If you know that addiction runs in your family, you may be wondering what you can do to stay healthy and protect yourself from this dangerously destructive cycle. Just as some diseases tend to run in some families more than others, the same is true with addiction. But exactly how much more at risk are you, and what can be done to reduce this risk?
How Much Does Family History Affect Addiction?
Drugs and alcohol affect people differently. This is why some people become addicted and others do not. There is really no way to determine whether a person will become an addict or not. Just because someone with a family history of addiction smokes marijuana a few times does not mean they will become addicted. On the flip side, a person who has no family history of addiction isn’t in the clear when it comes to addiction. One time smoking pot could start a lifetime of abuse.
What we do know is that there are many factors that play into the onset of addiction, such as genetics, age, environment, lifestyle and mental health status. Estimates show that children of addicted parents are two to four times more likely to develop problematic relationships with substances compared to others.
Addiction-related genes account for 45-79% of the onset of addiction, but there are also environmental factors that children of addicted parents face. They are more likely to be abused or neglected. They tend to be exposed to drugs, alcohol and paraphernalia. Their parents are often more accepting of drug and alcohol use, which doesn’t help during the teen years when adolescents are naturally curious.
Taking Back Control
No matter what type of family background you have, don’t let the statistics scare you. You are in control of your life, and you can successfully avoid addiction. If you found out that one of your parents developed type 2 diabetes, what would you do?
You would eat healthier, exercise more and see the doctor to have your blood pressure checked. You would understand that you would have to work harder than the next person to avoid getting diabetes. Dessert every night could shave years off your life over the next person. But you would take matters into your hands to protect yourself and your health, not throw in the towel and say you’re done.
The same is true with addiction. If you know it runs in your family, you have to work doubly hard. It starts with abstinence. You are not in a position to experiment with drugs and alcohol, so don’t even entertain that path. Also, don’t take medications that aren’t prescribed to you, and talk to your doctor if you need any type of pain medication. Pain medication can be safely taken when under the supervision of a doctor.
You may also want to connect with a counselor or psychologist. It can help tremendously to have someone to talk to, especially if your family has issues with addiction. A counselor can teach you healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with stress and anxiety and help you better understand yourself. The more faith and confidence you have in your capabilities, the lesser desire you will have to use drugs and alcohol.
Also be sure to reach out for help. There are many programs and support groups that are available for individuals and families struggling with addiction. Not only can you find peers that are in your same exact position, but also you can encourage your own family members to get the help they need to be productive, positive role models for you and your siblings.
Also keep the following in mind:
- Plan ahead. Avoid situations that you know could be triggers. This may even include family events, but that’s okay. You need to put your health and sobriety first.
- Be proud of yourself. Families should be good influences, but sometimes, existing problems carry over into parenting. Don’t feel pressure to blend in with your family. Be happy with who you are.
- Spend time with yourself. Meditate, read a book, go for a hike, write in your journal, etc. Find things that make you happy and give you a sense of purpose and meaning. These feelings are far greater than what any high will provide.
- Reduce temptation. Pick the right friends. Participate in activities that don’t involve drugs and alcohol. Keep yourself busy and free from distraction.
- Take a stand. When you make a pledge to abstain from drugs and alcohol, you’ll feel like you have a clear path you want to follow. This also shows people that you don’t care to be offered drugs or invited to get drunk. You have better things to do.