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Why is Addiction Called a Family Disease?

why is addiction called a family disease

Why is Addiction Called a Family Disease? Family Roles in Addiction & Treatment for Substance Abuse

20 Addiction is a Family Disease Quotes

Addiction is a Family Disease

Why is Addiction Called a Family Disease? American society has long held a vision of what the “perfect” family should look like — a happily married couple with 2.5 children, a dog, and the classic white picket fence wrapped around their beautiful home in the suburbs. Most American families do not look that way today, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t successful, loving, raising well-mannered children, or taking care of their homes. Instead, what it means is that Americans are moving away from what the utopian family looks like and are striving to be uniquely and unapologetically themselves.

No longer are most families operating under the guise of shame when something negative occurs within their lives and no longer are families trying to portray a picture of perfection. While progressive in comparison to past decades, American families today are still facing serious, stressful situations that often occur behind closed doors, such as addiction.

why is addiction called a family disease
When a family member becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol, they can struggle with several firsthand challenges. One of those challenges is seeing just how deeply the rest of their family is impacted by their disease.

When a family member becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol, they can struggle with several firsthand challenges. One of those challenges is seeing just how deeply the rest of their family is impacted by their disease. In keeping with the dangerous cycle of addiction, their use is likely to continue despite witnessing the consequences it places upon their loved ones. And while they might desperately want to stop, being able to do so can feel impossible. 

So, as the addiction rages on, both the addict and their family continue to experience the effects of untreated addiction in their lives. That is because addiction is a family disease.

Addiction Tears Families Apart

Why is Addiction Called a Family Disease? The effects of addiction on the family hardly ever go unnoticed. Every single person within the family unit is impacted. So, if you ever wondered “Why is addiction a family disease?”, some of the most helpful answers to that question reside in the lasting effects it leaves on the family unit as a whole, including:

  • Broken trust
  • Communication issues
  • Financial problems
  • Childhood trauma
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Shame and guilt
  • Lost relationships 
  • Being estranged from one another

Unfortunately, most all family members of someone who is an addict or alcoholic are going to develop their own mental and physical issues related to this disease. For example, it is extremely common for immediate family members of an addict/alcoholic to develop symptoms of anxiety in response to the fear and lack of control they have in their loved one’s life. Or, a family member may suffer physical health problems stemming from a lack of exercise or a healthy diet due to being exhausted by their loved one’s addiction.

The mental and physical toll addiction can take on the family can easily alter their way of functioning, their moral fabric, and their trust in one another. Continuing to allow active addiction to create such disarray will only make the situation grow worse. Thankfully, there is help out there for both the addict/alcoholic and their families so that healing the entire family unit can become a possibility. 

Why is Addiction Called a Family Disease?Family Roles in Addiction

Why is Addiction Called a Family Disease? To put it simply, addiction is a family disease because it affects everyone in the family unit. There is no hiding from addiction when it is occurring within the family, nor is there any viable way to try and ignore it. Addiction changes the equilibrium of the entire family and usually for the worse. 

The impacts that addiction has on a family can depend on several factors. It is typical to see the families of individuals with the most severe of substance use disorders struggling the most, while families of those with a mild addiction may not experience as many hardships. Other factors that influence how much addiction permeates through the family include the following:

why is addiction called a family disease
There is no hiding from addiction when it is occurring within the family, nor is there any viable way to try and ignore it.
  • The presence of mental illness in some or all of the family unit
  • What (if any) type of substance abuse is occurring among family members
  • The history between the addict and their family members
  • Mental illness in the untreated addict
  • Unaddressed psychological or emotional issues within the family members 
  • Finances and how they are related to the family member’s addiction
  • History of violence in the household

Even when addiction hits the most “perfect” families, it does not hold back. Addiction can quickly become a great equalizer between different classes, races, and genders. When addiction is rampant in a family, members often find themselves taking on the following roles:

The enabler

The family member who behaves in ways that fuel their loved one’s addiction (intentionally or unintentionally) is the enabler. The enabler may do things such as continually giving the addict money despite knowing that it will go towards paying for drugs. They may make excuses for the addict, allow the addict to treat them poorly, or even go as far as taking them to obtain drugs in an attempt to keep them safe. If the enabler continues their behavior, they are actively aiding in the continuation of the addict. In turn, the pain their family is experiencing will increase.

