Understanding Addiction

Have you ever had the feeling that there is something that you just can’t live without? Maybe when you had your first date with someone and it was better than you ever expected. Each day and night you waited for that one person to call and when the phone rang you were disappointed if it wasn’t them. When they finally called, nothing else mattered in the whole world except talking to that one special person. Have you ever wanted something so bad that it consumed every waking thought? Try thinking of a child who is just able to understand the concept of Christmas morning and they are getting no sleep, have no appetite, and can’t think or do anything else but ask about when it will finally be the day to open the gifts! The anticipation of a bride walking down the aisle to her groom, or vice versa, is overwhelming and it takes over each waking moment until that day finally comes. Everyone in your life is affected by this monumental day and is also right along with you on your journey to experience something that is so important to you.

This is a shadow of what an addiction is. A shadow is merely a glimpse of what is truly there, a shape of something that is so detailed and intricate and woven into whomever is suffering. It is a major part of what that person is made.


Addiction is a persistent, compulsive dependence on a behavior or substance. The term has been partially replaced by the word dependence for substance abuse. Addiction has been extended, however, to include mood-altering behaviors or activities. Some researchers speak of two types of addictions: substance addictions (for example, alcoholism, drug abuse and smoking); and process addictions (for example, gambling, spending, shopping, eating, and sexual activity). There is a growing recognition that many addicts, such as polydrug abusers, are addicted to more than one substance or process.

Addiction is the closest, most valuable relationship to the person who is suffering from it. It is the most taxing one as well – over the spouse, children, family and friends, and job. Most people who struggle with addiction have lost many opportunities within their lifetime due to this relationship with drugs or alcohol. To people who do not struggle with addiction, it may seem that a mother who endangers her children while under the influence of drugs or alcohol may not love her children. Obviously, or she wouldn’t continue to spend rent money on drugs or pass out while the children are left unattended if she loved them. It may seem that she cares more about her addiction than her own children. That is not true. The addiction is just a lot stronger than she is able to handle. It’s a brain disease…

There is a part in an addict’s brain that is rewarded when they use alcohol or drugs. “Everything we do affects these areas of the brain, especially anything we personally find enjoyable — like most of us do when socializing with other people. When we are having an enjoyable conversation with another person, it leads to a biological and behavioral response. We can even “crave” talking to that person again, since we often make a date to see that person again. None of these things are necessarily unique to addiction.” Over time it becomes a coping mechanism for daily life and takes away the ability to learn essential life skills necessary for living healthy lives.

A person who continues to drink alcohol despite clear-cut consequences, or someone who continues to spend too much money despite losing their car or home, clearly has dame to their brain that leads them to continue that behavior even though they are fully aware of all they are risking. So after the first DWI, the normal drinker will stop drinking. The addict though will rationalize, justify and normalize their troubles and continue the same pattern of behavior until it catches up with them. It is also natural for the addict to point the finger and blame others for their problems. It is just a form of denial and it protects them from having to fully look at themselves in the mirror to see who they really are. It works for a period of time until something terrible happens. Most endings of addiction are death or prison. The path is long and hard when addicts don’t get the proper help for their addiction; it is going to be a long road for them and the loved ones who travel it with them. It’s not a person’s fault if they develop an addiction. But they do have to take ownership of the problem, and work toward its resolution.

The good news is that there are vast numbers of treatment options available for people struggling with any type of addiction. A recovered life is a much more rewarding way to live and is an option for all who put great effort into living it. Getting into a program, staying accountable and helping others are all ways to combat an addiction. Speak out and help others if you have overcome an addiction!

Written by Kayla Proffitt, CIP






Does My Loved One Have an Addiction?

It’s challenging to help a loved one with addiction. Especially if you aren’t really sure what’s going on. . . Maybe over time the suspicions began to add up. Until you realized one day that there is something bigger happening in your loved one’s life. Or maybe one day it hit you like a brick wall, leaving you with not a doubt in your mind that he or she needs help, help beyond what you can provide.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) nearly 50 million people in the U.S., and their families, are affected by the disease of addiction. This includes drug and alcohol addiction, as well as behavioral addictions such as eating, gambling, gaming, sex, spending, shopping, and work. As a result of the widespread impact of addiction, at i360 we often work with family members who wonder, “Does my husband, son, daughter, or mother have an addiction?” Although a professional should evaluate someone struggling with possible addiction before a diagnosis is made, the following are ten basic criteria for addiction:

Preoccupation – obsessive thoughts or fantasizing about a specific substance or behavior.

