Addiction is considered a family disease for a number of reasons. When we are struggling with addiction, everyone in our family and close circle is affected. We are deeply connected to the people we are close with. Many of us empathically feel each other’s pain. Our struggles with addiction and mental illness are some of the most impactful experiences in our lives, and our family members witness our struggles firsthand. They live our struggles with us, alongside us. 

The Direct Impact of Addiction on Families

Much of the time, our family members are not only witnessing our challenges but being impacted by them personally. We might have lost our temper with a loved one when we were drinking. Maybe we’ve been borrowing money from a family member in order to afford our drug of choice. Perhaps our families have inherited our legal problems. Our behaviors and moods might be inconsistent, and people may find us hard to rely on. We might become different people altogether when we’re under the influence. 

Addiction Within Families

Very often, we’re not the only ones in our family with an addiction. Multiple family members might be struggling with an addiction or an addictive behavior or pattern. We might demonstrate many of the same behaviors common with addiction, for example, concealing the things we’ve done, doing things we’re ashamed of in secret, or lying about how much we’ve used. Each of our drugs of choice might differ, but our family patterns of addiction are often the same. There are often multiple generations of a family struggling with the same or similar addiction.

Genetic Component of Addiction Being a Family Disease

Just like other mental illnesses, addiction can have a genetic component. Some of us were predisposed to addiction and showed signs of developing it from an early age. Many of us feel certain that we inherited the same addiction our parents had. You’ll often hear various members of the same family telling very similar stories of the traumas they experienced and the self-destructive patterns they fell into as a result. We’re inheriting the genetic information, emotional memory, and stored physical energy of our entire families. 

Stories of Addiction Being a Family Disease

In recovery, many of us will find ourselves piecing together the different anecdotes we’ve heard, stories we’ve been told, and pieces of information about our family members, hoping to make sense of our experiences. Of the countless things we learn in our struggles with addiction, the things we learn about our families and, therefore, about ourselves are often particularly poignant and meaningful to us. The more we make sense of these stories and make peace with them, the more at peace we are with ourselves. We come to terms with our families and our addictions, and that peace helps fuel our recovery.

Addiction and Family Patterns of Behavior

Because addiction is a family disease and so deeply enmeshed in the fabric of a family, there are various behavioral patterns that multiple family members will often exhibit at the same time. Many of these patterns can perpetuate and contribute to our addictive patterns. Sometimes, our family members are enabling our addictive behaviors without realizing it. We’ve become codependent in ways that reinforce our addictions. For example, a loved one might lie to other people about our drug use, thinking they’re protecting us. 

Enabling Behaviors in Families with Addiction

In reality, these behaviors can enable our addictions by keeping us from taking responsibility, both for our actions and for our addictions as a whole. When our loved ones are not being honest with themselves about the extent of our addictions, we might not have anyone in our lives actually holding us accountable. Often, we haven’t gotten to the point yet where we’re ready to take responsibility for our mistakes and wrongdoings. We might still be looking to our families to hold us accountable, to force us to be honest with ourselves. Sometimes, thinking they’re helping us, our families are actually enabling us, and our addictions continue to run rampant, unchallenged. 

Healing a Family Disease Together

Just as families struggle with addiction, so too can they recover together. Each family member can address their own addiction individually, and as a unit, the family can come together to heal the connections between them. We can shed the addictive, codependent, enabling behavioral patterns we’ve developed. Honesty, responsibility, personal conviction – all the values we learn and strengthen in recovery, we can apply to every area of our lives. 

As we do the work, we learn how to better support our loved ones in recovery. We can attend family sessions, such as the ones that are a main focus at Athens Area Commencement Center. Learning more about addiction and seeking support for ourselves can help us and our families work toward a successful and lasting recovery. 

Family Impact on Recovery

We have a considerable impact on our loved ones. This impact is felt when we’re still actively struggling with addiction and later when we’re doing the work to recover. Similarly, our loved ones impact us in deep ways. We can come together to unlearn toxic patterns. Over time, we can create loving and strong family dynamics. Rather than isolating and ostracizing the individual(s) struggling with addiction, we can learn to see addiction as a family disease. 

At Athens Area Commencement Center, we help clients begin to do the family healing work needed to recover. Addiction affects all of us mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. It is not a moral failing. Your loved one is not doing the things they’re doing because they don’t love you. They are a wounded person in pain, in need of help. At AACC, we offer family sessions, support, and education to help you and your family navigate the recovery process. As we do the work to recover from addiction, we also learn how to be better loved ones to one another.

Recovering from addiction becomes so much easier when we have the support of our loved ones to encourage and uplift us. At Athens Area Commencement Center, we support those struggling with addiction as well as their families. Addiction is a family disease, and together with our families, we can heal from addiction as a family unit. Reach out to us at (706) 546-7355 for more information on our treatment programs. We prioritize family sessions and family healing work as an important part of the recovery process. Our families impact us in very important ways, and they have an incredible opportunity to support us in our recovery as we all do the work to heal together.

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