Addiction: A Family Illness

It is so difficult to correctly assess and deeply understand the concept of addictive illness being a family disease. Much like the addict’s ability to truly assess the amount of “trouble” the addiction is causing in their lives, the same holds true for the co-dependent family member. Addiction is sometimes referred to as a disease of minimization.

Alcoholics/addicts and their families often find a false comfort in minimizing the depth to which the entire family is suffering. The illness seems to have a myriad of tricks it plays on our egos, and thought processes that convince us the negative behaviors will somehow have a positive outcome. It even has us believing that if we keep repeating the same behavior, we will get a new and improved result.

For me, I am still at the point in my own recovery that I struggle with co-dependent behaviors pretty much every day. I still find that when my son and the other addicted family members in my life are doing well, then I am pretty much “OK.” When they begin to show signs of their addiction rearing its head, I am not so “OK.” I do understand that is quite the co-dependent response. (At least I can recognize that now, for which I am so grateful!!)

As I continue my journey in recovery, I try to keep in mind all the things I have been taught so far. There is a tremendous amount of information and support available to us via books, CD downloads, AA and Alanon meetings, the internet, professional counselors, I-phone Apps…the list goes on and on. Remembering to embrace it is another story.

Just like our addicted and suffering family members, we are suffering too in our own way. Once we are able to admit that we are powerless over their addiction, we ourselves can begin to recover.

I am so grateful for all the help that is available to addicts and their families. The hard part is admitting I need the help and actually reaching out my hand and heart and allowing it in.

Andrea SchroederAndrea S. RN, CHPN is a recovered family member and volunteer treatment referral source. Her great respect for the 12 step process has called her to service helping families and addicts navigate through early recovery.