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Why Alcoholism Is a Family Affair

Generally speaking, if there is a history of alcoholism in a family, there is a higher risk of developing alcoholism than other families without the same background. This is because of genetics and how our traits are shaped by the way our genes are structured through the generations of our families. A person’s physical and some behavioral characteristics are defined by their DNA for example in the color of their eyes or tendency towards mania or depression.

Among all the tendencies that can be passed down genetically through generations is the propensity for alcoholism. That said, it does not necessarily follow that if addictive characteristics have been transferred genetically that it will inevitably come to pass that someone will go on to abuse alcohol and drugs. When alcoholism does develop as a result of a genetic predisposition, the problem can be made more serious by environmental and social factors that could be combining to produce adverse effects.

Alcoholism Is More Than an Inherited Disorder

Genetic structure is only half the story when it comes to alcoholism; there is generally something else that is driving the addiction. One of the other contributing factors can be the environment – that does not mean a poverty-stricken background but can relate to how acceptable alcohol was in the family while growing up. Environmental influences are more powerful than material circumstances in terms of developing alcoholism and often it is negative childhood experiences and distorted family attitudes towards drink that plant the seeds of addiction in an individual.

Traumatic experiences in childhood such as sexual abuse and challenging relationships with family members can all act as catalysts to alcoholism. Many people bearing heavy emotional burdens tend to internalize their feelings, often for fear of being misunderstood or not believed. Internalizing negative thoughts, fears and feelings can lead to someone reaching out to alcohol to alleviate their discomfort. After a while, it is easy for alcohol use to become a conditioned response to certain stressors and triggers but this self-medication can often mask deeper issues with addiction.

The Importance of the Family during Treatment

When a person struggling with alcoholism takes the first step towards sobriety and enters an alcohol detox center, it is important that the family have a good level of involvement in the process. When someone has addiction issues, they can become withdrawn and isolated from those close to them for fear of being judged harshly or misunderstood. Conversely, relatives of someone with alcoholism might have given up trying to help them because of the resistance and even aggression they may have faced when raising the issue. Whatever the scenario, in most cases when one person in the family has alcohol issues, it is more than likely that relationships with other members have suffered as a result.

Specialist detox programs can offer respite not only to people with alcoholism but also their extended families.

More often than not, lines of communication between a patient and their loved ones have broken down – and for some, it can feel as though the damaged relationships are beyond repair.

Just as the genetics of a family have a part to play in people developing alcoholism, the family plays an integral part in someone’s journey to recovery. Whereas it is always recommended that patients avoid mixing with people who continue to use when they leave rehab, it is important that they return to the heart of their families whatever the circumstances. For this reason, it is crucial that not only the patient but their family receive therapy to help them find ways to heal. The role of the family in a person’s life in sobriety is pivotal in its effectiveness and specialist programs provide the best forms of therapy to help patients and families achieve this important objective together.

Detox programs can be extremely daunting for people with alcoholism but having the complete support and understanding of their families goes a long way to expedite their recovery. It is also possible to heal rifts and misunderstandings that threatened a family’s foundation through active family therapy, making rehabilitation a worthwhile process for everyone involved.


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