a natural action. Your SUD wants to keep you in the same toxic cycle because it wants to protect your addiction. You might feel like society has wronged you. You may feel like your work is keeping you down. You may tell yourself, “Hey, if other people had my life, you would drink or use too.” One of the most common places to find victimhood is in the family.
As previously mentioned, many children are raised in addictive households. This is tragic, but it is a statistical reality. However, this does not mean you need to follow in this family heartache. Alternatively, if you are currently struggling, you no longer have to continue the addiction lineage.
The only requirement for recovery is a desire to do something about it. This is how many 12-Step programs welcome people to their meetings. If you have this desire, then the next step is finding some willingness. With this willingness, you now have a small window to embrace a new way of life and begin to recover. There are many people out there that want to help you in this journey. In fact, it’s their primary purpose.
You Are Not Alone
If you are struggling, all you have to do is reach out your hand. There is a belief in many 12-Step programs that states, “I am responsible. When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of [recovery] always to be there.”
You are not alone. Whether struggling with addiction in the family or not, you are not alone. Let us take your hand. Let’s do this together.
There are many theories as to why addiction is so prevalent in families. These theories range from genetics to specific socio-environments to learned behaviors. Ultimately, these theories are interesting, even enlightening, but they will not solve the problem at hand. 12-Step programs often recommend living in the present. The phrase “one day at a time” comes to mind. Thus, there is no use in debating why addiction runs in the family, but rather in how to end that vicious cycle. You and your family no longer have to play victim to addiction. You are not alone. Family healing can begin with you, and we can help. For more information, contact Spero Recovery Center at (303) 351-7888.