Loss of control – using substances or engaging in behavior more than originally intended.

Compulsivity – a pattern or theme of acting out over an extended period of time.

Efforts to stop – a history of attempts to stop behavior that fail.

Withdrawal – stopping use or behavior causes physical symptoms, distress, anxiety, restlessness, or irritably.

Escalation – The substance is taken in larger amounts or over a longer period of time than was intended, or there is a need to make the behavior more intense, frequent, or risky.

Loss of time – a large amount of time lost using substances or engaging in behavior and recovering from the effects.

Inability to fulfill obligations – substance use or behavior interferes with work, school, and relationships.

Losses – experiencing legal, relational, financial, physical and/or work consequences.

Continuation despite consequences – failure to stop the substance use or behavior even though you are experiencing legal, relational, financial, physical, and/or occupational problems.

If you or a family member can identify with the following criteria, we are here to help. At i360 we help individuals and families through the recovery process. This is done through a unique blend of individual, group, and family therapy in the office, and walking with clients in their real world environment to apply their insights as they build a new, healthy, satisfying life. This is what we call life development, and this happens outside of the traditional office setting. In collaboration with all the professionals working with an individual, it’s a very effective and unique approach to treatment. No matter what your situation is, talk to someone, sit down with someone, and figure out that you can have a very different future.

Written by Mitchell Isle, LPC



Mommies in Recovery

Do women face different issues in addiction, treatment, and recovery than men? Absolutely. Women begin using for different reasons, metabolize alcohol differently than men, often progress more quickly, and recover differently as well. And when these women are mothers too, a whole new set of struggles arise. Getting sober may be the hardest thing a mother does, but once they gone down this beautiful path, they often discover that raising children in sobriety isn’t easy either.

There are many mothers out there recovering from addiction, repairing relationships with their families and kids, struggling to find balance, peace, and time for self-care. Mothers who have come to realize that they weren’t bad people, but that they were sick with the disease of alcoholism – alcoholism called the shots all those years. They’ve learned to reflect not on the mother they used to be, or wished they had been, but rather on the reminders of the mom they still get to be. Many moms in recovery struggle with guilt about letting their kids or families down. Learning to let go of this allows them to move on, and to become the parents they really want to be. With each additional day of sobriety, they can be a healthier model for their kids.

Women, and mothers, in recovery can benefit greatly from connecting to others who share similar stories. At i360, we host the aftercare program for Sierra Tucson Treatment Center. One of Sierra Tucson’s alumni has started a once-a-month event for mommies in recovery. Children definitely add a dynamic to recovery, and it is within this type of fellowship that additional growth, balance, and peace can be attained.  This is a group of sober women recovering from alcohol and drug addiction and raising kids. The desire is to offer fellowship with other mommies in recovery. Simple as that. Events are free and kids can join too.

For more info, check out the Recovery Mommies website here: http://www.recoverymommies.com/index.html

Blog written by Lauren Barnett, November of 2014.


It doesn’t discriminate: Older Adults are Struggling with Substance Abuse

Anyone at any age can have a drinking problem. At i360, we say it all the time – addiction does not discriminate. Not based on gender, on finances, on profession…and certainly not on age. In fact, families, friends, and healthcare workers often overlook concerns about older people drinking. We mistake alcohol abuse in older adults for other conditions related to aging – like a problem with balance. Furthermore, how the body handles alcohol changes with age. Your grandpa may have the same drinking habits, but his body has changed, as has the way he metabolizes the liquor.

It’s not just the liquor. It’s often the prescription medications that are being abused as well. Doctors may prescribe Ambien to help older adults sleep or anti-anxiety medications like Klonopin to help them cope with the loss of a loved one. When you couple that with cocktails, the equation can result in addiction. It can really be that innocent. And they don’t see it coming.

