Your memories of your family are always intertwined with substances. Mom always kept a bottle hidden and would drink when she was sad, and also when she thought no one was looking. When dad was drunk, he would be very, very angry. Even grandpa always smelled like alcohol, and grandma committed suicide after losing a long battle with drinking and depression. Now, there is you. Drinking is how your family has always coped with life. So when life got tough, you started drinking.
But no. You don’t want your life to be like that. Families have a lot of great traits and traditions to pass along, but this is not one of them. Maybe it won’t be easy, but you can break this cycle of addiction. You can be a pioneer in your family, a pioneer of mental health and sobriety. You can love your family, and still choose a different path. This is your life, your recovery.
The Genetics of Addiction
Alcohol use is merely one example. Families propagate addiction in many ways, often in multiple ways per family. It can be illicit drugs, prescription drugs, or even addictions such as gambling or sex or food addictions. There can also be co-occurring disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, ADHD, and more that make the situation that much more complicated. Overall, if your parents struggle with alcoholism or drug addiction, you are likely to be at least 50-60 percent genetically predisposed to addiction as well. This figure increases even more with environmental factors.
Another major factor in addiction comes from learned behaviors. If you see dad drink whenever there is stress, or even on a regular basis, you will naturally learn that this is appropriate behavior. If mom gets high when the going gets tough, or even at the end of every day, then it will seem very natural for you to do the same. Learned behaviors are reinforced every time we witness them, and it can be very difficult to un-learn these actions. In fact, they are more than likely burned into our subconscious, and so repeating these behaviors is literally second nature to us.
Another factor in addiction cycles within the family is the propensity for crisis living. It is very rare to live a calm and peaceful life when there is substance use in the home. Families live in crisis emotionally, financially, and physically, which in turn perpetuates more substance use.
For example, abuse is rampant with substance abuse. Whether it be emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, the result of childhood trauma is often to turn to substance abuse. Financial crisis can be caused by the cost of substance habits, or merely not being able to make and keep a budget because of the substance use. Chronic financial crisis begets inherited money problems as well as more substance abuse. Substance use can also create other physical crises such as moving often, dealing with accidents or incarceration of family members, or death. All of these crises situations and more perpetuate future generations of substance abuse.
Breaking the Mold
You can change the story, write a new script for your life. Taking the leap of faith into recovery can feel especially foreign to you if no one else in your family has done it. After all, you are breaking the mold to desire mental health and freedom from substance use. But breaking the mold can also be exhilarating. You face a new future, with doors opening for you that you never thought possible. Making this choice is powerful for anyone, but you are breaking a cycle. You are truly empowered.
Courageous Soul, Broken Heart
Being courageous can have its consequences. Many families with generational addiction will not only not be supportive of your choice but could disavow themselves of you altogether. More likely, you may find that in order to be true to your own recovery, you may have to drastically change your relationships with them, even to the point of not having any communication with them. These are worst-case scenarios, but you should know that the possibility of pruning your family tree exists. Sometimes with great courage, we are left with a broken heart.
However, this sacrifice is not in vain. You are doing this for you, to give yourself a life that you would otherwise never have. You are doing this to create freedom for future generations, too. To save your life, and the lives of your children, their children, etc., you may be forced to make painful choices. Making these choices with love and clarity, without the lenses of enabling or making excuses for addiction, you will find that true love is being willing to create a new life for yourself and in turn bless the generations that came before as well as the generations to come.
This is the life you have known, and you know it is not healthy. You want something more. You want freedom from substances, the gift that keeps on giving for generations to come. You can find your road to recovery, with or without your family’s blessing. It will be hard, given the genetics, learned behaviors, and crisis lifestyle. But it will also be empowering. You can break the cycle, write a new story. The power is in you and will transfer to your posterity. Be the gamechanger in your family tree.
Break the cycle of addiction in your family. Give your future generations the freedom to live addiction-free. Call AToN Center at (888) 535-1516 now.