How to Break the Cycle of Addiction in Families

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Addiction in the family is one of the most common reasons why someone develops an addiction of their own. Furthermore, addiction creates a genetic factor, as there is a 50% chance that a child of addicted parents will have a genetic predisposition toward addiction. This inevitably creates a vicious cycle of addiction in families, and forces some family members to seek prescription drugs addiction treatment, for example. Unfortunately, to break the cycle of addiction in families, attending treatment is simply not enough. What we need to do is understand the cycle of addiction, come up with effective strategies for breaking it, and support our loved ones in recovery.

Understanding the Cycle of Addiction

Addiction is a very complex disease, one that is capable of destroying families all on its own. Understanding addiction in a familial setting begins with understanding the various roles family members might take.

First, there’s the addict (or addicts). These family members are usually quite selfish and their behaviors will impact the rest of the family in a negative way. However, on their own, they would not be able to perpetuate the cycle of addiction. That leads us to the second role – The Caretaker. This is the family member who sees it as their responsibility for the family as a whole. They are the ones that enable addicts to continue with their negative behavior. The caretaker usually covers for the addicts, and even gives them money to fuel their addiction simply to “keep things calm”.

person giving money to break the cycle of addiction in families
The “Caretaker” will usually enable the addiction of a family member in one way or another.

Alongside these two, there are several other roles, such as “The Mascot” who will try to keep everyone laughing by cracking jokes and generally being funny all the time. While this may seem inherently positive, the mascot actually allows the thing to remain as they are, instead of seeking meth rehab Florida treatment, for example. Then there’s the “Lost Child”, a family member who withdraws from the entire situation because they simply care too much. They are, perhaps, the ones that suffer the most.

All these roles create codependency around addiction, where each person tries to do what they can to keep things under control. The problem, however, is that no one recognizes the actual impact that addiction has on the family as a whole due to their enabling behavior.

The Impact of Addiction on Families

The most obvious impact of addiction in the family is that it creates more addicts over time. Children have it the worst, of course, as they are four times more likely to develop a substance abuse disorder by living in a family that has a problem with addiction. Those children then go on to create their own families and perpetuate the cycle. Furthermore, addiction inevitably brings discord and dysfunction to the family. Families with addicted members tend to have a much greater chance of abusive behavior, leading to traumatic events.

Luckily, this state of things is not permanent. At Bright Futures Boynton Beach, we have helped many families overcome and break the cycle of addiction, allowing them to lead normal and healthy lives. All it takes is the presence of mind to understand the impact of addiction, and the willingness to change.

The cycle of addiction can perpetuate itself over generations

As mentioned previously, the cycle of addiction in the family does not stop with a single generation. What happens instead is that addiction becomes so intertwined with the family’s “normal” functioning, that family members simply cannot imagine a time when it will not be present. In other words, it is extremely difficult for children that were raised in a home where addiction was rampant not to become addicts on their own. Difficult, but definitely not impossible. Many children who become adults seek alcohol rehab on their own, for example, but this might not be enough. To break the cycle of addiction in families, we need to go further than simply addressing the addiction on its own. It’s a great first step, yes, but there are more that need to be taken.

a family posing for a picture
The cycle of addiction may repeat itself over several generations.

Before we can take those steps, however, we first need to recognize and understand the cycle of addiction itself.

The importance of recognizing and understanding the cycle of addiction

The fact of the matter is that children living in a home that has addiction issues often think that that is the way things should be. They might understand that addiction itself is bad but the family is keeping it under control. What they don’t understand is that addiction, if left unchecked, will repeat itself over and over again.

If you want to be the person who will finally break the cycle of addiction in your family, you need to understand all about the cycle before you can start making any changes. To do so, you may need to go way back in the family tree and figure out when was the addiction first introduced, and why. This will allow you to trace the addiction from its roots to the present day, and help convince other family members that breaking the cycle is in everyone’s best interest.

Furthermore, you will want to acquaint yourself with the answers to common questions when it comes to addiction. If you don’t know the answer to the question “Does insurance cover alcohol rehab“, for example, you might lose your “audience” right then and there. If you approach your family members with suggestions, you need to be able to provide the answers immediately.

You also need to understand that you simply can’t break the cycle in a day. If you want to break the cycle of addiction in families, you will need to employ certain strategies.

Strategies for Breaking the Cycle of Addiction

While every family is unique, of course, these strategies are somewhat “universal”. If you want to break the cycle of addiction, you should be:

  • Promoting open communication and honesty
  • Practicing self-care
  • Setting boundaries
  • Seeking professional help
person talking about how to break the cycle of addiction in families
Seeking professional help is one of the best ways to break the cycle of addiction in families.

