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The Family Dynamics Of Addiction

Tough love” is a phrase that is often associated with addiction, particularly when it comes to families. Parents, brothers, sisters and beyond often choose to exercise estrangement as a coping mechanism for loved ones who are using. Other practices come into play as well, such as denial and confrontations. Unfortunately there is no perfect formula when it comes to dealing with a dependent family member, but has done a nice job sharing a few of the experiences.


A recent article on their site touched on the challenges that siblings face when an addiction enters the family. An interesting question it puts forth is, “Do addictions produce family problems or do dysfunctional family issues result in addictions?” We have seen both scenarios come into play. Dependencies, as we know, show no mercy and can occur just as easily within a loving, happy family as they can within a problematic household. Yes children of addicted parents are more likely to use, but that isn’t always the case.


Fix writer Fern Schumer Chapman shares some stories of her own family dynamics within her article. In her case, her brother battled a severe struggle with alcoholism. Chapman goes on to describe the “tough love” scenario, but emphasizes that you need to have certain dynamics in place for it to be truly effective. She correctly points out that tough love relies on solid, established relationships; there needs to be real pain experienced from the cut off. But if there is estrangement in place, that type of action becomes much less effective.


Family communication is also touched on in the article. An interesting stat shared by Chapman highlights that within most families, up to 10 percent believe a close relative (often times a sibling) is hiding an addiction. There are, of course, red flags to look out for in these situations, but it isn’t always that easy to tell.


Chapman, for one, claims to have been raised in a stable, two-parent household. Nevertheless, alcoholism found its way into her brother’s life. She has her own theory as to its origin.


“In my brother’s case, because alcoholism doesn’t run in our family, I don’t think he has a biological predisposition to drink,” Chapman explains in her article. “I suspect my brother’s drinking results from other origins. Our mother, for example, had childhood traumas, which resulted in her depression and inhibited her ability to nurture her children. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was a viable link.”


We understand that there are many different coping mechanisms people turn to when a relative is facing an addiction. In our opinion, the universal best step is to reach out to trained professionals, who can help guide you and steer your loved one towards sobriety.