The Savior

The savior is the family member who attempts to do everything perfectly and achieve the greatest accomplishments. When it comes to addiction, the hero tries to distract the family’s focus from the addict and on them and their success. The savior is often the oldest sibling in the family. They feel a sense of responsibility to keep everything together. This behavior can continue even if it means exhaustively attempting to maintain a false family image.

The scapegoat

The family member who is blamed for everything is known as the scapegoat. When something goes wrong, the rest of the family becomes quick to blame this individual. The scapegoat often goes on to battle with anger, rejection, and resentment. This can lead to poor, dangerous behavior later on in life.

The mascot

The mascot of the family is the one who is always attempting to make light of every situation. They utilize humor as a survival technique to cope with the uncertainty of the addiction that is occurring within their home. The mascot may appear to be the only jovial one around. But, it is common for them to begin self-medicating with drugs and alcohol themselves.

The lost child

The lost child is the child of the family who has gotten lost in the mix. They are typically quiet, reserved, and socially isolated from others. Everyone else in the family becomes so preoccupied with the loud chaos of the active addiction that this child becomes lost in the mix. Many times, the lost child grapples with developing and maintaining relationships, as well as making decisions.

Of course, the one role not mentioned above is the role of the addict. The addict is the family member who is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol and is active in their use. They tend to exhibit behavior such as dishonesty, disrespect, brashness, and impulsivity and are highly self-involved. The disease of addiction is what triggers these behaviors in the vast majority of cases. This is even more true as the brain changes in both structure and function for the worse. 

20 Addiction is a Family Disease Quotes

“Ask anyone who has been in a love relationship for a while: nothing is perfect.”

Tracy McMillan

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.”

Hermann Hesse

“A real relationship is like a river; the deeper it gets the less noise it makes.”

Tony Gaskins

“You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships every day. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.”

Epicurus

why is addiction called a family disease
“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.”

“Difficult relationships come into our lives for a reason. No one would choose them, certainly. But if we let them, they can teach us how to be flexible with others and more forgiving.”

Joan Bauer

“Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So, you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure.”

Stephen King

“We are told that people stay in love because of chemistry, or because they remain intrigued with each other, because of many kindnesses, because of luck. But part of it has got to be forgiveness and gratefulness.”

Ellen Goodman

“The emotion that can break your heart is sometimes the very one that heals.”

-Nicholas Sparks

“There are times when two people need to step apart from one another, but there is no rule that says they have to turn and fire.”

Robert Brault

”At the end of the day, you can either focus on what’s tearing you apart or what’s keeping you together.”

Anonymous

”I can’t promise that in our relationship you won’t face any problems, but I surely can promise that you won’t face them alone!”

Rose Hathway

”When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”

Catherine Ponder

”Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.”

Steve Maraboli

“It takes a strong person to stand up to his or her fate and overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of freedom and success, but I believe in you.“

–Pax Prentiss

“Recovery is not for people who need it. It’s for people who want it.“

Unknown

“Unless an addict wants to quit, they’ll find a way to get drugs, and as soon as they leave the rehab facility they’ll pick up where they left off.“

–Mitch Winehouse

“It’s not the drugs that make a drug addict. It’s the need to escape reality.“

–Unknown

“There is always a decision. Take responsibility for it. Addict or human. It’s a decision. Each and every time.“

–James Frey

“What is addiction, really? It is a sign, a signal, a symptom of distress. It is a language that tells us about a plight that must be understood“

–Alice Miller

“It takes a strong person to stand up to his or her fate and overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of freedom and success, but I believe in you.“

–Pax Prentiss

“Recovery is not for people who need it. It’s for people who want it.“

–Unknown

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