There are many theories regarding the cause of substance abuse. Science points the finger at biological changes in the brain and/or a genetic predisposition, while others believe it’s a spiritual condition or malady. Additionally, many blame environmental factors, like dysfunction within your family of origin.
Nature Versus Nurture
Your family of origin is more than the place where you grew up. It’s the environment that shaped you: where you learned how to process emotions, where you gained communication skills, where your needs were (usually) met and where you learned moral values and beliefs.
Dysfunction within a family of origin could include an absence of nurturing, abuse or addiction, and disruptive events like divorce or death. Sadly, these issues can hinder a child’s emotional development and sense of self, which can potentially cause problems in later life – such as:
- Substance abuse issues
- Difficulty forming healthy relationships
- Approval-seeking behaviors
- Codependency issues
- Trouble maintaining healthy boundaries
- Little or no coping strategies
Dysfunction and Self Discovery
Both of my parents suffered with chemical dependency issues. I felt neglected, which affected my sense of self and coping strategies my entire life.
As a child, I used food as a dysfunctional way to cope. As a teenager, I developed my own substance abuse issue, which progressed until I was 32 and felt suicidal.
When I found recovery, I slowly – and painfully – began to discover the extent of my emotional immaturity. I had huge issues with codependency: I sought approval from everyone, I struggled with attachment, I had no boundaries, I feared everyone would abandon or reject me, and I sought out unfeasible relationships. Of course, I only discovered these issues when in relationships and the pain of these discoveries recently brought me to my knees.
I could see on the one hand how, in the process of recovery, I’d made huge progress in terms of boundary-setting and other co-dependent behaviors, but I still acted like a frightened little girl in intimate relationships.
I knew if I wanted to have a healthy relationship and not feel so traumatized, I would require family of origin therapy.
What is Family of Origin Therapy?
The good news is there are multiple resources available to treat childhood trauma. Family of origin treatment can come in different forms, such as:
- Adult Children of Alcoholics: A 12 step fellowship dedicated to help anyone who lived in a dysfunctional home with addiction,abuse, or mental illness issues.
- Family of Origin Therapist: This type of therapy may be able to help you identify and resolve your specific unresolved family of origin issue. Some common issues discussed in these therapy sessions involve communication issues, difficulty with trust, fear of rejection, or commitment phobias.
I’m currently trying both family of origin therapy and ACA. In just a few short weeks, my progress has been immense. And that progress has given me hope that recovery from family dysfunction is possible.
Additional Reading: Choosing the Right Kind of Therapy Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult
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