“Addiction is a family disease” is a common refrain in the recovery community. But why is this said? There are actually a couple reasons for this idea coming up in recovery circles. Firstly, it is certainly true that addiction has a genetic component. Many people who struggle with addiction have other members of their family who are struggling or have struggled with addiction in the past. In addition, there is an environmental component to addiction as well, meaning the environment we are surrounded with can increase our propensity of developing an addiction. This certainly includes our family upbringing as well.
This means that another piece of what is meant by the saying that addiction is a family disease is that when one member of the family is struggling with addiction, the other members of the family have also likely adapted patterns of relating to each other that while coming from good intentions, are not healthy or helpful to the addict’s recovery.
So why is knowing this information helpful? If we have a better sense of how family can play a role in the development of addiction, we also can gain a sense of how they can be helpful in recovery. Being able to articulate our needs and establish boundaries with our loved ones is an incredibly important aspect of addiction. This is where family counseling can be a very important part of recovery.
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