Not the Inheritance I Hoped For: When Adult Children Become Addicts

In Addiction by Tree House Recovery

If our parents have lived with a mental illness of any kind, we are four to five times more likely to develop a mental illness of our own. Addiction and alcoholism are mental illnesses, called substance use disorders by technical name. Having a mental illness of any other kind makes us more likely to develop an addiction to drugs and or alcohol and having a parent who also had an addiction of some kind increases our likelihood of developing an addiction ourselves.

Addiction has numerous causes, but genetics play a significant role. Inheriting the genetics of addiction is not exclusive to our parents. We can grow up in a nuclear family and even extended family who are all “normal” and do not suffer from the compulsion to drink or use drugs. Nobody has ever suffered from addiction or alcoholism or any other major kind of mental illness, to any degree. Yet somewhere down our genetic history there is one relative who was a chronic alcoholic, a relentless drug addict, and passed those genes right down to us. Everyone else in our family might manifest some of the symptoms and behavioral patterns which indicate struggles with mental health, but nobody develops the actual brain structure of addiction like we do. We’re the black sheep. We stand out from the crowd. We inherited something we didn’t sign up for.

It can feel anything but fair as we fight through our genetic code and our reprogrammed brain to create a new kind of normal for ourselves. Few people in our family can understand us, and unless they’ve gone through the education necessary to understand addiction, they won’t understand what we are going through. When someone in our family and our life inherits or creates addiction in their lives, the whole family inherits it too through their experience. Addiction affects everyone when it affects a loved one. The moment you sign up for recovery, your immediate family is signing up for recovery too. Everyone has a chance to learn and heal, which transforms addiction from the inheritance you didn’t ask for, into recovery, which is everything you could have asked for and more.


Tree House Recovery of Orange County, California is a premier men’s addiction treatment facility that uses eight different modalities to help our men become the best versions of themselves they can be. We teach our men that every day of their journey is something to celebrate, and that recovery isn’t a sprint– it’s a marathon. By showing our men how to celebrate each day’s victories, we show them that self love isn’t about what we have or haven’t done. It’s about getting a little closer to where we want to be. To get started with Tree House Recovery, call us today at (503) 850-2474