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  • Is Addiction a Family Disease?

    Is Addiction a Family Disease?

    If you or a loved one in your family is suffering from addiction, the impacts of the disease ripple throughout the entire family. It can extend to members of the family young and old, healthy or suffering, sober or not sober. In order to truly heal from the disease of addiction, it is important to involve the entire family in the treatment process. Keep reading to find out why addiction is a family disease and how you can get your family back on track after addiction and treatment at drug rehab.

    Is Addiction a Family Disease?: Everyone in the Family Suffers

    When an individual in the family is suffering, the entire unit suffers. The family works best when everyone is on the same page and working together in a healthy way. When one of the family members is unable to play their part due to addiction, its negative effects are felt throughout.

    Some of the negative effects that can impact an entire family include:

    • Financial consequences. Individuals suffering from addiction may have issues with performance at work or school. They also spend a lot of money maintaining their addiction, which impacts the entire family. This can include not only the cost of drugs or alcohol, but also money in court fees, damages, and lost wages.
    • Violence. One of the many side effects of addiction is mood changes, such as agitation and irritability. This can increase anger and create volatile situations that can lead to violence.
    • Abuse. The violence experienced when a family member is suffering from addiction is much more than just physical. Family members can feel emotionally abused, neglected, used, taken advantage of, taken for granted, and much more.
    • Trauma. When a family member is suffering from addiction, especially a parent, it can cause trauma to the other members of the family that can cause lifelong impacts and take years of ongoing work to heal from.

    Relationships Change or Dissolve

    Another reason that addiction is a family disease is that relationships in the family can change or dissolve completely. If two people in the family are experiencing a change in relationship, such as a divorce, it will impact the entire family. Some reasons for this include:

    • Dishonesty. In order to hide or defend the addiction, individuals become dishonest about their whereabouts or whether or not they have been using. Dishonesty always causes tension in relationships, especially in marriages.
    • Bad communication. When an individual suffering from addiction feels confronted, or if a family member feels hurt by their loved one’s actions, it can cause finger-pointing, name-calling, volatile arguments, and overall bad communication.
    • Broken boundaries. If you frequently find your loved one has broken boundaries such as using in the home, yelling in front of the children, driving while intoxicated, cheating, or any other boundary you have set, your life is becoming impacted by their addiction and your relationship with them will shift.
    • No follow-through. Broken promises and no follow-through can affect people in a big way, especially children. Not showing up to sports games or forgetting to take them to get ice cream as promised can cause lifelong trauma.
    • Anger and irritability. As mentioned, anger and irritability due to addiction will cause situations to escalate in a way they normally wouldn’t have without addiction.

    Unhealthy Behaviors Form

    Even if you are not the one who is drinking or doing drugs, you may form some unhealthy behaviors. Some of these unhealthy behaviors include enabling and codependency.


    The definition of enabling is providing someone with the means or ability to do something. In the case of addiction, the individual suffering from it will typically manipulate someone in the family to keep their addiction going.

    In many cases, enabling comes from a place of love and can be confusing for the enabler. They generally just want to keep their loved one safe and protected, however, the phrase “loving someone to death” is a reality when it comes to enabling.

    Signs of enabling include:

    • Ignoring or tolerating their use
    • Financial assistance
    • Covering their behavior
    • Making excuses
    • Defending them to other family members
    • Sacrificing your own needs
    • Not following through with consequences
    • Feeling resentment
    • Taking on more than your share of responsibilities
    • Letting boundaries be crossed
    • Doing more than you are comfortable with
    • Brushing things off


    The definition of codependency is excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one who requires support on account of an illness or addiction.

    Similar to enabling, codependency can be confused with love or support for a family member. Signs of codependency include:

    • Difficulty making decisions or communicating your needs
    • Valuing the approval of your loved one
    • Poor self-esteem
    • Fear of abandonment
    • High sense of responsibility for the actions of another

    Lifelong Consequences for Children

    The most important reason that addiction is a family disease is due to the lifelong consequences for children. Whether the child is sober or the one suffering from the addiction, the disease’s impacts can last forever if not addressed. Some of these impacts include:

    • Stunted emotional and behavioral growth due to substances
    • Inability to trust others and form meaningful relationships
    • Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety
    • Constant disappointment and feelings of neglect or abandonment
    • A high likelihood of becoming addicted themselves later in life
    • A high rate of suicide or self-harm

    About Seasons in Malibu

    If you or a loved one in your family is suffering from addiction, it is important to involve the entire family in treatment. This way, the entire family can learn how to communicate and rebuild a broken bond, and the individual suffering from addiction can come home to a safe space after treatment. In addition, couples drug treatment centers can help get codependent couples on the right path and learn how to function without drugs and alcohol.

    Family dynamics play a major role in treating the individual. There is no blame attributed to the family, but the disease of addiction is a family illness, affecting all members. That’s why we work with clients and their families in our Malibu recovery center to understand family behavior patterns. The goal is to discover alternatives and solutions that can lead to a healthier outcome.

    The process of family assessment includes, among other things:

    • Intervention at the family level
    • A treatment plan assessment and recommendations
    • Systemic treatment and education for the entire family unit
    • Group sessions and experiential programs

    With our superior team of clinicians, we are able to succinctly pinpoint those areas of focus that will give the client the most advanced opportunity for success. Our approach towards healing is collaborative, comprehensive, and committed.

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