Some of those who struggle with substance use are trapped within a cycle of addiction. This is because, in these cases, addiction is a learned behavior from watching family members. It is called a cycle because it affects multiple generations of people within a family. It's often the result of generational trauma and a lack of mental health education. The teaching of unhealthy coping skills from members of the family perpetuates the cycle. Learning how to break free of this cycle takes monumental effort and the help of skilled mental health care professionals. It is not an easy thing to do, and it's why many families are continuously trapped in this cycle of addiction.
However, there is help available for those who need it. Mental health care facilities and addiction treatment centers are standing by to help those who want to break the cycle. However, there are a couple of factors that often prevent someone from seeking help.
One is that many people who are trapped in a cycle of addiction are so desensitized to substance use that they view it as normal. Others may be told by the family that this is all okay. They may be told that they don't need help or don't have an addiction. Denial is powerful, and family members may not want to “rock the boat.” If someone can deny that there is a problem, then they don't have to acknowledge that it exists.
Another factor is the harsh stigma against those who struggle with addiction. This stigma can bring feelings of shame and failure. It makes it difficult for someone to admit to themselves and others that they need help. This stigma affects families, who may hide their problems with addiction. It's often kept as a known secret but isn't addressed or given attention. Keeping such secrets ultimately harms the family and the generation that comes after.
One must understand that there is a problem to break this addiction cycle. Then, they have to understand that getting help for it is okay. Treatment centers like Pathways Wellness Center work hard to spread addiction awareness to the general population. Education is improving, with more people each year understanding what addiction is and how it is treated. It's becoming more common to be encouraged to seek mental health help when needed. Normalizing mental health care goes a long way in reducing stigma and encouraging those seeking help.
Before someone can get help, they must realize that they are trapped in a cycle. This cycle is made up of people who are struggling and in pain. By understanding that everyone in this situation needs help, it's possible to stop the cycle.
For a cycle of addiction to start, it must first begin with a traumatic event in someone's life. This begins with the previous few generations, such as with grandparents or great-uncles and aunts. Mental health care was not always as extensive or welcoming as it is today. Those struggling with serious mental health disorders often had to deal with such things alone or faced mistreatment. It was especially difficult for those returning from war who had no help to deal with their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Traumatic events don't always deal with war. They can also come from natural disasters, sudden death, an assault on someone's home or person, or living through abuse.
Trauma is difficult to live with, even when treated. So, to cope, people would self-medicate with substances. The most common substance used to self-medicate is alcohol. Self-medicating is when someone uses a substance without a doctor's oversight to treat a negative symptom that is real or perceived. Engaging in substance use to deal with a problem is neither healthy nor productive. It can have serious consequences on someone's life. It's especially true when these consequences spill out into the next generation.
Children learn by watching their parents. So it's not hard to see why children of those with an addiction are more likely to develop one themselves. They watch how their parents or relatives deal with the difficulties in their life by using substances. Then these same children start believing it's the right way to cope. It may not be the intention of the person involved, but the result is teaching children that substance use and addiction are normal. Untreated trauma and mental health disorders can also harm children. This, in turn, can traumatize them, leading to the desire to self-medicate to soothe this trauma.
Then comes the next generation, who now must deal with the mental health issues and addictions of the previous two. They watch the same actions repeat themselves. Making excuses for others' addictive behaviors becomes second nature. In the blink of an eye, multiple generations of people are struggling with addiction.
It's easy now to see how a cycle of addiction can start, and why it can be difficult to break it. Often, people become afraid to “rock the boat” or seek change in their lives. It can cause them to insist that there isn't a problem. In some cases, it can cause them to denounce or belittle family members who seek to break the cycle of addiction.
To know for sure if someone is stuck in a cycle of addiction, they should ask themselves a few important questions:
If someone is struggling with addiction and answers yes to any of the questions above, they may be stuck in a cycle of addiction. Knowing that someone is in a cycle is the first step to breaking it. The next step requires someone seeking help from mental health care professionals. Having professional help doesn't just help an individual recover from addiction. It also stops the cycle before it can affect the next generation.
Pathways Wellness Center has a goal of helping its clients achieve recovery through compassionate care, quality treatment, and caring support. The job of every client at first is to get themselves stable. Pathways does this by setting up each client with a personalized treatment plan that a case manager oversees case manager. Clients spend time during the day receiving various treatments and therapies. They then go home at night to put them into practice. It's also common for clients to build a support network of peers who can help each other if they stumble during treatment.
Perhaps what someone needs most of all when breaking the cycle of addiction is to have a safe and stable place to process how they feel. Mental health care facilities and treatment centers are perfect places for this. A mental health care professional would never judge, belittle, or mock someone for their struggles. Instead, clients are met with compassion and understanding. It is a place where someone can talk about their true feelings and thoughts without fearing it being used against them. Here in therapy, someone can deconstruct the poor coping skills they may have learned. Then, they learn the skills needed to cope with difficulties in a healthier way.
