The Real Costs Of Growing Up In A Dysfunctional Family: Lies, Drugs, And Bad Decisions

No one can deny the importance or influence of the family in terms of conditioning our past, present, and future. Even when we are fully formed adults, the memories, whatever they may be, good or bad, continue to exert a sizable influence on our being. 

While almost all families come with their own faults and peculiarities, functional families can help in creating confident adults that carry forward healthy behaviors and activities. Experts say that functional families instill a strong sense of self-respect in individuals. 

On the contrary, dysfunctional families often fail to impart confidence, self-respect, or healthy ways of living and behaving to individuals. According to the APA, 50% of all addictions are related to past factors, including the growing-up environment and familial relationships. 

In this resource article, we try to address an issue that has emerged as one of the major reasons why individuals fall prey to drug and alcohol addiction. We try to explore the relationship between the two and recommend strategies that can help lead a clean and sober life. 

Understanding what a Dysfunctional Family is

Before we try to answer this question, let us begin with a steady disclaimer- no family is perfect! 

What this means is that there exists some level of dysfunctionality in every family out there. The key difference lies in the fact that while striving to remove such negative traits, others simply live on with them with acceptance and try to put up a façade that all is well. 

Understanding a dysfunctional family is not easy. However, we will try to list down some important points that can help you identify and understand one- 

  1. If one or both of the parents is currently struggling with a substance abuse disorder. For example, the father is fighting an alcohol addiction and is not acknowledging the same. 
  2. There are episodes of mental and physical violence in the household. One of the parents hitting each other or both engaging in fistfights are signs of dysfunctionality. 
  3. Family members do not partake in fun and exciting activities like going for a vacation or celebrating the holidays together. There are no ‘happy’ times that are spent. 
  4. There is a culture of hiding or running away from the truth. The impression that is put up in front of society is of a family that is perfect in every sense of the word. 
  5. Bad actions, judgments, and activities are swept under the carpet rather than being addressed head-on. Fostering a culture becomes the norm in dysfunctional families. 
  6. Parents do not talk to their children, ask about their daily lives, how they are performing in school, and so on. There is a complete breakdown of communication. 
  7. Children that have grown up into adults have failed to step into functional roles and continue the cycle of dysfunctionality with their own families and relationships. 

If you have read the above-mentioned points and have answered ‘yes’ to any one or more of them, then you belong to a dysfunctional family. There are specific treatment centers that specialize in treating individuals that have a SUD because of their dysfunctional family background. You can connect with this rehab and detox center that offers inpatient treatment in Las Vegas

The Relationship Between Dysfunctional Families and Drug Addiction

There are multiple reasons why someone starts using substances like drugs or alcohol. It can be because of the environment, psychological background, proximity to substances, and not being able to cope with stresses and tensions (looking at substances as an escape). 

There are some credible studies that have been able to establish that there is a direct link between growing up in a dysfunctional family and being addicted to drugs or alcohol. In this section, we will try to establish this in detail. 

  • One of the first things you need to know about drug abuse and the subsequent addiction is access. In dysfunctional families, access to substances becomes incredibly easy. An alcoholic parent is hardly going to notice if their bottle’s alcohol content has been siphoned off by the teenager or not. This access allows children growing up in dysfunctional families to start experimenting with substances at an early age. 
  • Secondly, most of us, when we are growing up, face certain tough life events. It can be a rough break-up, not making the school team, or performing badly in tests. In such instances, it is imperative that parents guide and offer support. When the bonding is not there, and there is a complete breakdown of communication, children look to depend on substances. They seek them as they believe it helps them cope with problems. 
  • Thirdly, since most of us look up to our parents as individuals that can do no wrong, we tend to start emulating their behavior when we grow up. ‘If my father was drinking at 12 in the afternoon, I can do the same’ is the belief that we grow up with. Rather than questioning the action of the father (which would result in a bruising), we slowly internalize the action and interpret it as being acceptable. 
  • Fourthly, the lack of support from the family makes individuals seek the same outside. This results in them coming into contact with friends and social circles where drug use or alcohol consumption is normal. Over a period, hanging out with the wrong circle of friends that encourage such unhealthy habits becomes a way of life and leads to addiction. Since parents are unavailable, social needs lead to addictive behaviors. 
  • Fifthly, many individuals that grow up in dysfunctional families see themselves as a failure. They realize that seeking and using substances is bad, but since they have no hope in life, they venture on a path of self-destruction. They start blaming their existence for everything, including the financial problems of the family. This self-destructive behavior encourages them to do everything that will end up hurting them. 

The Bottom Line

While it is true that we cannot choose the family we are born into, there are things that can be done to help you overcome addiction or stay away from drugs and alcohol, even when you are from a dysfunctional family. Many therapists and behaviorists point out that individuals should stop considering themselves ‘victims’. They should also look to work on developing positive brain habits and coping mechanisms. This should be followed by a conscious attempt to not repeat the mistakes that were made by their parents. 

Kelly W
Kelly W
Dream big, play hard, take the wins and embrace the losses.
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