When Multiple Family Members Experience Addiction


When just one member of a family deals with abuse of alcohol or drugs, it takes its toll on the whole family. When more than one family member is suffering from an addiction, it can complicate recovery efforts for everyone involved. Typically, when an adolescent or young adult returns home from residential treatment for an addiction to alcohol or drugs, their recovery often becomes the focus of the family unit. This can prove difficult at times as everyone tries to zero in on how to help the child transition back home, feel supported, and be held accountable for their actions. 

If more than one addiction exists in the family, it becomes crucial for everyone in the nuclear family to address these issues. The more stable the family is, the greater chance a child has to maintain their own sobriety. While the presence of more than one addiction can initially complicate things, ignoring it will not make the problem go away. Factoring in the addiction of another family member can be a game-changer and ultimately cause everyone involved to decide how best to proceed so that the entire family unit thrives.

Why Do Multiple Family Members Experience Addiction?

When it comes to families having more than one member who deals with addiction, no single answer applies to all situations. Multiple studies have been done over the years that show the answer can be at least partially genetic. The University of Utah reports that many different genes can contribute to a person developing an addiction. When people share a genetic history that predisposes them to addiction, they experience an increased likelihood of developing the issue at some point. 

The home environment can influence a young person who struggles with addiction. If they grow up around one or more family members who struggle with substance abuse disorder, it may normalize the condition for them. A parent or other influential family member who habitually exposes their abuse of drugs or alcohol to a younger person may unknowingly pass on the message that this is normal behavior. The message of “do as I say, not as I do” becomes ineffective. Behavior modeled over a long period makes more of an impact than verbal warnings against it. Even if the relative attempts to hide their addiction and the resulting chaos it incurs, children and teenagers are quick to pick up on the reality of a situation. They often know more than others may think they do.

Dealing With a Family Member Who Actively Engages in Their Addiction

A child returning home who has worked hard on becoming sober has their work cut out for them. When they return to living with a parent, sibling, or other family members who are actively drinking or using drugs, a game plan that addresses this should be enacted. This may involve a type of family intervention. This process lets the other family member know that their addiction not only affects their own life but now runs the risk of influencing a loved one to forfeit their sobriety. If possible, separate housing for the child can be established at least long enough to help the young person get to a more stable place in their own recovery.

If living apart is impossible, establish rules about things like the time the family members spend together. Make it a rule that alcohol or drugs cannot be used in the presence of the child. Sometimes the relative may want to help the younger person but is not willing to address their own addictive behaviors. Asking them to commit to a few basic rules to help their loved one can prove productive and beneficial. You may be surprised at people’s willingness to accommodate the sobriety and wellbeing of young addicted people. 

When Multiple Family Members Are in Recovery

Much like being a member of group therapy, having a relative who is also working hard on their recovery can benefit a young person. They can take comfort from knowing someone who understands their situation and the struggles they face. They can even help each other celebrate positive achievements and milestones. Shared family history may also enable the two to do a deep-dive into how addiction has impacted their lives. They can take a look at which family members have suffered from it and which ones may be at risk of developing it. Understanding the family dynamics at this level can prove helpful in terms of personal knowledge as well as discussing that information with a therapist. 

A family that has more than one member who deals with alcoholism or drug addiction may wonder why this happened. Multiple factors may contribute to the situation, including genetic predisposition and home environment. When a young person returns home from residential treatment for their substance abuse disorder, it can complicate things when other family members struggle with the same condition. Sustain Recovery has extensive experience treating adolescents and young adults who suffer from addiction. Our clients benefit from treatment that addresses their individual needs, including learning to manage co-occurring mental health issues like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. We also provide schooling to allow them to continue their education. Private and group therapy allows our clients to understand themselves. We send them home prepared to deal with the family environment waiting for them. Call our Southern California location to find out how we can get started on putting your family back together! (949) 407-9052.