More older adults are struggling with substance abuse – it’s plain as day. We often see that they go through a major life event, like the death of their spouse or a close friend, loss of purpose or career, or even failing health, and that causes them to turn to substances to cope. Even with retirement, it can lead to drinking problems because of loneliness, boredom, and maybe even the onset of depression. We are finding that older adults often don’t posess the coping skills required to calm their anxiety through these major life events, so they turn to alcohol and other drugs.

The good news is that older adults are just as treatable – they aren’t hopeless! There is never a better time to get treatment than now. But we need to open our eyes to what is happening. This article states that around “2.8 million older adults in the United States meet the criteria for alcohol abuse, and this number is expected to reach 5.7 million by 2020.”  And while alcohol is generally the substance abused, the rate of illicit drug use among adults ages 50 to 64 increased from 2.7% in 2002 to 6% in 2013.  At i360, we believe that our duty to educate goes beyond just those that we see in treatment within our walls. These numbers are not headed in the right direction. But treatment works, and there is hope, and it just takes reaching out to begin the journey to a better, healthier “you”.  That’s what we do at i360, we work with people as young as 18 years old, and all the way up through ages 50, 60, 70, and 80 plus! We walk alongside our clients to help them put one foot in front of the other to overcome anxiety, addiction, and depression. There is hope and we can help you find it.

Written by Lauren Barnett, October 2014

Resource: The New York Times Article


Determining the Diagnosis: Are You Addicted to Technology?

Let’s not even mention the way it affects your personal well-being and life balance. We won’t talk about how it distracts you from investing in self care and personal responsibilities. Or go into detail about how it robs your relationships of quality time and depth. When it comes to excessive technology use, studies are showing that it truly affects people in a way that is entirely too similar to drug addictions. It not only impacts people’s lives and their relationships in similar ways, but also the brain.

Deeper things are happening in the brain when we overload on technology. Some of the brain’s impacted areas are those that provide the ability to emotionally connect, plan, organize, and get things done. Research has also revealed that dopamine is released in the brain while using certain forms of technology – which creates similar changes in the brain as drug use. This dopamine release can lead to similar patterns that an alcoholic experiences – craving, addiction, and withdrawal.  When you think about it, an addict or alcoholic prioritizes the drug of choose above all else. Above relationships, work, family, health, and even above their own well-being. They will continue to “use” despite harm, attempt to scale back without success, spend way too much time thinking about getting their hands on it, and need more to get the same “high”…The crazy thing is, these scenarios apply in a similar way to the person who excessively uses technology. Scary stuff, right?

How do you know if you are suffering from addiction to technology? Here are some specific questions to help you identify if it’s time to scale back and make some changes for the health of your own life and the relationships around you.

1. Do you often feel preoccupied with the Internet? Maybe you go into a meeting at a work and after an hour you just can’t wait to log in to Twitter. Maybe you find yourself perusing the web during dinner. If you are constantly thinking about previous online activity or anticipating your next Facebook session, this could be a sign of trouble.

2. Do you feel the need to use the Internet with increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction? Maybe what once was logging in to check Facebook once a day has become hours of time spent online. This happens with addiction – addicts may find themselves needing 4 or maybe 5 times as much alcohol to get that same euphoria they’d get after only a few drinks a year ago.

3. Have you repeatedly made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop your Internet use? Maybe you have tried the trick where you put your phone in the back of the car to avoid use at stop lights – but you just can’t get enough. It just sucks you in. . .

4. Do you feel restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop Internet use? You just can’t wait to refresh, to check your email, to browse Facebook, and you can’t stand being disconnected for too long. Sounds like withdrawal symptoms for the drug user, right?

5. Do you stay online longer than originally intended? You look at your watch and all of a sudden three hours have flown by. And you didn’t get done the errands you needed to do. You didn’t go workout. You didn’t call your dad back. You’re running late to work.

6. Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of the Internet? This might sound far-fetched but it happens. You miss a deadline at work because you’ve spent too much time online, on Facebook, on Twitter – it’s eaten up the good half of your day and now your presentation won’t be finished. Or it won’t be finished well. Your work is suffering.

7. Have you lied to family members, a therapist, or others to conceal the extent of your involvement with the Internet? You may have made up a story about what you were doing that took up your time and made you unable to go to social functions or spend time with family and friends. And that story didn’t involve technology, gaming, the Internet.

