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Recovery from Addiction: The Powerful Influence of Families

A. Tom Horvath, Ph.D., ABPP, Kaushik Misra, Ph.D., Amy K. Epner, Ph.D., and Galen Morgan Cooper, Ph.D. , edited by C. E. Zupanick, Psy.D.

So far, we've been talking about larger cultural groups. But much smaller social groups, such as one's community and family, can exert an even more powerful influence. Concerning substance abuse, you may be surprised to learn that families exert a greater influence on their teens than do their peers. However, we should not underestimate the powerful influence of peers (Wood, Read, Mitchell and Brand, 2004). Interested parents may benefit from research-based materials available from Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Previously we listed some questions to consider regarding the impact of culture.

  • In what ways has my culture shaped my attitude toward addiction?
  • What are the norms of my culture toward intoxication?
  • What changes are needed stop promoting addiction and to instead discourage it?
  • How can we accomplish these changes?

You might ask these same questions about your family and peer group. These smaller groups can influence behavior in the same way that larger groups do. Every family has its own culture. Every culture has its own families.

A familiar expression is very relevant to addiction recovery: "You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family." Some people in recovery are fortunate enough to have wonderfully supportive and helpful families. Other people in recovery may not be so fortunate. If your family is not supporting the changes you wish to make, you might need to "adopt" a new family. The success of your recovery from addiction may require the development of a new, healthier "family." You can do this by broadening your concept of family. Ideally, you want to surround yourself with people who are willing and able to help you. To do this, you will need to develop and participate in one or more social networks. We discuss social support in the next section.