Addiction: The Family Disease

Addiction is often said to be a family disease; when one family member suffers, the rest of the family system is affected. The disease of addiction has a ripple effect on the entire family, no matter how attached or detached members may be from the primary source. When the family unit is sick, each individual needs to take action to recover, which will alleviate some of the stress from the disease. 

The Effects of Addiction on the Family 

The effects of addiction are far-reaching, affecting everyone emotionally, materially and physically. From relationship breakdowns to financial constraints and even the increased risk of violence and abuse, addiction in any form causes stress and creates challenges for all of those involved. Driven by harmful coping mechanisms developed throughout a loved one’s illness, the family suffers. 

Possible effects on family members:

  • Guilt, shame and embarrassment over the addict’s disease and behaviour
  • Depression and anxiety 
  • Isolation from others
  • Blaming oneself for an individual’s disease and actions
  • Anger and resentment 
  • Physical and emotional abuse
  • Financial constraints imposed by addiction can be implicit or explicit, e.g. enabling a loved one’s disease or having financial resources needed for rehabilitation. 
  • Physical health conditions stemming from stress and lack of self-care


Support for Families Living with the Effects of Addiction

Fortunately, though, like there are recovery programs for those afflicted, there is an opportunity for the family to get well through their recovery journey. Every family has its own organisation – how they deal with problems and whether they react or respond is ingrained within the family operating system. Whilst we may believe the onus is on the affected individual to get well, we slowly become aware of the effects that someone else’s disease has had upon us and that we, too, are unwell. 



We learn that we are not to blame for someone else’s disease. Addiction does not discriminate; anyone can become addicted regardless of age, race, income level or educational background. We cannot cause someone’s disease just like we cannot control or cure it. For those who have suffered from the effects of addiction, we may have experienced any of these factors. 

The general foundation of family recovery hinges on the understanding that everyone is responsible for their actions and reactions. When it comes to change, we only have the power to change ourselves rather than someone else – this is the essence of recovery for the afflicted individual and those around them. It is important for family members to see what they can control and take responsibility for in their recovery. This can be done through the following:

  • Asking for help when needed
  • Taking time to understand the disease of addiction
  • Finding activities we enjoy
  • Finding ways to find practice acceptance of one situation 
  • Focusing on gratitude rather than resentment


Help is Available 

It is essential for those suffering to find suitable networks to obtain support and guidance from those dealing with addiction’s effects. there are 12-step-based fellowships that deal with this situation specifically, such as:

  • Al-Anon
  • Alateen
  • Co-dependents Anonymous (CoDA)
  • Adult Children of Alcoholics
  • Families Anonymous


It is important to note that a family can work towards recovery whether their loved one is or not. Recovery involves growth and healing, and family members can start this at any time and learn how to support their loved one who is still suffering in a way that is healthy for everyone. 

At Transitions Bali, we support you and your loved one’s recovery journey. We offer a safe space to learn and help build individuals’ confidence and momentum towards the future they want. We provide a structured program in a sober and secure environment for those in recovery. To learn more about our program, enquire today at +44 7737755335 and




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