Addiction is a family disease. A simple statement that can have different meanings depending on who you ask. On the one hand, your loved one’s addiction ripples through the lives of the entire family. Those who are successful in achieving long-term recovery typically have families that learn how to be supportive in a way that does not enable continued substance use. Many a relapse has been influenced by a family member who, out of what they think is love, does things that can contribute to a recurrence. Success stories often involve family members making changes in their own lives, in order to better serve a loved one’s recovery. If addiction is a family disease, then recovery is a family effort.
On the other hand, implying that addiction is a family disease can also refer to the fact that the children of alcoholics and addicts are at a greater risk of struggling with addiction themselves in the future. Those who are exposed to the destructive behaviors of a parent, are far more likely to adopt the same practices. They are also far more likely to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms that include the use of mind-altering substances to deal with life stressors. It is for this reason that we should never underestimate the impact that growing up in an addictive home can have on a child; wreaking havoc on one’s life as they mature, in ways that don’t even necessarily involve the use of drugs or alcohol, i.e. poor social skills and trust issues.
With that in mind, it could seem like growing up as a child of addiction might be quite hopeless. That it may be impossible for such people to recover from the damage done by coming of age under the parenting of an alcoholic or drug addict. But that isn’t always the case.
National Association for Children of Alcoholics
Those who grow up surrounded by addiction need support starting at an early age, lest they end up walking down the same path as their parent(s). They can, and have found help for the last 30 years, from the National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA). An organization whose mission is:
“…to eliminate the adverse impact of alcohol and drug use on children and families. Using our network of the most respected experts in the field, we provide solutions to address these impacts effectively. NACoA envisions a world in which no child who struggles because of family addiction will be left unsupported…One in four children under the age of 18 years are touched by the adverse effects of a parent abusing alcohol or drugs. We are the voice for these children, and have been for over 30 years. We are fueled by a deep and abiding passion to break the silence for millions of children in families entrapped by the “no talk” rule. We work to ensure that they can find their own voice, and by sharing their experiences find the hope and healing they deserve.”
Last week was CoA Awareness Week, an important time for celebrating those who have been helped by the organization, as well as offering hope to the many children still suffering. However, raising awareness about the impact that alcoholism and addiction can have on a child should be a year-round endeavor. The NACoA website offers a number of tools for children, families and professionals to help the affected young people.
Understanding the Issue by Understanding the Numbers
In a recent press release, NACoA highlighted the statistics, as they relate to children:
- In the United States, mothers convicted of child abuse are 3 times more likely to be alcoholics and fathers are 10 times more likely to be alcoholics.
- More than 50% of all confirmed abuse reports and 75% of child deaths involve the use of alcohol or other drugs by a parent.
- One in four children is being hurt in a family impacted by parental alcohol misuse, and countless thousands more are being devastated by drug addiction in the family, creating a trauma-inducing environment that is developmentally damaging to children from birth and impacts their emotional and physical health for a lifetime.
NACoA offers guidance for these children as they mature to adulthood, recognizing it is paramount that there is additional help for adult children of alcoholics (ACoA). Theses support groups help thousands of people who are still struggling with the trauma of childhood.
At Family Recovery Specialists, we provide individual and family therapy with unique and specific goals targeted for the individual as part of our Miami addiction treatment services. We provide these services for individuals and families going through the recovery process as well as for most other mental health issues. We specialize in providing individual and family therapy to adolescents and young adults but we also work with older adults and parents who want to become more effective at home.
We understand it is never too late to start repairing the damage of your past, in order to have a healthy future. If we can help you or someone you care about please don’t hesitate to call for more information about our services.