Clients also discover their self-worth and confidence by participating in therapies that give them a healthy outlet for their negative emotions. Some of these therapies, such as art therapy and adventure therapy, can be exciting and allow someone to stand out. When trapped in a cycle of addiction, some people may feel small, neglected, and overlooked. Here, they are recognized as the individual they are and are taught that they matter.
Education is also important, especially for those who struggle with addiction and substance use. Understanding how addiction works and how to prevent a relapse is an important part of addiction treatment. Clients at Pathways Wellness Center are taught how to live a sober life and navigate a post-treatment world. They are given spaces to practice their skills so they are prepared to do so on their own once treatment is finished.
Family therapy is also an option and can help families heal from addiction. It's important to understand that people cannot be forced into therapy. If a family member refuses to come to family therapy, that is their choice. However, it does not prevent other family members from joining in. Sometimes this is enough to convince the absent family member to join in eventually. If not, it gives those in family therapy the tools to navigate around them to make a healthier family unit.
Also, clients are not abandoned as soon as treatment is finished. Pathways Wellness Center staff is always there in case further help is needed. It's also common to see alumni events at Pathways, which can broaden someone's support network. If there is any point when someone feels as though their recovery is in trouble, they are encouraged to call Pathways right away. When someone breaks the cycle of addiction and finds themselves without a family, they find a new one at Pathways Wellness Center.
Once someone fully recovers, it's time to begin their new life. This can involve a lot of changes, both socially and individually. Sometimes when someone completes their treatment, they can seem like a whole new person to their family. It is, however, a positive change that doesn't just help the individual who completed treatment – it helps the next generation too. The youngest generation will be watching their actions. They may not be old enough to know that the cycle of addiction has been broken, but they will notice several positive things.
Children will learn that it's okay and acceptable to ask for help. It doesn't mean just seeking help for an addiction or mental health disorder. This applies to any aspect of life. Learning that asking for help isn't shameful or weak teaches the next generation that they don't have to shoulder their burdens alone. Doing so prevents the temptation to deal with problems on their own. This alone can often prevent substance use and addiction.
Learning that there are healthy ways to cope with difficulties in life can prevent destructive behaviors, the most common of which is such as self-medicating. Clients who finish treatment can go on to teach the next generation the skills they learned. For example, this can include that using art to express emotions is a healthy way to cope with negative feelings. Or that taking a hike in the wilderness can help calm the mind and put small problems into perspective. Understanding that your mind is essential and should be cared for can help the next generation be aware of their self-worth.
Perhaps a skill often overlooked but vitally important is the ability to say no and set boundaries. Children watching their family members say no to peer pressure when pressured to use substances teaches them how to do so as well. Seeing what healthy boundaries look like can help children learn how to set them. This can also help children recognize what a toxic person is and how best to avoid them. Toxic people can endanger someone's mental and physical health. Understanding what they are and how to remove them from their life is essential to an individual's health.
Lastly, children learn that they don't have to engage in substance use to find joy and fulfillment in their lives.
In cases where someone relapses, they learn that people will fail. But it doesn't mean they cannot pick themselves back up and seek help again. It's always okay to seek help, even when someone fails or experiences a setback in their recovery. They learn that help is always there for those that ask for it.
It can be hard to come to terms with the fact that, like it or not, they have become a role model. They have broken the cycle of addiction and thrown off the trauma from previous generations. Now, a new generation is looking to them for an example of how to be a healthy person. They may face resentment from the earlier generations. But by then, they would have learned how not to let it affect them. What truly matters is that they and the ones who follow after are healthy.
It's not like someone has to take this responsibility alone with no support. The staff at Pathways Wellness Center is always available to help clients set a good example for their young family members. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed at first. In time, most people take this new life in stride. Breaking the cycle of addiction is an immense accomplishment. Anyone can be proud of that. It shows that everyone is deserving of help.
Breaking free is a process that can be difficult and long. But it is worth it not just to the person breaking it but for those who follow after. Sometimes, this is enough to give the previous generation something to think about. Even the most stubborn family members can come around with enough evidence that breaking the cycle is possible. They just needed to be shown that it was possible, and how.
For many people, substance use is perceived as a normal part of their lives. This is due to watching family members engage in substance use, which can often turn into an addiction. This can cause a cycle where addiction becomes normalized by each subsequent generation. It's important to break the cycle, not just for yourself but for the people who will follow after. Thankfully, nobody has to break this cycle alone. Here at Pathways Wellness Center in Glendora, California, our clients find the support and treatment they need from compassionate and qualified mental health care professionals. Anyone can recover from addiction, including yourself and those whom you love. Break the cycle by calling (888) 771-0966 today.