To look at your family of origin -- the family into which you were born -- it is interesting to draw a genogram, a family chart. Place the names of your parents, their parents, your siblings, yourself, and any relatives who were close enough that you considered them your immediate family. Then identify addiction (alcohol, drugs, eating, work, excitement, sex, or others) in each member. Include codependency and children of addicts. Looking at the patterns of addiction in your family can help you understand how you got it.


If your family of origin was abusive or dysfunctional, you may have work to do. John Bradshaw’s ideas (1988) on toxic shame are about healing the pain of an abusive childhood. You may need to do that, dealing with all the shame, guilt, and anger, before moving on with your recovery.


Most addicts find positive and negative in their families of origin. You can use your Program to let go of what you don’t need, change what you don’t like, and be grateful for your gifts. For more information, see the module on Family.


The module on the PEMS model can give you more ideas for looking at your family of origin. Your Fourth Step is a good time to do this. If needed, pursue any insights or problems further with reading, workshops, or counseling.

Family of origin, see also: Abuse, Adolescents, Al-Anon & Alateen, Amends, Children of addicts, Codependency, Control, Detachment, Emotional aspects, Enabling, Family, Incest, Intimacy, PEMS model, Relationships, Resentments, Sabotage of recovery, Self-image, Survival roles.

Updated 11 Sep 2015

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Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson

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