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5 Things to Do When You’ve Inherited Addiction

It’s an inevitable lament at birthday parties, girls’ nights and cook-outs: “None for me, thank you. If I eat just one (insert something delicious here), I won’t stop.”

People will laugh and nod with understanding at the admission of a so-called addictive personality, even offering up their own Herculean struggle with mocktails, chips or ice cream. But these conversations are often couched in language about willpower, weakness and a lack of self-discipline. And for those who truly have a genetic predisposition toward substance abuse or addiction, the compulsion is no laughing matter.

Research shows that about half of a person’s vulnerability to addiction stems from biological factors. Their environment and the circumstances surrounding their development also contribute to whether or not that predisposition manifests itself in the form of full-blown addiction.

It’s a phenomenon noted roughly 2,000 years ago by Greek philosopher Plutarch and echoed in the work of 17th-century scholar Robert Burton, best-known for “The Anatomy of Melancholy:” Ebrii gignunt ebrios, one drunkard begets another.

Conventional wisdom posits that if a person’s parents or grandparents struggled with substance abuse or addiction, they too will be fated to some form of chemical dependency. But many children of addicts live against the grain of that upbringing, swearing off any substances that could be abused.

That a propensity toward dependency appears to exist within families is beyond dispute. What, exactly, explains the link is another matter. Pushback against the 19th (and to some extent, 20th) century narrative of addiction as a moral failing in part spurred the hunt for scientific evidence of a connection.

But scientists believe there is no singular addiction gene. There is no test that can label someone a future addict. So where does that leave those with a family history of chemical dependency? Awareness and education can go a long way in this case.

Here are five things that people with a family history of addiction can do to break the cycle:

1. Build a knowledge base.

There is more attention focused on addiction and addiction science now than ever, and increasingly few excuses for not paying attention. This epidemic touches everyone. Even those without a family history of addiction likely know one or a dozen people who are struggling – possibly in silence.

For those fortunate enough to be aware of their own connection to addiction, there is even more incentive to locate resources in their own community. From recovery groups to counseling to the glut of information available online about causes and treatment, the time to become educated is right now.

2. Scrutinize behaviors.

Now, too, is the time for analyzing the underlying problems that may manifest themselves in harmful behavior. You might polish off a pint of Cherry Garcia the night before a project is due, or just because you are bored. You pause in the pantry to down that last glass of wine out of sight, lest someone think you have a drinking problem.

Overdoing it on sweets or having one beer too many may not seem like a big deal – and it’s not, if it never escalates. But it could also be an attempt at self-medication for anxiety or depression for someone prone to impulsive or compulsive behavior. These folks might not be in active addiction, but they are struggling with the same issues that can lead others into a downward spiral.

3. Understand risk factors.

Risk factors for dependency or addiction don’t stop with the genetic hand one is dealt. A social circle that revolves around drinking or drugs, a personal history of trauma, low self-esteem, family dysfunction and a lack of social support can all leave someone vulnerable to drug abuse.

4. Prevention is key.

The best way to avoid addiction is simply never to begin experimenting. This may sound obvious, but it’s borne out by fact. Although experimentation at any age can open the door to the chronic compulsion to seek and use illicit substances, someone who tries drugs is more likely to wind up in full-blown addiction if they start young, before the parts of their brain that govern impulse control mature.

And they start young, according to annual estimates from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. About one in 10 people aged 12 or older had used an illicit substance within 30 days of taking the most recently published survey. That’s 27 million people, with nearly 8,000 people aged 12 or older using an illicit drug for the first time within the preceding 12 months. About 10 to 20 percent of people who try those drugs become dependent on them. Why take the risk?

5. Lead by example.

Anyone with a genetic predisposition toward addiction ultimately has a responsibility to pass lessons learned on to the next generation. When children enter the picture, the stakes are high. They have a right to understand what they are up against. That means openness, honesty and courage on the part of a parent who might rather not discuss such a sensitive subject. Moreover, it means having the courage to seek help if help is needed. It takes courage to acknowledge a problem, but even more courage to resolve it.


