Having addiction in our lives is difficult enough. But for some of us, addiction is familial and/or genetic. Meaning that to overcome our addiction, we must also break a cycle of addiction that has been part of our families, sometimes for generations before us. We face changing habits that are both learned and genetic, and changing the way we live despite all of our predecessors who were also addicts. It is an uphill battle that defies our very nature.
All in the Family
As human beings, we naturally gather in family groups. We share our lives, our laughter, and our tears. Unfortunately, sometimes we also share dysfunction. Do we even know which came first, the dysfunction or the addiction? It is a question that may not be able to be answered, but far too often, they are gifted to us as a pair.
We learn by what we see. So if adult family members are seen using a substance or even just the behaviors that go along with substance use, then that is what we see, that is what we learn. We often don’t know that there is a problem, especially as children. If grandma’s breath smells like alcohol and she has erratic behavior and sleeping patterns, we assume that all grandmas do that.
Sadly, in many families, our first opportunity to drink or use a drug is given to us by a family member, too. It normalizes unhealthy behaviors and gives us permission to carry on family traditions that can grow into addiction and destroy our lives. Obviously, this is not the family inheritance anyone would choose to give. But if addiction is in our family, sometimes, the choice isn’t really ours to make.
Our families do love us, the best they know how to. But if we seek treatment for addiction, then it may put the spotlight on them to perhaps acknowledge and seek treatment for their addiction as well. So many family members are content in their own quagmire, and are not only going to be unwilling to support us but may actively act against us and our choice to enter recovery.
It is not fair for someone to have to choose between their family and recovery. But all too often, especially when we come from unhealthy families, we may have to make that horrible choice. In the end, we should look at the big picture. If we choose recovery, then we are free to be better people, including being better with our families. Even if we are disowned, we are striking the match to light the first lamp of recovery in what is sometimes generations of addiction and unhealthy living. We can be the example, be the catalyst to change future generations so that this disease of addiction does not destroy the lives of any more of our relatives.
We have an addiction, and we have been through enough to know we want to change. We know our family is unhealthy, and that perhaps addiction is something handed down for multiple generations. This is what we have learned, this is all we know. That makes recovery so much harder. Now perhaps our families have disowned us, kicked us out of the house, or cut us off emotionally. All because we want to be healthy. We might feel more alone than ever before. We might even wonder why we are doing this at all.
These obstacles may seem overwhelming. But they are not insurmountable. If we are struggling with an addiction, we need people in our lives who can support us. Our family cannot, that has been proven, especially if none of them have acknowledged or received treatment for their own addictions. And while we love them, we must be able to love ourselves before we can truly love them, anyway. It is a shame if our families are obstacles. But we don’t have to let them stop us from being healthy.
When we choose recovery over our family, over our genetics, and over our heritage of addiction, we become a pioneer. We are forging a path that none of our ancestors were able to, and we are changing the future of our posterity. If we have to prune our family tree for it to be healthy again, so be it. It is not that we are discarding our families or judging them, we are simply choosing a new path. If we are lucky, perhaps others in our family will see our path and see our happiness, and join us. That is the ideal. But even if we walk the journey of recovery alone, we can know that we are giving our family the best gift we possibly can: life.
Recovery is like a rebirth for us, and it can be like an awakening within our families. Whether or not our families choose to support us or even acknowledge us, we have the power to break the cycle. To learn more about how Enlight can help you write rewrite your family history, call us today at (805) 719-7954.