September 27, 2018

Addiction is a Family Disorder

Remember that Everlast song, “What It’s Like?”  (Yes, I grew up in 90’s.)  There is a line:

You know where it ends, yo, it usually depends on where you start

That line always reminds me that life can take us in so many directions. We can live to spite our life's circumstances or we can fall victim to them.  But no matter what the circumstances of your life, if addiction is present your entire family feels the illness.

One person, one diagnosis?

In my last post, I compared addiction to cancer and I stand by that though I know it upsets people to hear that.  Typically, when I get push back it’s because people feel as though addiction is a choice on some level.  If the addict would 'just stop' than they won't be sick anymore.  My response to that is the disease of addiction, just like cancer, is not a choice but whether or not to seek treatment is a choice.  I could spend some time here getting into the neural processes involved in addiction but that’s not what where here for today.

When I worked in an inpatient rehab setting, I often heard from my clients that their addiction was their problem, not their family’s.  That is just the delusion of the addiction. The truth is that it always impacts the family, even if they are dysfunctional.


It impacts the parents of an addict because they have to watch their child self-sabotage, self-harm and potentially kill themselves, over and over again.  For most parents, when their child is born they dream of a life full of more opportunities than they were given and to watch your child give those up can be very painful.  Not to mention that parents have figure how to love their addict child without enabling the bad behavior, a nearly impossible endeavor.


For some, their sibling could have been their only ally growing up. The only person who gets what it is like to have grown up the way you did, the only living testament from what/where you both came from.  Watching them struggle to survive can increase feelings of loneliness and disconnection.  Siblings are often totally helpless because they typically have neither the resources nor authority to really help their floundering brother/sister.


Even if your kids are blissfully unaware that their parent(s) are addicts, the addicted parent is an unpredictable parent.  To me, the most dangerous parents are the ones whose behaviors cannot be predicted and that is exactly what the addicted parent is, unpredictable.  When kids cannot predict the outcome of their behaviors, their foundation for life is built on an unstable foundation that will reverberate throughout their lives.

Even if your addiction was not born from a crapy childhood, the people around you will suffer, even if you don’t think they know.  If you aren’t ready to address your addiction with your family, fine.  But the belief that it doesn’t impact them is the disease talking.  Any complete recovery program will include your family to some degree and there is a reason for that.

"No man is an island unto himself." - Donne

We all need support, to deny that is to deny how all humans are built.  While each person's need may look different, we all need someone.  For some of us, our family is not a good resource.  Even if your family is not a good source of love, nurturing and support they are impacted by the disease.

As always, I’m here.  If you are ready to live your best life, call me and let’s get started!

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