Why Am I Not an Addict?
The causes of drug addiction and alcoholism are very complex. Based on myriad studies, many researchers conclude that as much as 50% of addiction is attributable to genetics. What this supposes is that if you have a parent who is addicted to drugs or abuses alcohol, you have a 50% likelihood of developing an addiction. If there are multiple kids in the family, your siblings are equally predisposed to addiction and their chances of developing addiction are the same as yours.
Many might argue that environment, not heredity plays a stronger role in determining whether someone who grew up with an addict is likely to become one. The idea being that by simply living with a person who is abusing drugs, and who is involved in the chaotic lifestyle that often accompanies drug usage, that it will influence the easily impressionable child into using drugs in the future.
Either of these could be plausible explanations if you have wondered why, for example, your mother or father drank or used drugs. They may also easily explain why your siblings may, too, have followed in their footsteps. What might be baffling is why you didn’t get the gene, or despite the same exposure as your siblings, why you didn’t start using or drinking.
Interventions Don’t Just Apply to Helping Loved Ones into Recovery
Growing up with a mom or dad who drank or used drugs (or both) can be isolating, dangerous, chaotic, and fraught with uncertainty, fear, confusion and anger. Maybe you were abused or were neglected. Perhaps you had to frequently take care of yourself when they were high. You may never have felt settled and comfortable at home or had to care for them because they couldn’t care for themselves.
Reactions to the dysfunction growing up around drugs and/or alcohol can vary from sibling to sibling. It is not uncommon for one or more to start using at an early age while another may become hyper responsible, excelling in school, even graduating from high school a year or two early – if for no other reason than to put distance between home life and self.
In your solitude, did you often wonder why? Why me? Why my parents? Why didn’t someone help me? Why couldn’t they stop? And if one or more of your siblings turned to drugs, did you wonder why him/them and not you? Why were you spared?
The answer to the question ‘why not you’ can be as convoluted as why your parents used drugs and maybe your mom’s sister abstained from drinking her entire life. And sometimes in seeing the dysfunction present in a home with addiction, older relatives can intervene in ways that you may not have seen growing up but that you maybe can appreciate now. Why those interventions helped you and not your siblings can certainly be the cause of incredible guilt.
The Best Way to Help
Seeing patterns repeating themselves in your siblings can be terribly disheartening. While you couldn’t have helped your parents when you were a child, your sense of powerlessness and guilt now that you are all adults can be overwhelming. If you have extended your hand numerous times and it has been refused, there are several things you can do.
Keep the door open. Although you may have to keep distance from your siblings if their use is destructive to both themselves and you, always keep the door open. Setting boundaries is healthy; closing the door forever isn’t.
Be a good example. While you don’t have to push in their faces the successes you have achieved, you can show them what it is like to live without drugs or alcohol controlling your life.
Don’t own the guilt or shame. Recognizing that addiction is complex, and can at times be random, don’t allow anyone to lay blame on you for not making the same choices they did. It is common for addicts to project and deflect. Don’t own it.
Continue to wish them well. If you pray, pray for them. Think good thoughts for them and hope their bottom will come sooner rather than later. And be willing to be there when it happens. Until that day, always have a kind word even in the face of hostility. Part of not owning the guilt means also not reacting to the cruel words said under the influence.
Get therapy, talk to someone or join Alanon. Addiction is a family disease and whether you took or take drugs, you were/are affected by the dysfunction. Keeping yourself sane can take various roads. Don’t be afraid to choose one or several.