I destroy homes, tear families apart, take your children, and that’s just the start. I’m most costly than diamonds, more costly than gold, the sorrow I bring is a sight to behold, and if you need me, remember I’m easily found, I live all around you, in schools and in town. I live with the rich I live with the poor, I live down the street and maybe next door. My power is awesome, try me your see, but if you do you may never break free. Try me once I might let you go, but try me twice and I’ll own your soul. When I possess you, your steal and your lie, your do what you have to just to get high. The crimes you’ll commit for the narcotic charms, will be worth the pleasure your feel in your arms. Your lie to your mother, you’ll steal from your dad, when you see their tears you should feel sad. But you’ll forget your morals and how you were raised, I’ll be you conscience, I’ll teach you my ways. I take kids from parents and parents from kids, I turn people from god, and seperate friends. I’ll take everything from you, your looks and your pride. I’ll always be with you right by your side. Your give up everything your family, your home, your friends your money then you’re be alone. I’ll take and take, till you have nothing more to give. When I’m finished with you you’ll be lucky to live. If you try me be warned this is no game. If given the chance I’ll drive you insane, I’ll ravish your body, I’ll control your mind, I’ll own you completely, your soul will be mine. The nightmares I’ll give you while lying in bed, the voices your head inside your head, the sweat the shakes, the visions your see, I want you to know, these are all gifts from me, but then it’s too late, and you know in your heart, that you are mine and we shall not part. You’ll regret that you tried me, you always do, but you came to me, not I too you. You knew this would happen. Many times you were told, but you challenged my power, you chose to be bold. You could have said no, and just walked away, if you could live that day over now what would you say? I’ll be your master you’ll be my slave, I’ll even go with you, when you go to your grave. Now that you have met me, what will you do? It’s all up too you. I can bring more misery than words can tell. Come take my hand, let me lead you too hell.

Jayne Mayo

Hi everyone

My name is Jayne I volunteer with B.O.B at the Coach House and Bob’s Place.

I have been volunteering since 2013. I embrace B.O.B every day; basically they are a life saver. Volunteering has allowed me to become emotionally confident in everyday life.

I have met lots of people who some are also in recovery that I can connect with. The management are very fair and understanding, protective and supportive. In my past I was an alcoholic and I remember actually falling through the door and collapsing on the sofa in the drop in when I first accessed services.

Volunteering has given me a purpose and as a volunteer I am no longer drinking. I really enjoy my role and look forward to every day on the rota. My recovery is fun and challenging there is a lot of activities for service users.

I volunteer as I like to give back to the community and society to say a big thank you. I have attended training classes to update my volunteer role. They also do awards for volunteers and l won a “volunteer of the year award last year, how cool is that “.

I feel proud and content and accepted into what I consider our extended B.O.B family and most of all I am sober !!

So yes you better believe it !! It really does what it says on the tin.

Thank you

Jayne Mayo xx


Mary Sanna

Mary Sanna

Volunteer at Bob’s Place and Acorn Hall

I started volunteering for Bob after I retired after 32 years of working in a school. Volunteering fills my days as I get up very early. It was my daughter that suggested that I try volunteering, as she volunteers at Crisis at Christmas. I enjoy it and talking with the service users who come into the services. I enjoy making them some food as many of them are homeless and they like someone to talk to during the day.

Mary Sanna


I was born into a large Irish family and an even bigger drinking culture. I don’t have many happy memories from my childhood because the violence and alcohol made it feel unsafe and chaotic and even though the house was always full, I felt lonely, like I didn’t belong.

I left home as soon as I could. They didn’t know it but I knew that I would never go back. I didn’t have any dreams or ambitions, just a determination to live life differently and then I lost that too.

When I found Blenheim’s CASA project last year I was a mess. I was the drunken dad to 3 kids who were afraid to be around me. I was the angry husband of a woman who despised me. I had acute liver damage and I was scared.

I’ve talked and listened more in these past few months than I did in my entire life and I’m good at it. I’ve just got my Level 3 in Communication to prove it and I’m now starting a course in Counselling. I volunteer as a service user rep and even go to the gym. I have been sober for 5 months and my kids are getting to know a new dad. I now accept that my dad wasn’t a bad man, sadly it’s too late to tell him but luckily it hasn’t been too late for me


I have always loved my job and the people I work with are like family to me. When I used to hear customers say that they wanted a better work/life balance I didn’t understand what they meant because my work was my life and I didn’t have a life without it. I have worked at The Golden Lion pub for 15 years now, ever since my daughter went to live with her father and his new family up north. At the end of a shift I would go to the other side of the bar for my social life. I didn’t want to go home as there was nothing there. Home had become a place to just sleep.

