We have known for some time that at least 50 to 70 percent of people who become addicted to substances have a genetic predisposition for addiction. Their very genes contain a vulnerability to substance abuse that is not found in everyone else. This is not an excuse to stay active in our addictions. It simply means that it is a part of our genetic makeup. Much like people who have certain cancers, heart disease, or diabetes also received the genes from their families for their diseases. These people do not use genetics as an excuse, they just work hard to achieve health.
A study from 2009 on genetic addiction demonstrated that there are also genetic markers for addiction that are higher in certain populations and people who originate from certain parts of the world. This is still a relatively new science, identifying the genetic markers that make us susceptible to substance addiction. However, it does demonstrate that, like other diseases, some of us were given extra challenges from our families that, with medical treatment, we can manage and be healthy again.
We have long known the power of learned behaviors. The “monkey see monkey do” concept is even truer when it is in our families and our homes. As we read this, we have probably already identified the person or people in our home who used or abused substances or perhaps even introduced us to our substances. The power in validating substance use in the home is difficult to undo. It becomes our normal, possibly even a part of our family’s dysfunctional language of love.
This makes it so much more difficult to change our own thinking when we choose recovery. Much like other sources of dysfunction, it is confusing to us as to why we should remove substance use from our lives. Kind of like that quilt that grandma made us, we don’t want to let go of something that is so comfortable to us.
The other piece that makes the familial learned behaviors of addiction difficult to recover from is the fact that we probably still have other family members who are using or abusing substances. Instead of support from our families, we face the opposite. Like fish swimming upstream, only if those fish had big hearts that were being crushed by having to choose between our own wellness and the love and acceptance of our families. It is a choice that is very difficult to make. In choosing our own wellness, though, we are choosing to set an example for our families of wellness. If not this generation, then for future generations. It is the gift that keeps on giving.
The Gift We Can Give Our Families
Intuitively, below all of the substances and cravings and side effects, there is a truth that we all know: we should be well. Ultimately, either we have crashed and burned so badly that it is virtually our only option, or we just get sick of ourselves when we are using our substances, or someone else has pushed us into treatment. But that truth of wellness is always there, with cravings we don’t always notice beneath the powerful substance-related ones. We need to be well.
We need to be well for us, but also for our families. We can be a light for those around us and for those who will come after us. Just because our families passed down this disease of addiction doesn’t mean that we can’t break the cycle. We can be the light of change and wellness in a family that has suffered from addiction potentially for generations.
Being a trailblazer has never been easy. We are fighting genetics, the environment, or both. We are fighting addiction, which is a powerful disease that affects the body and soul. We are fighting with ourselves, and possibly with other relationships, too. It can seem overwhelming. Recovery is hard enough with a loving, supportive family.
Yet it is so worth it. It is a gift that we are giving to ourselves, to our family today, and to future generations. The gift of wellness, sobriety, and self-love. Those seeds, when planted, can lead to emotionally and physically healthy family members now and in the future. Loving relationships without addiction, rooted in the knowledge and power of wellness.
We cannot control our genetics. We have no control over the environment we were raised in and the behaviors that we learned from our family. But we do have control over our future.
The Bridge NYC is a boutique luxury sober living facility for men seeking a concierge experience to balance outpatient programs, school, or work-life resulting in a sustainable, lasting recovery. Call (646) 928 0085 today for more information about admissions or The Clean Fun Network.