therapist treats addiction as a family disease

Addiction As A Family Disease: Know More

Addiction is a family disease. Family members of addicts and alcoholics also struggle due to the dysfunction present in the home. For this reason, our sober living programs engage the entire family in recovery.

Creekside Recovery Residences supports those transitioning from long-term treatment to everyday life. Our sober living homes give you the accountability and safety you need to succeed in the early stages of addiction recovery. Visit our admissions page today to get started.

Why Is Addiction a Family Disease?

Addiction is a family disease because each family member is impacted in some way.

A person struggling with addiction often engages in other problematic behaviors that affect the entire family. For instance, lying about substance abuse or denial about its effects are common in homes with addiction.

Family members can also unintentionally enable the addiction to continue. As a result, they unknowingly contribute to the problem when they think they are helping.

Essentially, addictive behaviors don’t occur in a vacuum. These behaviors affect everyone around you—whether you realize it or not. Furthermore, depending on your relationship, the effects can differ for each family member.

[Recommended: “Help for Families of Addicts“]

How Does Addiction Affect the Family?

Addiction affects the family differently based on the role each person plays in the addict’s life. For example, children are affected differently than a spouse. But, even if they don’t express these effects, they are often burdened with excessive worry about their loved one struggling with addiction.


Spouses and romantic partners are most often the ones left to “clean up” after an addict’s behavior. They might make excuses for their loved one when they are too drunk, high, or hungover to fulfill their responsibilities to the family.

Oftentimes, spouses and partners do their best to maintain the relationship and keep the family together. However, this can get exhausting. As a result, their lives become consumed with managing their household with little to no help from an addicted partner or spouse.

[Recommended: “Navigating Life With an Alcoholic Spouse: What to Do (And What NOT to Do)“]

Children (And Adult-Children)

Children look to their parents to set an example for how to behave and deal with life’s challenges. They also need consistency from their caregivers to feel safe and secure as they grow up.

So, when a parent struggles with an addiction, this complicates the role that parents play in a child’s life. For one thing, if a child sees a parent engage in addictive behaviors to manage stress or underlying mental health issues, the child may believe that this is how they should deal with their problems too.

And, since substance abuse can alter your mood and personality, children don’t know what to expect from you. For instance, one day, you could be overly energetic and in an unusually good mood. Then, the next day, you are irritable and moody.

Children can also feel neglected—and even become numb to this neglect. When you’re too drunk or high to help, encourage, or support them, your children stop expecting you to be there for them.

Addiction in the Home Continues to Affect Children as Adults

Furthermore, the issues surrounding addictive behaviors continue to affect your child as they grow into adults. Because they were neglected or confused during childhood, they often struggle to manage stress and build meaningful relationships as adults.

Oftentimes, adult children of addicts and alcoholics become addicts themselves or marry people with significant problems. Or they become “para-alcoholics,” where they take on the problematic behaviors of their parent without abusing substances.

[Recommended: “How to Help an Alcoholic Parent“]

Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

Parents of addicts and alcoholics could take on a similar role as a spouse or partner. In other words, they could try to help their addicted child but unknowingly enable the behavior instead.

For example, parents might get the addict out of legal trouble or give them money to shield them from the consequences of their behavior. While this seems helpful on the surface, it ultimately allows the behavior to continue.

In addition, parents of addicts and alcoholics might feel guilt over their loved one’s addiction. They could blame themselves, and, thus, feel obligated to help—even when it enables their behavior.

[Recommended: “7 Ways to Help Your Adult Alcoholic Son“]


Siblings of addicts and alcoholics—especially younger children—worry about their sibling’s behaviors. They might feel helpless to do anything. They become a bystander to the problem as a result.

In addition, siblings often feel neglected when their parents are dealing with a child who struggles with addiction. It might seem like all the attention goes to their addicted sibling. This can make children feel invisible or even resentful.

As adults, siblings might take on a similar role as parents—especially if the parents are older or deceased.

[Recommened: “Navigating a Sibling With Addiction: A Guide“]

How Can Families Recover Together?

Families can recover together by actively engaging in the treatment process of their loved one in recovery.

Family members can seek support from the treatment program their loved one attends. Oftentimes, addiction treatment centers offer resources and help for family members. This is because healthy families are vital to the recovery process.

In addition, family members can find support groups in their community, such as:

Furthermore, families can participate in family therapy while their loved one is in treatment.

How Does Family Therapy Work?

Family therapy works by addressing the disease of addiction as a family disease.

A therapist will meet with the entire family as a group to process issues surrounding addiction and other problematic behaviors. In addition, a therapist might work with individual family members for one-on-one therapy. This gives each family member the focused attention they need to manage issues affecting everyone.

Couples therapy is also common during family therapy programs. During couples therapy, spouses and romantic partners work out problems with a therapist mediating. The goal is not for the therapist to solve the problems, but to facilitate healthy communication skills for couples to find solutions.

Get Help for You and Your Family Today

It’s no secret that addiction is a family disease. Each family member deals with—or denies—the problem addiction causes among the family as a whole. At Creekside Recovery Residences, we know that family members must also face the disease of addiction for everyone to achieve the best outcomes in recovery.

Contact us today to learn more about how our sober living programs support the entire family in recovery.

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