Physiological addiction is often prompted during adulthood by repeated exposure to an addictive substance or behavior. However, there is an emotional component to addiction that commonly develops during childhood, long before the first indication of alcoholism and abuse. In many situations, this underlying emotional issue is directly associated with family life.
The environment that fosters addiction during early development may not be what you think. While “broken” families are often cited as causes for addiction, it is not this simple.
A Climate for Addiction
There is a certain familial atmosphere that fosters addictive behavior, and those behaviors will put an individual at risk for struggling with addiction the remainder of their life. The primary function of any family is to serve as a buffer between danger and external pressure. The home environment is a person’s first introduction to coping mechanisms and stress management strategies. It is also intended to be where a person goes to feel safe and has the opportunity to re-charge.
For many people who struggle with addiction, home did not offer these comforts. Instead, home was a place where they were constantly under attack and on guard—potentially due to emotional, verbal or physical abuse.
There are many who look at the nation’s current epidemic of compulsive behavior as an epidemic of poor child-rearing practices that cause kids to grow up thinking they “aren’t enough.” The fact is that addiction is a family disease. It is handed down generation to generation, and not always through the same use of substances.
In many situations, the addiction-prone family has all appearances of optimal functionality.
Addiction may not be noticed at all during the young years of a child’s life, but instead will become evident in the compulsive and dependent behavior of the adult children who develop out of this environment.
As a society, we’ve become preoccupied with creating a certain image that often puts delusion above honesty. This emphasis on outward perceptions increasingly makes it difficult to be emotionally present with our children. As a result, kids are growing up without the emotional stability and maturity they need to function optimally.
In a way, we are a nation of families who have abandoned our children. It is this abandonment that is the core of family problems underlying the rising rates of addiction in the United States.