8. Do you use the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)? You may find that you don’t need to think about the situations in your life that are causing you grief, you just get to unplug and relax. But soon you have to go back to reality, right? What then?

Addicts neglect family, work, studies, social relationships, and themselves. An addiction to technology is a mind-altering obsession that can be found due to excessive use of video games, iPods, YouTube, facebook, and other evolving communication applications. At Innovation360 we provide help for this kind of addiction, and many other addictions and life struggles, in order to help people find more joy-filled lives. If you believe you are struggling with technology addiction, then this is a place where you can find your way back to a healthy, well-balanced life.

Written by Jennifer Updike, October 2014


Psychology Today Article

Psychology Today Article


Reassessing your Big Gulp!

“I don’t drink. No, really, no hard liquor for me! I’m clean! …Oh, you mean beer? Well I drink beer every night.” Believe me, we hear that all the time. “I only have a couple of glasses of wine a night!” Seems innocent. Until you realize that when she pours herself some wine, her glass is full to the brim! “I only drink on the weekends.” Ok, fine. But on the weekend, he is getting so drunk that he blacks out and can’t remember a thing! Healthy? I think not!

At Innovation360, we encourage the act of “rethinking your drinking”.  Do you know what constitutes a “standard” glass of wine or cocktail? And how many standard drinks are in a container? For instance, when you think you’re drinking just a couple of beers at dinner, but those beers are 16oz bottles, those each actually contain 1.3 drinks. Check out this table below from Rethinking Drinking: NIAA which is based on how much pure alcohol is in a beverage:















I came across this article from USA TODAY and it reminded me that often, we are just uneducated on how much we are actually drinking. This articles talks specifically about how wine drinkers pour more than they realize, but we shouldn’t stop with wine. When poured in another glass, malt liquor, brandy, hard liquor, and spirits generally fool people when it comes to how much they are drinking. And that’s important to know when you are assessing your alcohol intake. You need to know how many drinks you are having in any given day and over the course of the week, and if you don’t realize you are actually pouring a drink and half each time you fill your glass, that is going to spiral into a big problem quickly! Knowing how much you drink is critical.

I encourage you to play around on this website to educate yourself on alcohol and your health. It is a great tool for discovering what your drinking patterns are and how risky they may be. What it really comes down to is whether your habits are harmful or not. Are you damaging relationships because of your drinking? Are you missing out on other things that bring you joy? Are other areas in your life suffering because of your drinking? Are you prioritizing drinking and obtaining alcohol over other, healthier opportunities?  If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol or drug use, reach out. There isn’t a moment to waste! We are here to help guide you in the right direction – towards a better, healthier, joy-filled life.

Written by Lauren Barnett, Marketing Director

Resources: USA TODAY, Sharyn Jackson, The Des Moines Register4:47 p.m. EDT September 30, 2013 – Wine Drinkers Often Overpour, Study Says.


Are you a Cell Phone Addict?

I get it. We are in 2015 and I haven’t met one person without a smart phone. I now see children getting their own cell phones at a younger age than I’ve ever seen before. My generation certainly didn’t get their own phone at the age of ten!  Many parents feel that is it a necessity once they start attending school all day, as if the school system that has been in place for a very long time is incapable of watching over the child. I laugh at the insanity of giving the responsibility of a cell phone to a child who needs help tying their shoes.

Then you have your average working person who relies on emailing and text messaging as a work tool on a daily basis. And there are those folks that are constantly reassured by repetitive finger swiping and button pushing all day long.  At restaurants I always notice those people that are waiting on a buddy to show up and to pass time they feel the need to get out their iphone because God forbid they be caught looking around and taking in the scene! And hey what about you? Do you find that you are perpetually checking emails and Facebook all throughout the day? Maybe you even get excited when your phone buzzes, demanding your attention and constant connectivity…There has to be balance though, just like with anything in your life. So what does that line look like and where do you place yourself when it comes to cell phone addiction and attachment?

