Addiction runs in families, but far less known is the fact that recovery also runs in families. Both of these phenomena have captured my attention in recent decades and been the focus of numerous articles.
Scientific studies are unravelling the factors that combine to elevate risk of intergenerational transmission of addiction and related problems. These mechanisms of transmission include genetic and neurobiological influences, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, assortative mating (attraction of those exposed to parental addition to individuals who share this family history), co-occurring conditions, temperament, developmental and historical trauma, family dynamics (e.g., parental/sibling modeling and collusion), early age of alcohol and other drug (AOD) exposure, and disruption of family rituals. (See here for review of studies). Rigorous studies have yet to be conducted on the prevalence, patterns, and mechanisms through which addiction recovery of one family member increased the probability of other addicted family members also initiating a recovery process. The purpose of the present blog is to offer some observations on these issues drawn from decades of observation of families impacted by and recovering from severe and persistent AOD problems. The following suggestions should be viewed as hypotheses to be tested via scientific studies and more expansive clinical observations.
These individual mechanisms achieve heightened power when sequenced and combined over time.
It is rare to escape injury to family within the addiction experience. Such injuries increase progressively within families in which multiple people are experiencing AOD-related problems. For those of us who find ourselves in such circumstances, the greatest gift we can offer our family is our own recovery.
Related Papers of Potential Interest
Evans, A. C., Lamb, R., & White, W. L. (2014). Promoting intergenerational resilience and recovery: Policy, clinical, and recovery support strategies to alter the intergenerational transmission of alcohol, drug, and related problems. Philadelphia: Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services. Posted at http://www.williamwhitepapers.com/pr/2014%20Breaking%20Intergenerational%20Cycles%20of%20Addiction.pdf
Navarra, R. & White, W. (2014) Couple recovery. Posted at http://www.williamwhitepapers.com/blog/2018/03/couple-recovery-robert-navarra-psyd-lmft-mac-and-bill-white.html
White, W. & Savage, B. (2003) All in the Family: Addiction, recovery, advocacy. Posted at http://www.williamwhitepapers.com/pr/2005AllintheFamily.pdf
White, W. (2014) Addiction recovery and intergenerational resilience Posted at http://www.williamwhitepapers.com/blog/2014/07/addiction-recovery-and-intergenerational-resilience.html
White, W. (2017). Family recovery 101. Posted at http://www.williamwhitepapers.com/blog/2017/12/family-recovery-101.html
White, W. Addiction/Recovery as a family tradition. Posted at http://www.williamwhitepapers.com/blog/2017/12/family-recovery-101.html
White, W. (2015) All in the family: Recovery resource review. http://www.williamwhitepapers.com/blog/2015/11/all-in-the-family-recovery-resource-review.html
White, W. L. & Chaney, R. A. (2008). Intergenerational patterns of resistance and recovery within families with histories of alcohol and other drug problems: What we need to know. Posted at http://www.williamwhitepapers.com/pr/2012%20Intergenerational%20Resilience%20%26%20Recovery.pdf
White, W. L. & White. A. M. (2011). Tips for recovering parents wishing to break intergenerational cycles of addiction. Posted at: http://www.williamwhitepapers.com/pr/Tips%20for%20Recovering%20Parents.pdf