Introduction Family Disease
1- Introduction Family Disease
This section describes the ways in which the disease of addiction can affect family members. The information aims to help you understand how your lives may have become unmanageable because of a loved one’s addiction. In addition, information is provided on the nature of the disease your loved one is suffering from, to help you better understand their condition.
The Family Disease section is divided into:
To find out whether a loved one’s addiction has impacted your lives, take this test. Answering yes to the majority of these questions indicates how the disease of addiction has affected your lives.
Addiction is a family disease that stresses the family to the breaking point, impacts the stability of the home, the family’s unity, mental health, physical health, finances, and overall family dynamics. Addiction can totally disrupt family life and cause harmful effects that can last a lifetime. This is why addiction is referred to as a family disease.
When there is an addict in the family, each member is affected in his or her own way. Devastated by the impact of addiction and its consequences on them, each changes and uses coping mechanisms in an attempt to preserve the integrity and safety of the family unit. Yet these coping mechanisms are often unhealthy and invariably adversely impact the health and well-being of each family member.
Families are organized around roles, rules, rituals, boundaries, and hierarchy. This organizational structure serves to promote the wellbeing of the family and the happiness of its members. But having an addict in the family distorts this structure and family members assume roles that naturally don’t belong to them. Instead of living authentic lives, members abandon their identity and needs and become get enmeshed in the life of their addicted loved one.
Children of addicted parents are four times more likely to become addicts. Although there is evidence that suggests there is a genetic predisposition to addiction, however, even putting genetics aside, the emotional, psychological and behavioral patterns that addicted parents pass down to their children, puts them at a much higher risk to becoming addicts themselves. In this way, addiction becomes a family illness that is passed down from one generation to another.
Family members daily live in worry of what will happen to them or their addicted loved one. When the phone rings late at night, they brace for bad news. When there is a knock on the door, they fear for the worse. There seems always to be trouble in one form or another. Here are some of the worries commonly experienced by family members and how it can adversely impact their lives.
Being able to recognize the disease of addiction in a person can be difficult. Most family members are unfamiliar with its tell-tale signs. On top of that, it is easier to deny a loved one has become addicted, so potential clues are dismissed or disregarded. But getting yourselves familiar with the signs and symptoms of drug use enables you to recognize whether your loved one has become addicted. This in turn will put you in a position to better cope with and help them.
There is a saying “How do you know when an addict is lying? Their lips are moving”. By the time your loved one has become addicted, unfortunately this quote is not too far from truth. But by understanding the nature of the disease your loved one is suffering from you can emotionally distance yourself from their dishonesty, to not fall victim to the effects of addiction on your lives.
Seeing a loved one ruin his life with drugs, family members are desperate to get him to stop. Over time the family tries everything under the sun – but to no avail. Though it may seem intolerable, the simple truth is there is not much you can do to stop an addict from using drugs until they are ready and willing to stop.
An addict is very unlikely to discuss his drug problem with the family. Fear, shame and or denial are bound to make him keep his addiction a secret. But if he could face the truth about his condition, this is the kind of letter he would write to you.
- Though Family Members section refers exclusively to addiction as it relates to substances, the information and suggestions provided can be useful for behavioral addictions.
- The information provided here are not rules on how to help yourself or your addicted loved one, as this is something each family needs to decide for themselves. These are merely suggestions based on the principles of Family Fellowships that have proved effective for some of us living in recovery.
- Having learned why addiction is a disease that affects the whole family, you can refer to the Family Recovery section to find out how you can recover from the affects of addiction on your lives: Family Recovery