Ask yourself these 6 questions to determine if you are crossing the line and heading towards addiction:

  • Does your cell phone prevent you from engaging face to face with the ones you love? I know alot of people that seem to prefer to busily bury their noses in their phones rather than to take the opportunity to visit with their spouses or friends, even when those friends and family are in the same room or sitting at the same table. At dinner last week I looked over to see a group of college aged girls all sitting together each with their faces lit up by their smart phones, seeking digital connection rather than sharing conversations with those they were with!
  • Has it left you lonely by creating a false sense of reality through social media? It really doesn’t matter that you have 1,000 ‘friends’ on Facebook. Or that 400 people follow you on Twitter. Because when push comes to shove, how many of those people will actually offer that shoulder to cry on, that free ride to airport, words of encouragement when you’re in need? But if your ‘scene’ is online, and your conversations are held via texts and Facebook, maybe you should pay attention to this word addiction.
  • Has it become the way you cope with negative or positive feelings? I wonder how then is that person who uses drugs and alcohol to cope so different from you? If you have a void in your life and are filling it with social media or spending your time rooting around your digital backyard for elusive bits of highly valued treasure to make yourself feel better, how is that so drastically different from the alcoholic who finds that booze helps with coping with the anxiety or depression? My hope is that your phone’s not an escape route but I ask because I’ve seen it happen.
  • Are you able to control when you use it, how much or how long you use it, where you do it, and with whom you do it? Can you put the phone away in a drawer for even an hour and not worry about what you might be missing out on? Would that cause you too much anxiety? Or do you always know where your phone is and have it within reach?
  • Can you fathom going to bed and waking up without looking at your cell phone first? Or maybe you are one that can exercise self control, moderation, and restraint…Like at dinner – do you compromise social etiquette by checking your phone constantly? I’d challenge you to put it away when it comes to outings with friends and family, dinner table time, and periodically throughout the day no matter what you are up to!
  • Are you able to leave your phone turned off while driving? Because otherwise you are compromising your own health! And that sounds like what any therapist would say to an alcoholic – you aren’t being safe quite frankly, and even putting others in danger through your own actions.

Using your cell phone on a daily basis can lead to a slippery slope. I bet if you took a brain scan of someone who is constantly connected, you would see a surge of dopamine, a pleasure-seeking chemical that drives us towards addictive behaviors, each time they got a new notification. Compare that to sex addiction or a gambling addiction. It stimulates the same part of the brain that rewards your body.

You must be disciplined and mindful of your time when you are around others.  It can steal opportunities to connect with friends and family that may never come back around. In some ways it is oppressive to think that we can be slaves to our phones. Being present takes work. Listening without thinking about a new text or email is difficult for those who find themselves constantly seeking to connect on some level. It leaves gaps in your current romantic life if you feel like your spouse finds the phone more important than being intimate with you, knowing fully that is not their intention but it is their action that speaks volumes. I could go on and on about the negative balance of cell phone use but I wont. I’m going to end by encouraging you to connect on a much deeper level with the one you love today and turn it off. See what happens.

Written by Kayla Proffitt, Life Development at Innovation360


Talking to Children about a Parent’s Addiction

An astounding 28 million people are children of alcoholics. These kids are four times more likely to become an addict themselves, and yet as scary as those stats are, addiction isn’t being talked about in most homes. At Innovation360, we host the Betty Ford Center’s Five Star Kids Program which teaches children that “it’s not your fault” – your dad’s drug problem, the family’s breakup, your parents’ shaky relationship, your mother spiraling out of control.  Children are usually the first hurt and the last helped in the midst of the disease of addiction.  The Five Star Kid’s Program helps create the best possible opportunity for healing for the whole family. This is an invaluable program opportunity for children of addicts, but we still want to address the issue of why this disease isn’t being brought up in conversation at home?

In this article, Dr. David Sack, CEO of Elements Behavioral Health, has brought to light what parents, teachers, and other adults can say to children to explain this cunning disease. Click here to read how you can approach the subject of addiction and recovery with young kids who have been exposed to a very dark potentiality. We especially liked the Seven C’s of Addiction that children need to know:

    • I didn’t Cause it.
    • I can’t Cure it.
    • I can’t Control it.
    • I can Care for myself
    • By Communicating my feelings,
    • Making healthy Choices, and
    • by Celebrating myself.


