Addiction is a Family Disease

Addiction is a Family Disease

March 10, 2021

A common misconception about addiction is if the addict would just stop using, everything would be ok. Lived professional and personal experiences tell us this is not the case. Addiction is a family disease. The idea that the addict is the only person who needs to enter recovery has to be smashed. Most everyone in affected families has participated in and ultimately been challenged by the disease.

The program of Al-Anon states, “We didn’t cause it, we can’t control it and we can’t cure it!” However, it is important for family members to identify the ways we may have contributed to our loved one’s addiction. This is often a difficult process due to the fact that most of us are truly just trying to help our loved ones get better. Ways that we try to help can include enabling by providing financial support even though we know our loved one is still using, making excuses for them, keeping their struggles secret from family and friends, bailing them out of jail, or rescuing them when they have failed to meet an obligation, to name a few. It is a natural instinct to do these things with the hope that this will be the last time. The problem is when addiction is involved, this type of helping actually helps the addiction flourish.

Individuals affected by addiction typically have glaring complications related to their substance use. They have legal consequences, failures in performance at school and work, delayed life skill development, serious health concerns, and violent outbursts with loved ones. The struggle for families is that while our loved ones are often in crisis and their symptoms are so acute, we don’t have the time or energy to pay attention to how the disease is affecting us. Equally debilitating but with subtler symptoms, family members experience chronic fatigue, isolation, loss of joy, failing health, poor concentration and general performance problems in our own lives. Therefore, the whole family system is in need of care and support.

This is a fundamental part of the treatment philosophy at Alpha 180. We believe in creating a long-term structure for recovery in the family system. Guiding families and students into a better understanding of the disease of addiction, facilitating healthy communication patterns, and establishing boundaries that will nourish and facilitate growth in the family often takes a great deal of time and practice, not to mention support.

Peer support is a vital part of the recovery process, not only for the addict but for the family. Recognizing that you are no longer alone in this struggle is what we hope we can offer at Alpha 180. Our bi-weekly family support group is an excellent way to get to know our staff and other family members who are walking this path with you, as well as an opportunity to learn healthy coping mechanisms to change old patterns of behavior. This is currently being offered on ZOOM on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month at 6:30p.m. In addition, we offer a Quarterly family week where you will get continuing education and encouragement as you navigate this process.
Our hope for your family is that you can heal from this disease of isolation and reestablish authentic connections with each other and yourselves.

For more information, please reach out to Amy Alden, Family Recovery Specialist at