5 facts about why certain family members become addicted


Why is it that one or two siblings will drink or drug themselves to cope with their anxiety and stress of responsibilities in life and other siblings don’t? Addiction Help is here to those who have family members who are addicted or who are addicted.

Below you will find some of the most commonly asked questions asked when the family of an addict/alcoholic is in substance abuse inpatient treatment or if they are still struggling with drinking and using out in the world they are trying to survive in.

True that every family is unique as are the parents and siblings in that unit, however certain human behaviors are essential to create and support the system of a family as a whole. Here are 5 questions that are asked from family members as they plead for help to keep that one person from drinking or drugging himself or herself to death:

1. Why is our son/daughter involved with these people who are dragging them into the world of drugs and alcohol?

When I work with those who are seeking treatment for D&A most report beginning to dabble with drinking and smoking weed in mid adolescence. Adolescence begins roughly around thirteen years of age and is completed between twenty-five and twenty-six. What I have witnessed over and over again is what happens between the summer of tenth and eleventh grade. That seems to be the time when teens connect with each other over truly delving into substance as a coping mechanism. There are several reasons why, mostly to do with the family dynamic, as I will mention further however, generally this is the time when high school pressure to know what they want to do in college, where to go and how to afford all of it becomes an overwhelming reality where it wasn’t before.

These pressures to make decisions about the rest of their lives start in 9th grade if not sooner. This is too much for anyone let alone someone in those age groups who are barely beginning to know about the choices let alone themselves. The most important part of this dynamic is how that teen feels about themselves. Many adolescence feel less than their peers who seem to know exactly what they want to do, where they want to go and have the grades to do it. Teens gravitate toward others who feel the same way about themselves as they do and it’s rarely ever good enough.

2. Why is one of my children/siblings struggling with addiction and the others are just fine?

Here is where Family Systems and the roles in a family come in to play. For the most part, every family has a sibling who can be identified as the ‘star child’ or ‘hero sibling’ who appears to sail through life and the teen years without struggling at all. These folks (appear to) follow the rules, agree with the general family values and are the academics and athletes who excel. Then there will be the one who doesn’t seem to fit in. A ‘scapegoat’ or ‘black sheep’ sibling will, from the beginning, act out, rebel, as they get older and generally not buy into what the family is trying to establish. These folks are often highly sensitive, especially the boys, creative and aware that they will never measure up to what is expected. The scapegoat never reaches the status of the hero even or especially as they go into adulthood.

3. Is this our fault?

Every parent asks this of himself or herself and in a family session. With substance abuse there is no fault or blame on anyone’s part. That is a useless road to go down in attempting to answer the age-old question of nature versus nurture. No one is to blame. There will always be someone in the family that has addiction issues or mental illness. Every family has it. Either we are the alcoholics, or we were raised in alcoholism or those people were raised in it. All we have to do is go back three generations to see how people in our family dealt with high levels of anxiety and stress. With addiction we’re talking about drugs, alcohol, eating/not eating, spending, sexing and gambling as the heavy hitters. Work, God and exercise also can become extreme and therefore impact the family as any addiction does.

Substances have been used to cope with life as far back as has been traced in 3400BC with opiates in Asia and 3200 with cocaine with the Incas.

4. What if they die?

This is the most often asked question in this day and age concerning someone who is mired in the world of addiction. The hope is that with the advancement of D&A treatment and the advocates of changing the mental health care system and therefore assisting with helping those who are prone to anxiety and self-hate before the coping with substances becomes the only answer. My goal is to work with each addict/alcoholic about why they hate themselves so much and to work on the horrific levels of anxiety that plague all of us but especially those relying on drugs and alcohol to cope. Death is, unfortunately too much the reality in today’s world. The United States leads the world with these terrible statistics.

5. How can I help my son/daughter/mother/father to stop being an addict?

This question is asked in every setting, in every therapist’s office, in every treatment facility and hospital. I ask the family members to each talk about what they have already done to help, or try to help the one struggling with addiction. The answer, every time, is ‘everything’. Yes, most moms, dads and siblings have gone to any lengths to make sure the addict goes to rehab, learns about addiction and anything else the family seems needs to be done. None of it works.

The only thing family members can do is getting their own help. That answer from me falls flat and short every time I say it.

Why do I say it? Because addiction is a family disease. It’s generational and universal in that how someone copes with anxiety and self-hate is seen from early early childhood. We are sponges and are hardwired to either become alcoholics or addicts or marry them. The best way to help another addict or person in general is to work on yourself and model what those who struggle need to see.


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