I hadn’t noticed that I was drinking more, but my boss, the landlord had. I had no choice but to take up his advice and get some professional help; after all, as I said, my work was my life.

Not only have Blenheim helped me to control my drinking and improve my health, they have also given me the confidence to add new interests and people into my life.

I still love my job and they are still like family to me but I don’t go to the other side of the bar at the end of my shift, I go to college or I go and meet new friends for coffee or I go home and I enjoy being home now.


I grew up believing that I was an ‘accident’. Mum already had two kids who had left home before I arrived. Mum treated me like I was the best thing that had ever happened to her. I should have felt lucky being so loved but I just felt trapped and overwhelmed and the more caring she was the more I fought against her. I was angry that I had a granny for a mum and didn’t have a dad. I started using drugs when I was about 14. It wasn’t because I wanted to take drugs it was because I wanted to ‘fit in’.

It was when mum was in the hospice that I finally found out about my dad. He had died of a drug overdose when mum was in labour with me.

I guess I’m lucky that I had the time to make it up to mum and be the son she deserved before she died.

Juan’s Story

Hola. My name is Juan but you can call me John if you like. Everybody does now. Our mother always said that our father died a hero and our step father was a bigger hero because he bought us to London and a better life. I didn’t see it as a better life, but I could see that mum was happy so for a long time I pretended I was too.
Then I met Sylvie and it was a better life. I instantly and completely fell in love with her, she was infectious and life was exciting.
It wasn’t long before I discovered that Sylvie was addicted to cocaine and after a few months I was too. I was working at a department store on Oxford Street at the time. Every penny I earned went on Sylvie and cocaine but it wasn’t enough. When I was caught shop lifting by my manager the humiliation was my wake up call. Instead of calling the police my manager took me to Blenheim. I will never forget the risk she took and her act of compassion was my motivation to my recovery.
I never did see Sylvie again I suppose she’s with some other mug now.

Anonymous writer

I came to England from Iran over 30 years ago. My husband died ten years later and I felt completely alone. I didn’t know anybody else. Even though he used to beat me, it was not every day and I loved him and missed him too much. I had never tried alcohol or drugs in my life before because I thought they were evil and I was too frightened. When my husband died I didn’t care about my life anymore so I started to smoke some cannabis and it helped to ease my feelings of emptiness. Drugs were easy to buy where I lived so I tried crack cocaine and that helped too.

I became ill and it was my doctor who contacted Blenheim. I didn’t want to be helped but after a while I preferred to go to the groups than be on my own with my cannabis and crack. Blenheim’s Women’s group helped me to accept that I deserved more from my life and that my husband was really the one who had needed help. After a while I was going to Blenheim every day and to the weekend activities. It makes me laugh to think that my first friends in this country were all drug addicts.

Blenheim helped me through detox and rehab and my Blenheim volunteer helped me to move into my new supported housing. I am now drug-free for over 10 months and I still cannot believe that this has happened to me but I do believe that I am more happy and content than I have ever been before.

Johnny’s Story

It all happened so quickly and I was too stubborn and stupid to realise what I was doing. All I ever wanted was to have a good marriage, kids, job, home and a nice car and that’s what I had and then what I lost. Jake, my third kid was born on my 30th birthday. After leaving the hospital I went out clubbing and didn’t go home for two days. When I did we had the first of many messy and violent rows. It wasn’t long before I was making out that I was doing overtime and I’d go and sit in the pub for a few hours or drink in the car just down the street. I never wanted to leave but before long I found it impossible to face going home without being drunk. I just couldn’t handle the responsibility even though I loved them all to bits, I felt like I was still a kid myself. It was about 2 years ago that I was thrown out for good. I slept on mate’s sofas or in my car until I had to sell it. My life had become a succession of loss, my marriage, kids, job, self-respect and confidence. I was homeless with a probation order, so yeah my ‘downfall’ was proper.

Attending Blenheim was part of my order and at first I was pretty lousy at getting to my appointments. I should have slept in a doorway nearby earlier, most of the time I was waking up the other side of London without the bus fare to get there. But Blenheim didn’t give up and neither have I.

I took my mum to my keywork session recently, I just hoped that it would help her understand a little but I am not expecting too much from anyone until I can trust myself. I couldn’t cope with letting them all down again. I’m now in rehab. It’s hard but not as tough as waking up each morning without my kids jumping all over me. Miss that so much but then that’s my motivation for my