Addiction is a family issue: Despite what you may think


Addiction is a family issue

Written by Amy C. Willis

Addiction is a family issue

The first time I tasted alcohol, I was around 8 or 9 years old. My dad gave me a sip of his beer, likely to deter me from it. It worked, as I never developed a taste for beer, though the same can’t be said for red wine, vodka and cider, which I developed a strong appetite for over the years.

Outside of the random sips of beer my dad offered, I didn’t really start drinking until the ripe old age of 16. Even though this is way too young still (for context, my brain still had 9 years of development to go), I very much started experimenting with alcohol in line with my friends at the time. From the outside, it looked like what we were doing was the same. Only after many years of healing, reflection and awareness did I recognize that I was turning to alcohol for relief and to cope with the trauma that was happening in my life, that I didn’t have the tools to actually deal with. 

Alcohol took the edge off of the ongoing stress

When I was 16, my parents separated, which in and of itself, is a massive blow to an adolescent’s sense of self, family, and security. My parent’s separation came with a lot of extra traumatic baggage including unearthing significant lies, police involvement and despite the separation, my dad still lingering in our family home for several months, which was emotionally taxing. All of this was happening all around me and there was little to nothing I could do about it to make it stop or make it better. So when my friends started drinking at parties, I joined them initially out of curiosity and soon learned that alcohol (while even temporarily) took the edge off of the on-going stress and pain I was experiencing at home.

As an important aside, I really want to stress that I truly believe my parents were doing the best they could with the skills and tools that they had at their disposal. As an adult now, I can’t even begin to imagine what my mother must have been feeling in those months. It was a terrible time for all of us. 

Excessive drinking was normalized

At 16 years old, I hadn’t developed strong coping skills or strategies to support myself in challenging or stressful situations. Another important piece of context here is that my dad drank heavily and struggled with alcohol addiction so I very much grew up in a home where excessive drinking was normalized and commonplace. What I didn’t know at the time was my unique combination of circumstances including my environment, traumas, early exposure to substances, poor coping skills, mental health and so on greatly contributed to the likelihood that I would develop an addiction to alcohol, which I did. 

Alcohol is ubiquitous

Because alcohol is ubiquitous, considered increasingly normative (for more on normative alcohol culture), and is wildly addictive, I proceeded to develop a pretty severe addiction to alcohol over the years. I drank more and more, pairing alcohol with almost everything in my life. My tolerance grew as did my dependence and I got to the point where it felt totally normal to attend weekend-long yoga retreats drunk, which I did. Twice.

Turning point

The turning point for me (though it wasn’t immediate) was when I got a call in September 2014 from my mother, letting me know that my dad had been found dead. His drinking and abuse of his body over many, many years played a significant role in his early passing. I was overcome with grief and drank myself even deeper into my addiction. 

Obsessing about drinking

About a year after my dad’s passing and after the acuteness of the grief had also passed, I started to wonder if there was more to life than how I was doing it, if there was more to life for me than mentally obsessing about drinking, drinking, being hungover and then doing it all again, over and over. 

I found sobriety

The best decision I have ever made for myself

While my path there wasn’t clear or easy, I found sobriety in August 2016 and have been sober ever since. Choosing sobriety was the best decision I have ever made for myself. I now live a life that I am utterly in love with. I have re-connected to my power, liberation, and intuition. In short, I have finally come home to myself. Because sobriety has been such a powerful experience in my life, I even changed careers completely.

Sobriety and Mindset coach

I became trained as a coach and have built a thriving, global coaching practice (called HOL + WELL) where I work as a Sobriety & Mindset coach, supporting women and LGBTQ+ folks to reclaim their freedom and power through sobriety. It is such an honour and privilege to support my clients in changing their lives. And I never would have arrived here if I didn’t have my own experiences with addiction.

Substance use issues and addiction impact us all

The reality is that substance use issues and addiction impact us all in various ways which is why bebo mia has introduced a brand new scholarship called the HOL + WELL Award for Addiction Support. This scholarship was created to support aspiring birthworkers who have personally overcome addiction or those who wish to focus their services on supporting families who have dealt with addiction because we believe a holistic approach for care and support are needed and vital.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or substance use issues, please reach out. You don’t have to do this alone and a different way forward is always possible.

In love and fury, 

Amy C. Willis

Has substance use or addiction impacted you or someone close to you? What does your relationship to alcohol look like? Feel free to share in the comments, or reach out directly to Amy at [email protected]

Despite what you may think, addiction is a family issue


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