I am NOT the problem! Our family is NOT the problem, it’s he/she who is actively bringing addiction into this family!

They Are the Active Substance User. It’s Not My Problem, Right?

One of the most significant challenges families encounter is that they do not believe they need to change and that the problem rests exclusively with their addicted loved one. They invest heavily in the belief that if he/she (who has the “problem”) just gets “back to normal,” then everything will be fine. The problem with this belief system is that this is usually not the case and the problem continues to worsen.

Now you may be saying, “What this is all about? I am the one to blame for my loved one’s problem?” Understandably so. You did not cause your loved one’s addiction and you can’t take full control over the problem, but there are ways in which family can unknowingly contribute to the dysfunction.

Your Role When You Are Not the Active Substance User

When the disease of addiction takes possession of someone you love, it causes many different feelings and emotions to arise. As a family, you have needed to allocate certain roles and responsibilities, and collectively make decisions on how to respond to your loved one and “their” disease to keep the system intact.

For example, if the parent is the active substance user, the oldest child may take more responsibility and control over family decision-making, leaving the younger siblings to feel less responsible and potentially inadequate. Change involving one member of the family system leads to change in the system as a whole.


Understand How Addiction Impacts the Whole Family

While the ultimate goal is that your loved one seeks treatment and begins their path to recovery, it can also be a good time for the family to seek consultation and treatment to understand how addiction impacts the family as a whole, and what steps can be taken to begin healing in the family system.

I like to compare addiction and recovery to the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Recovery involves learning, growth, and healing. It is a process by which a person learns and practices new patterns of living — developing the awareness and building the skills to live a whole, healthy, and healed life. Being in recovery means that a person is participating in life activities that are healthy, meaningful, and fulfilling for them.

Amanda Pitts, LADC1, Executive Director

Amanda Pitts is the Executive Director of the Coleman Institute for Addiction Medicine in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Amanda is an experienced Licensed Alcohol Drug Counselor (LADC1) with a demonstrated 16-year history in Behavioral Health and Addiction Treatment. Amanda holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston in Applied Sociology with a concentration in Forensic Services. She has a National Certification in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) and is a trained facilitator in Nurturing Recovery Programs.