Addiction Is a Family Disease It may seem counter-intuitive or even selfish, but finding a way forward from the chaos and pain of addiction for your family starts with getting help for yourself—regardless of whether your loved one seeks treatment for substance abuse. You've already taken the most important step. You are looking for answers and resources. And you've come to the right place. For more than 70 years, the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation has devoted each new day to helping individuals and families reclaim their lives from the devastating effects of alcohol and other drug addiction. We know from experience that treatment works, recovery is possible, families heal, and life gets better. Millions of families have been where you are—and they've found a way forward, one day at a time. How Many Families Suffer from Addiction? While it’s difficult to calculate the number of families today who suffer from addiction, we know that one in seven Americans will face addiction in their lifetime.* We also know that addiction is an equal opportunity disease, reaching people across age, race, gender and socioeconomic status. So families of all shapes and sizes are affected: from the transitional nuclear family, to single-parent families, step families, foster families and multi-generational families. Addiction Is a Disease Addiction has been recognized as a disease by the American Medical Association since 1956. The American Society of Addiction Medicine describes addiction as "a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry." Like other chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, and hypertension, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. We also know that genetics can play a role in the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder. If a parent has alcohol or other drug addiction, his or her child is six times more likely to develop a substance use disorder. So, the disease of addiction can get passed from one generation to the next, which explains why some families may experience addiction and its affects more than others. The good news is that, like other chronic diseases, addiction can be managed successfully. Most people who go to treatment not only stop using drugs, they also improve their occupational, social and psychological functioning.** *U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General, Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health; November 2016. **Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment (National Institute on Drug Abuse) How Does Addiction Affect the Family? Living in the midst of addiction leaves family members feeling traumatized and overwhelmed; they've been lied to and betrayed. There are arguments and confrontations, slamming doors and sleepless nights. Often, there's more serious trouble such as an accident, a lost job or an arrest. Non-addicted family members tend to over-function, or over-compensate, for the addicted family member. Parents, spouses, children and siblings may play different roles (protector, persecutor, blamer, family hero, mascot, lost child) to survive the stress of substance abuse. It’s not unusual for parents to become polarized in their parenting styles when trying to cope with their son or daughter’s addict behaviors. They may even blame each other for the problem. Their parenting style typically fall into the following categories: Persecutor - Controlling, angry, distant; believes that punishment will fix problems; may become isolated from the family Protector - Gullible, caretaking, enabling behavior; believes that love will fix problems; may become overly enmeshed with the addicted son or daughter Blamer - Avoids taking responsibility by scapegoating and projecting blame onto others How Can You Support Parents of an Addict? The most helpful thing you can do is to stay engaged. There’s so much isolation, shame and stigma with substance abuse, not only for the addict, but for the family members as well. There’s a sense—on the part of the addict and everyone who loves him or her—that they did something wrong when in fact, they didn’t cause it, they can’t control it, nor can they cure it. Be a non-judgmental, sympathetic listener. Where Can I Find Help for Myself and My Family? Hazelden Betty Ford offers a wide variety of educational resources and support services to help family members learn how to heal from the effects of a loved one’s addiction. With care and support, your family can work through the chaos you've experienced, understand how to set healthy boundaries, gain new communication skills, and begin to rebuild a trusting relationship with your loved one. For instance, you will find relief and validation by connecting with other families who have experienced the slamming doors, sleepless night, and shameful secrets that come with addiction. You will discover that your family is not so different. It's an experience that opens the way to healing for thousands of families each year who take part in Hazelden Betty Ford’s Family Program or Children's Program. These and other support services and resources at Hazelden Betty Ford are designed to help your family, regardless of whether your loved one is in active addiction, seeks addiction treatment or finds long-term recovery: Family Program – A multiday workshop for family members ages 13 and older; educational sessions are provided by clinical staff Children's Program – A three-day workshop specifically designed for children ages 7-12; education and support provided by counselors to help kids who grow up with addiction gain healthy coping and prevention skills Free, educational workshops and support groups offered at several treatment center locations (call 1-866-831-5700 for details): San Diego, California Naples, Florida Chicago, Illinois Plymouth and St. Paul, Minnesota Chelsea and Tribeca, New York City Beaverton, Oregon Bellevue, Washington The Daily Pledge – A free, online support group and social community ConnectionTM Program for families – Phone-based sessions with a licensed addiction counselor Al-Anon/Alateen support groups Search our blog for a variety of articles on families, prevention, treatment and recovery Sign-up for Today's Gift – A daily, inspirational meditation email Listen and subscribe to our Let's Talk Addiction & Recovery Podcast where a variety of topics related to addiction, treatment and recovery are discussed Learn more about the disease of addiction and how you can help at ShatterproofTM Just Five.