You also need to understand that breaking the cycle of addiction in families is hard, unbelievably hard. It is the primary reason why addiction is so rampant in the U.S. It is much easier to simply perpetuate the cycle than it is to break it, after all. However, if you are willing to put in the effort, it can definitely be done! Let’s see exactly what you will need to do.

Promoting open communication and honesty is the best way to break the cycle of addiction

Addiction in families is usually “veiled”. What this means is that many family members will choose to look the other way and act like there is nothing out of the ordinary going on. This, in turn, makes it all but impossible for family members to communicate honestly. Therefore, the first step to break the cycle of addiction in families is always to promote open communication and honesty when talking about addiction issues. The “trick” here is to be mindful of how your family members react to any attempts at honesty. Some families might respond well to a strong-arm approach while others might require a more subtle touch.

Furthermore, the addictive substance itself is a factor on its own. You will need to use a different approach to get a family member to commit to crack cocaine rehab than marijuana rehab, for example. The best thing you can do is to start slowly. Try to have an honest conversation from time to time and see how the family reacts, then adjust your efforts accordingly. Rome was not built in a day, or so they say.

Self-care is extremely important

Most families who have a problem with addiction will neglect proper self-care practices. This, in turn, will make it all the more difficult to break the cycle and seek treatment. Some family members might simply be content with their lot in life, thinking that they do not deserve any better. This is, of course, the entirely wrong approach to take.

One of the first things you will want to do is ensure that every family member has the opportunity and the means to take care of themselves. This can be somewhat difficult, yes, but it is absolutely necessary. Don’t simply try to get your family members to attend a drug rehab Florida program from the get-go, you need to show them that they “deserve” it first. By taking care of themselves in a proper way, family members will be more amenable to making larger changes to their lives. In other words, start small, help your family take care of themselves, and create a good starting point.

person meditating in the forest
Proper self-care will make the difference between sobriety and addiction.

You will need to set some boundaries

Boundaries are always important in a family setting. The lack of healthy boundaries inevitably creates resentment among family members and propagates addiction. Furthermore, creating healthy boundaries will allow the addicted members to see that there are more benefits of change than the benefits of everything staying as it is.

Most families try to control the addicted member, in one way or another. This usually has a negative effect, as some family members may create healthy boundaries while others do not. If that happens, those members with boundaries will become angry at those without. As you might imagine, this will always lead to an internal family conflict. While that is going on, the addicted member simply continues doing what they are doing.

When it comes to setting boundaries, you will want to do the following:

  • Use “I” statements more
  • Be clear and specific
  • Follow through on consequences

Professional help is readily available

One of the best ways to break the cycle of addiction in families is to seek professional help. This might not be the easiest thing in the world, granted, but it can be extremely important, especially if you have to deal with addicted parents. A professional therapist brings honest, unbiased, opinions to the proverbial table, something that is almost impossible to achieve in a family setting. Furthermore, a professional therapist will be able to help you understand the inner workings of addiction in your family, allowing you to make concise, concrete, changes.

Aside from professional counseling, you can also explore various outpatient and inpatient treatment options. Having your loved one stay in a treatment center for a while can be all that it takes to break the cycle of addiction. More commonly, however, it will be just the start. It is more likely that you will need to work your way toward this option.

person attending a therapy session
A professional therapist will help you break the cycle of addiction in your family.

Once your family finally realizes the danger of addiction and attains recovery, you will need to make sure that your loved ones have all the support they need. Otherwise, they may easily fall back to their old ways.

Supporting a loved one in recovery

To support your family members who are in recovery, you will want to do the following:

  • Foster a supportive and non-judgmental environment
  • Promote healthy habits
  • Celebrate milestones

Remember, recovering from an addiction is an ongoing process. For most people, a complete recovery is something that they can achieve only after years of struggle. What you need to do is make sure that you are supporting your loved one throughout that struggle. This process will come with its challenges, of course, but you will be able to reap considerable rewards, as well. No one can explain the joy of seeing your loved one overcomes addiction one step at a time, after all.

Fostering a supportive and non-judgmental environment

Let’s face it, most of us will judge addicts in one way or another, it is perfectly normal. When faced with addiction in the family, however, we need to make sure that our judgmental behavior never sees the light of day. If recovering addicts feel like they are being judged and not supported, they will most likely relapse at some point.

