Witnessing Addiction as Children 

Many of us who struggle with addiction witnessed the illness in our families and communities when growing up. We may have watched parents, siblings and other family members drink excessively, use drugs or engage in reckless addictive behaviors. They may have included us in their activities, exposing us to their drugs of choice and addictive habits at a young age. We may have been guided and taught to emulate their patterns, routines and lifestyles that revolved around addiction. Witnessing addiction when we’re young can set us up to develop beliefs and patterns of our own that contribute to our own struggles with addiction later in life.

When we see people living with addiction and actively giving into their drugs of choice, especially before we’re old enough to understand what’s going on, we can form the subconscious belief that we need something outside of ourselves to cope with life and handle our pain. We’re being taught that drugs and addictive behaviors bring us comfort, pleasure, relief and satisfaction that we can’t find elsewhere. We’re being taught that rather than deal with our issues head on, it’s safer and easier to distract ourselves from them and to try to escape them. We learn to numb our pain with drugs and behaviors rather than develop healthy coping skills. We’re taught to believe that we’re not strong enough to cope with life’s challenges on our own, and that we’re not capable of being happy without addictive substances and behaviors to create our happiness for us.

Witnessing addiction when we’re young can push us to experiment with drugs at an early age, especially if we’re being pressured to. We might want to be perceived as cool. We want to be included, validated and accepted. We want to be liked. We might find that our experiences of seeing other people struggle with addiction contribute to the development of our own addictions, in part because we’re emulating them. On the other hand, we might be so afraid of what we see, so troubled by it, and so deeply impacted by it, that our experience makes us go the opposite direction and never engage in addictive behaviors in order to try and prevent ourselves from suffering the way we saw people suffer when we were younger. The harsh realities we witnessed, and the pain we saw firsthand, might have been enough to dissuade us from ever even trying a drug or addictive behavior. We might recognize that a propensity for addiction resides within us, and we don’t want to take the chance and allow it to develop further, so we stay away from addictive substances and behaviors altogether. Witnessing addiction early on can, for some of us, impact us in a positive direction.

The community of Riverside Recovery has personal experience with addiction and the feelings of hopelessness and disconnection that come with it. We’re here to help you reclaim the life you love. Call (800) 871-5440 today.