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Families and Addiction: Is There a Correlation?

Family members work together to heal from addiction.
Most people don’t get addicted to drugs or alcohol because they have nothing better to do with their lives. There is almost always a driving force that causes them to turn to substance abuse to cope with personal issues.

Sometimes, drug users are simply trying to mask mental health issues. In other cases, it is a matter of the drug user looking for ways to cope with everyday life against what seems to be insurmountable odds. We submit to you that family issues will often play a role in someone turning to drugs and alcohol.

How Family Interactions Can Lead to Addiction

For the most part, we all count on our family and friends to provide us with a safe environment to navigate everyday life. When things are good within the family unit, our families are a great source of support and care through tough times. Unfortunately, family members can also become a primary source of strife and stress in our lives.

To be clear, every family has its own way of dealing with each other. There are usually two or three family members that dominate the family unit, while the rest of the family members tend to be followers. Therein lies the potential problem.

More often than any of us would like to admit, we fall out of grace with our dominant family members when they start giving off negative vibes. They might be trying to drive or manipulate us to do as they dictate. Sometimes, they choose to pour their unhappiness into our laps and the laps of other family members, which almost always leads to family issues.

As we indicated above, it’s the submissive family members that usually end up turning to drugs or alcohol. They are the ones who feel overwhelmed by their more aggressive family members, seeing drugs or alcohol as the best way to cope with ongoing family issues.

To directly address the titled question, yes, there often is a correlation between families and addiction. However, the correlation can be negative, or it can be positive.

The Role Families Can Play in Recovery

When family members become part of the addiction problem, the entire family unit tends to suffer. Of course, it starts with the addiction sufferer who is left to struggle within the cycle of addiction. In time, their addictive behavior will start to permeate the family unit.

When addiction strikes, family members could be subject to:

  • Being victimized by their loved ones addictive behavior (stolen money, involvement in a DUI accident)
  • Becoming upset, causing isolation among family members and the addiction sufferer
  • Becoming codependent and supportive of the addictive behavior

No matter how badly the family gets fragmented due to an addiction issue within the family unit, there is always a way for the family to come back together. It is called communication. The best source for getting family members to communicate again is almost always family therapy, which we heavily promote.

When an addiction sufferer enters our rehab, they spend a good deal of their time working with a therapist as an individual. When family issues seem to be playing a role in the addiction sufferers addiction, the addiction sufferers therapist will usually suggest family therapy.

As part of family therapy, key family members are invited to come into our rehab facility for open and honest discussions. It is incumbent on the therapist in charge to watch the family interact. They would typically rely on their experiences to identify the potential sources of addiction sufferers’ family problems.

Ultimately, the therapist wants to help family members do three things.

  1. Mend Fences: Family therapy is a good environment for family members to get thoughts and feelings out on the table. When communication among family members starts to improve, healing can start.
  2. Learn the Truth About Their Loved One’s Addiction: Family members aren’t always aware of the extent or the reasons behind their loved one’s substance abuse issues. After learning about what drives the abuse, family members will often use that understanding to the basis for forgiveness and empathy.
  3. Learn How to Support Their Loved One in Recovery: After rehab, clients will need all the support they can get as they navigate recovery. If a lot of that support can come from family members, both the addiction sufferer and their family members would stand to reap great benefits in terms of bringing the family closer together.
If you come to us for treatment, we can assure you we will be looking at how your family might be playing a role in your addiction. If warranted, we might suggest family therapy as a way to get the family back on track. We often take this position because we know how important family is in all of our lives.

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