You don’t want to “coddle” the recovering addict, either. What you want to do is behave around them as you normally would if they never had an addiction problem in the first place. Of course, you will still want to take note of their recovery efforts and support them when necessary. Recovering from addiction is extremely hard, after all, and your loved ones will need your help.

a handshake
Do your best to support family members in recovery!

Try to create a family environment where it is all about supporting one another. Chances are that the addict is not the only one who has issues, after all. By creating a supportive environment, you are essentially lowering the overall amount of stress. Since there is a huge connection between stress and relapse, this will inevitably help the recovery process. Again, remember that change does not occur overnight. Fostering a supportive and non-judgmental environment is only possible after months (even years) of hard work.

Promoting healthy habits

You will also want to reevaluate your family’s habits. Consider the fact that there are good reasons why your family has a problem with addiction in the first place. Most of the time, habits are to blame. By creating and promoting healthy family habits, you will deprive the addiction of much of its influence. You see, addictive behaviors are all about habits, as addiction is somewhat of a habit on its own. Having other, healthy, habits to fall back on will allow you to break the cycle of addiction in families.

Some healthy habits that you might want to introduce to the family include:

  • Engaging in hobbies and activities
  • Practicing stress-reducing activities
  • Seeking support from family and friends

Do not worry if these habits are slow to form, either. Breaking old habits and introducing new ones can be hard (as is everything concerning addiction) but it is definitely possible. Do what you can each day and you will start seeing rewards soon enough!

Celebrating milestones

Recovery milestones are incredibly important, especially so in a family setting. Many families make the mistake of thinking that recovery is something that is “supposed to happen” and they don’t pay too much attention to the effort of recovering family members. What you need to understand (and what we have been preaching all along) is that overcoming addiction is incredibly hard and it deserves praise. Therefore, try to create special family events that commemorate important milestones (one month sober, half a year sober, etc.). If you show your family members who struggle with addiction that you acknowledge their efforts and that you are proud of them, it will only make them want to try even harder.

people celebrating a milestone
If you can, involve the entire family in the celebration!

Of course, you don’t want to overdo it, either. Celebrating milestones is a great way to deal with a drug addicted sibling, yes, but too many milestones may seem superfluous and meaningless. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, after all.

Another thing that you and your family might need to deal with is the stigma surrounding addiction. Even in this day and age, many people still believe that addiction is a character flaw.

Overcoming Stigma and Seeking Help

If you are not familiar with the term “stigma”, it means several things such as discrimination, stereotyping, and labeling. The way that it manifests is through the words and actions of people who use judgmental or disparaging terms when they talk about addiction. Chances are that some of your family members may have similar views. In fact, the stigma around substance use disorder is so pervasive, it can be observed even in the health care setting. However, it all starts from home, so to speak.

To overcome stigma and be able to seek help, you will need to do the following:

Try to use “person-first” language. This basically means that you are focusing on the person itself and not on the addiction. An example of this would be not using the words “substance abuser”, as that has a characterization effect to it. Instead, you will want to say “person with a substance use disorder”. Other examples include changing the word “Clean” to “In recovery”.

If you really want to do your part in breaking the stigma, you will also want to educate yourself (and others) about addiction. Many people still believe that addiction is a flaw in the person’s character and not a disease that it is. If everyone knew what addiction is, there would be no stigma in the first place!

wooden blocks spelling the word "learn"
Learning more about addiction is the best way to start overcoming stigma.

The fact that addiction is a disease means that a person with a substance use disorder requires outside help. Similar to how you would take someone to the doctor if they had chickenpox, you will want to take a person with a substance use disorder to a treatment center.

Addressing Relapse and Setbacks

Another thing that you will need to know is that relapse is extremely likely to happen, it is quite normal. In fact, almost 60% of people who finish treatment for addiction relapse at some point. Furthermore, you can safely assume that your loved one will experience numerous setbacks in recovery and be ready for it.

Addressing the relapse in a loved one is, again, very hard. You will most likely need to go “against yourself” and adopt a more comforting approach. That is why the very first thing you will want to do is address your feelings. Allow yourself to feel all the emotions and process them without judging. Your emotions are valid, after all, and you need to express them somehow. Most people express them to their loved ones, further compromising their recovery.

The worst thing you can do after you find out that your loved one has relapsed is to “blame and shame” them. Chances are that your loved one is already struggling with a similar sentiment and adding to it will do more harm than good. Consequently, the best thing you can do is to encourage your loved one to get help. There are many treatment centers around Florida that can help them get back on the right track, after all.

Ultimately, the best way to break the cycle of addiction in families is to foster a slow change. Understand that change does not come overnight while maintaining your efforts and you will be able to beat addiction in the family in due time!

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