Addiction in the family

Addiction in the family is maddening to say the least. 

When you love an addict, your whole world gets turned upside down as you try and figure out the best way to help an addict. 

When we say “addiction is a family disease” what we mean is, it effects everyone in the family.

Addicts and alcoholics believe that they are only affecting themselves, but in truth, no one is left untouched by it’s devastating impact.

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about addiction and recovery…

How do you tell if this is a problem?

Knowing if someone is an addict or an alcoholic is a tricky question. Often, when you confront someone you care about, they’ll argue with you that they’re fine. They’ll tell you that you are overreacting.

Here’s the simple answer: it’s a problem if it’s  creating problems.

Most people who socially drink or use recreationally don’t feel the effects or suffer consequences from their behavior. 

So, if using is creating problems (financial, emotional, physical, psychological, spiritual, mental, environmental, social) it’s time to take some action. 

What causes addiction? Is it genetic?

Research shows that it’s 50/50. Meaning 50% of addiction is a genetic predisposition and 50% is coping mechanisms. 

I want you to think of addiction like a preventable disease. One may have a predisposition, but if they do not continuously use, they will not become addicted. after all, you have to actually use drugs and alcohol to become addicted to them. 

Addiction does not happen overnight. One does not use one time and become addicted. Addiction is a habituated psychological condition with a biological component brought on by the habitual use. 

From my perspective, I have seen 4 risk factors that create the perfect storm to enable addiction. Keep in mind that these conditions were within the addict BEFORE addiction became an issue.

1. The person has a low stress tolerance. Prior to addiction, this person had a low threshold for stress.

2. The person is highly sensitive. Before addiction, it is highly likely this individual had heightened senses.

3. Little to no coping skills. Before addiction, this individual did not have many ways of coping with the stressors of life.  

4. An unfulfilled life. Life for this individual was unsatisfying long before the addiction started and using began as a way to create a sense of fulfillment. 

Does an addict have to hit rock bottom?

The thought of waiting until things get worse before they get better is a crippling one as you watch your loved one spiral out of control.

The short answer is NO.

Things do NOT have to continue to get worse before they get better. But, the odds of someone seeking help when things “don’t seem that bad” are slim.

What you need to know is most of the time, even when it gets obviously bad to others, the addict will still think “it’s not that bad.”

Addiction is about denial. If the addict or alcoholic didn’t have a sense of denial, they would not be able to continue to do what they are doing to the family. 

They have to stay in a fantasy in order to continue to operate.

You cannot convince an addict how bad it is. They do not see it.

What you can do is work with someone to orchestrate getting help for your family. 


What makes an addict relapse?

Addiction is  a manageable condition and able to be kept in remission so long as one continuously works at recovery.

Also consider this, if one has cancer and it goes into remission, that person could do everything in their power to remain healthy. They could eat right, exercise and guard their mental attitude. AND the cancer could still come back.

But if someone recovers from addiction and it goes into remission, if they continually work at staying healthy, developing appropriate coping skills, the addiction will never return. In other words, relapse doesn’t “just happen” ever.

How do I set a boundary with an addict or alcoholic?

Boundaries are different than ultimatums. But ultimatums are usually what we give addicts. 

Ultimatums are given as a lame attempt to change the addicts behavior. 

Boundaries are for YOU.

When you set a boundary there are a few very important things to remember.

1. Boundaries are set in peace time not war. When you’re attempting to set a boundary are you speaking to someone with a clear head or are they active in their addiction? Because if you’re setting a boundary with someone while they are under the influence you are just making noise.

2. Use as few words as possible. be clear and concise.

You don’t need to defend your position with a dissertation. Because you feel a certain way or want a certain situation does not mean you need to justify, rationalize or explain your position.

3. Use the formula.

The formula for settting a boundary is

when you_________

I feel_________

I want_________

If you ___________

I will____________.

4. FOLLOW THROUGH! Boundaries are taught with actions not words. Be prepared to do the damn thing, whatever that thing is. 


How do I help my addicted family member?

This is such an important question. There are MANY things you can do to help your loved one get better. 

But in my experience working with hundreds of families, the fist step is to know what you may be doing that isn’t helpful. 

So, we have created a free checklist for you that will answer this question more in depth.

Thank you for visiting us and we hope you have found this information helpful.


Helping versus Hurting Checklist

The first step to help your addicted loved one is to discover what works and what deosn’t. Download the free checklist now!

Ready to take action and get the support you need? 

Learn about our Revolutionary Family Program

If you are ready to get the tools you need to navigate someone else’s addiction, you’ll want to check out our Family Program. Inside, you will have access to world class trainings done by Heidi and Dug McGuirk. They’ll be your guide as you learn how to get your family back! 

Heidi Rain McGuirk

Heidi McGuirk is a Master Practitioner of NLP, Addiction Professional and Master Certified Empowerment and Relationship Coach. She specializes in codependency, self-love, dysfunctional/unhealthy relationships, and dealing with addiction in the family.  She is co-creator of the Revolutionary Family Program and Love Yourself First Empowerment School.
It’s her passion to equip and certify  those who want to help others through her Empowerment Coach University.
Heidi held an esteemed faculty position at one of the world’s leading drug and alcohol treatment centers where she created empowerment programming and facilitated psychoeducational lectures,  seminars and group therapy. This experience with thousands of clients over many years, led to the creation of much of her life changing curriculum and proprietary methods.
Heidi blends her vast professional experience, world class education and personal experience to create exceptional results with her students and clients..
She has a unique understanding and fresh perspective which helps her to truly get results with those she helps.
Her riveting style of using humor and candor encourages and inspires people to heal.