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Kathy Marshack News

How to Cope with Addiction in the Family Firm

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Alcoholism and other drug abuse is an epidemic in our country. We are all aware of the general problem nationwide. Many employers are taking a hard look at the problems caused by drug abuse and alcohol addiction and have established employee assistance programs and redesigned insurance benefits to create treatment options for employees. Yet among family firms, drug addiction and alcohol abuse are frequently overlooked.

If there is an alcoholic in a family firm, be the founder, spouse, son, daughter, or in-law, the family is likely to overlook, condone, deny, rationalize or minimize the problem for the sake of keeping the family system intact. If the founder is alcoholic, alcoholism may be a family "tradition" that will be hard to break. That is, drinking may be interwoven into the fabric of family life and corporate life. Allowing addictions to go untreated is no way to take care of either the business or the family. By ignoring the problem the addict accepts this as tacit approval of their behavior. And by ignoring the problem, the potential threat to the integrity of the family and business grows. Alcoholism and other addictions leads to the breakdown of the family, just what a family firm wants to avoid.

What can help members of the family firm address these problems? Here are a few things to consider:

1.The addict is fortunate to have the backing of both his/her family as well as his/her business. With the support of the two most important systems in one's life, the addict has increased potential to succeed in treatment. They have a loving family and they have a job to come back to.

2. Stand as a united front when approaching the addict. If there are dissenters, the addict will solicit allies to defend their continued drug abuse and will not seek the help that they need.

3. To deal with the humiliation of recognizing that a family member is an alcoholic, education will help. Professional treatment centers emphasize that alcoholism and drug abuse are best understood as diseases. They must be confronted with their irresponsible and manipulative behavior so that they can change it. With professional treatment and ongoing support, they can be returned to their former productive and loving lives.

If you find your family is in this situation, contact Alcoholics Anonymous. Don't wait! To read more about addiction in the family firm, read this article in its entirety -  Addiction 'conspiracy' of silence hurts the family and business. You can also visit Alcoholism Recovery on my website.


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