Helping Family Members Understand Your Addiction
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Updated: July 5, 2022

Helping Family Members Understand Your Addiction

Addiction is a mental health disorder that impacts the lives of those closest to you. Watching loved ones disintegrate slowly is simultaneously infuriating and heartbreaking for family members.

Addiction can happen to anyone. When an addiction develops, family members and friends are often directly influenced by it, making it essential for family members and friends to understand addiction and continue taking care of their health. Understanding substance abuse helps provide the love and support you need to heal.

Explaining addiction to loved ones can be challenging, confusing, awkward, and ineffective if approached incorrectly. But family discussions about addiction need to happen.

The Impact of Addiction on Families

Addiction destroys families. It damages a person’s physical, mental, and overall well-being. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 11.7% of Americans reported using illicit drugs in the last month. Often the result is disrupting their lives and deteriorating their relationships with their family members. Substance abuse can psychologically influence family members, making it almost impossible for them to understand why you behave the way they do.

Addiction and family have a unique association that those struggling with substance abuse frequently do not see. Dealing with a family member’s substance abuse is a process of continuing loss for family members because the addiction transforms individuals into a version of themselves they can no longer recognize.

According to an article from the Social Work in Public Health Journal on the effect of substance use disorder (SUD) on families and children of addiction can cause families to have "Unmet developmental needs, impaired attachment, economic hardship, legal problems, emotional distress, and sometimes violence." Children raised in an environment with addiction can also be at an increased risk of struggling with addiction later in life.

With so many individuals impacted, it’s imperative to dissipate any misunderstanding surrounding the disease and its consequences. But how do you begin to describe addiction to someone who has experienced the adverse effects of substance abuse?

Educating Family Members

Your family's perception of your addiction will influence your recovery journey; therefore, educating them is essential.

Family communication becomes a problem when misunderstandings about addiction are routine. Some important facts to ensure family members understand your addiction include:

  • Addiction was not recognized as a disorder or chronic disease in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-I) until 1952; therefore, many older individuals assume that addiction is an ethical flaw caused by an individual’s choices.
  • Addiction has genetic factors. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that around 50% of addiction is genetic. People with particular genes are more susceptible to using drugs and becoming addicted than those without the genes.
  • Addiction is a biological occurrence. The brain creates satisfying hormones to stimulate an individual into partaking in healthy behaviors. Drugs and alcohol cause the brain to release the hormones in high amounts, eventually resulting in addiction.
  • Addiction has environmental factors. Cultural values or beliefs can trigger addiction by providing situations where consuming alcohol or drugs is expected. For example, drinking wine is customary in various religions, and performing a ritual can cause someone to relapse.

In addition, family members should educate themselves on solutions to understand addiction, including attending mutual aid groups such as Al-Anon. Al-non is a mutual aid group for family members struggling with a loved one's SUD. It is a 12-Step program that assists affected family members through face-to-face or online meetings.

When each family member is educated, addiction communication can begin. The conversations about addiction should concentrate on solutions instead of possible problems.

Reconnecting Through Family Therapy

Reconnecting through family therapy can also be effective in helping them understand your addiction and all it entails. A counselor can play a significant role in facilitating and assisting you in describing what kind of support you require in sustaining sobriety or reviewing boundaries you may need to establish.

Individual therapy will help you retain your recovery, but it can also help you strategize the most suitable way to approach addiction with your family. Every condition and family is unique, but professional intervention may help clear the way to reconnect with your family in recovery.

Your family members may have a tough time trusting you again. They may also struggle with financial or legal troubles due to addiction. Although it will take time, recovery can heal the damages caused throughout your substance abuse.

Apart from support groups, individual therapy, and family therapy, there are resources provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for family members and those struggling with addiction that helps make challenging conversations easier to navigate.

Deciding to seek addiction treatment is one of the most important decisions you will make. Having a supportive family can positively impact your recovery. Getting sober can be overwhelming, but being with the right people can help. Finding a treatment center that offers everything you need can influence how you perceive your recovery journey. If you or a loved one are ready to start your recovery process, we can help. In San Diego, California, Present Moments Recovery offers an environment that feels like home. Our treatment plans are tailored to your needs to help you succeed in recovery. Present Moments Recovery offers detox programs, inpatient and outpatient counseling services, and a sober living home to promote your long-term recovery. We believe recovery can only happen in the present moment. Call us today and learn more about our treatment services at (619) 363-4767.


If you or a loved one is looking for an effective drug rehab in San Diego, call 619-363-4767. One of our caring members is ready to answer all of your questions.

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