Written By: Fiona Stockard
Addiction is a Family Disease…So What?
First, let me say that my brother isn’t a junkie! He’s a great guy with absolutely no substance abuse problems. It was just a catchy title, I swear!
It’s 2014. By now, we all believe and accept that addiction is a disease. More than that, we believe and accept that addiction is a family disease. That means it’s partially genetic in nature and can be passed down through generations of a family. No shockers there. None of that’s a revelation.
What I want to talk about is a little different. I want to talk about are the dynamics of being sober and having family members in active addiction.
Now, I’m the oddball out in my nuclear family. Neither my mom, dad, or brother are addicts or alcoholics. My parents don’t even like to drink. My brother’s a social drinker. If he’s at a party, he’ll have a couple of beers.
However, I do have uncles and cousins who’re active alcoholics. I’ll tell you a little bit about how I’ve dealt with them in my sobriety.
My Experience with Family Members in Active Alcoholism
I come from a large family with a ton of extended relatives. Of these, several of my uncles and cousins are alcoholics. That’s my take, anyway. I have one uncle who, in his forties, still lives with his dad. I have another who, despite being a successful banker, drinks everyday.
As for my cousins, oh man, they’re wrecks. I have two guy cousins who can’t stop getting into trouble. I have a girl cousin with severe anxiety issues who medicates with weed.
My family gets together for every major holiday. That’s mostly where I see my uncles. Being honest here, I haven’t seen either of them drunk or high more than once or twice. Yeah, they’ll drink, and occasionally smoke a joint in the backyard, but they rarely get really loaded.
That isn’t to say they aren’t drinking. They literally always have a beer in their hands. The second they finish that beer, they get another. They’re not shotgunning beers and getting rowdy, but they’re never without alcohol.
When I was younger, I’d get drunk and high with my cousins. My guy cousins love to smoke weed. They’re about the same age as me, so when I was younger, we’d smoke before school. Then during the day, we’d sneak out to smoke more. Basically, we were always blazing. My girl cousin is a bit younger, so we never used together.
Things are different with my cousins than they are with my uncles. I have a history of getting loaded with them. Today, it’s strange to see them at family gatherings. They’re all over twenty-one, so drinking at these gatherings is accepted.
Much like my uncles, my cousins are rarely without a drink in their hands. However, unlike my uncles, they’re actively getting as drunk and high as possible. My guy cousins will smoke weed in the backyard constantly. My girl cousin grew up to love weed, so she’s out there with them. By the end of the night, someone has to drive them home because they’re far, far gone.
Dealing with Family in Active Addiction
It’s important to note, seeing family members use and drink isn’t triggering at all. It definitely is uncomfortable to see them behave in stupid ways, but it isn’t triggering.
But Fiona, you may be asking, why doesn’t it trigger you? Well, dear reader, it isn’t triggering because I’m spiritually fit. See, the Big Book tells us that if we’re spiritually fit drugs and alcohol won’t bother us. To quote a wonderful passage –
“We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation. We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutrality—safe and protected. We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid. That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition” (Alcoholics Anonymous, p 85).
Once I get in contact with a God of my own understanding, I don’t have to worry about being triggered. I don’t have to worry about alcohol and drugs making me uncomfortable. I do have to worry about keeping in fit spiritual condition.
Staying spiritually fit’s accomplished by helping others, taking a daily inventory, making amends when needed, praying, meditating, and staying honest. So, as long as I do those things, I don’t have to worry about my cousins and uncles drinking and drugging. I pray for them, but I don’t have to be bothered by their use.
It’s that simple! There’s no trick or life hack that makes us okay with others drinking and drugging. Nope, it accomplished through old-fashioned hard work!