We hope you found the article helpful. Remember, if you or a loved one struggles with addiction or mental health issues, reach out to us. We want to help you establish a healthy and fulfilling life – drug and alcohol free. Article Resource: David Sack, M.D. is board certified in psychiatry, addiction psychiatry and addiction medicine. He is CEO of Elements Behavioral Health, a network of mental health and addiction treatment centers. This article was written in the Huffington Post on 1/31/13: How to talk to a Child about a Parent’s Addiction. 

Written by Lauren Barnett, Dir. of Marketing


Addiction in the Family Business

Family Business Review

Drug abuse in any business is destructive and complicated, but in a family business, it is even more devastating. Alcohol and other drugs can be a family’s biggest competitor for profits and business longevity. And the problem is compounded because of the close personal relationships and the perceived stigma of admitting a problem within the family’s ranks.—Bork (1986a, p. 60)

Readers of Family Business Review are well aware of the prevalence of family enterprises around the world, but are they also aware of the prevalence of addiction in family enterprises? In our society, quietly in the background, reliance on addiction and drug abuse is widespread, pervasive, and common. Based on interviews with more than 43,000 adults in the United States, researchers at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (2009) reported that 3 in 10 drink at levels that put them at risk for alcoholism, liver disease, and other health and emotional problems. Thus, it is important to understand the silent growth of addiction and drug abuse in society, antecedent factors, and consequences for family enterprises.

This article discusses the available research on the prevalence of addiction in the United States, reports the findings of a study of the prevalence of addiction in one consulting practice, and calls for more research on this important topic.

Prevalence of Addiction

The impact of alcoholism and addiction in the United States is significant. The cost of excessive alcohol consumption in the United States came to $223.5 billion, according to a 2011 Centers for Disease Control study. The primary cost (72%) came in lost workplace productivity, followed by health care payments for problems caused by excessive drinking (11%), law enforcement and criminal justice expenses (9%), and cost of alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes (6%).

The 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2011) of the U.S. Department of Health reported that in the month prior to the survey, 58 million Americans aged 12 years and older or approximately 23% of the population older than 12 years participated in binge drinking (five or more drinks on a single occasion) and 23 million used illicit drugs.

Although the prevalence and impact of alcoholism and addiction on society at large and business are well known, there is little research to describe its impact on family enterprises. It is difficult to assume that family enterprises would entirely escape the damaging effects of alcoholism and/or addiction both in the family and business systems. However, more systematically derived evidence has been lacking, though some practitioners such as Bork (1986a, 1986b) and Kaye (1996) have written on the topic since the 1980s.

Based on their review of more than 2,200 family enterprise articles published between 1985 and 2010, James, Jennings, and Breitkreuz (2012) observe the increased dominance of research from business perspectives and the near disappearance of family perspectives, despite compelling arguments in favor of the need to better understand the “family” dimension of family enterprises.

Amid such trends, the neglect of research on addiction is not surprising. However, addiction and abuse have a significant impact on the survival of family enterprises. This article aims to raise awareness of the extent of prevalence of addiction and its impact on family enterprises, thereby encouraging research in this direction.

Causes of Addiction in Business Families

A host of issues related to the long-term sustenance of family enterprises, including succession, have long dominated both scholarly examination and practical application in family enterprises. A prominent concern has been how to maintain, in later generations of a family business, a level of commitment similar to that found in founding generations. Based on the authors’ perspectives, one of the factors implicated in lower quality management in later generations is addiction. One of the paradoxical findings of research into addiction is that it may be to a significant degree a consequence of family business success as well as a hindrance to the continued effective operation of a family enterprise.

Substance use and abuse have been found to be more prominent among youths of upper socioeconomic status than in youths from economically deprived, inner-city neighborhoods (Luthar, 2003). Among the likely explanations for this phenomenon, researchers have suggested that potential causes include pressures to achieve and isolation from parents. Luthar believes that children of high-achieving parents are subjected to higher expectations.

At the same time, specifically because of parental achievement and subsequent demands on parental time, children lack access to sufficient time with the parents. As a response to the combination of greater parental expectation and lower parental attention, she suggests children often turn to drugs and alcohol. Among business families, pressures to achieve and pressures on parenting time commonly coexist. In this way, the success of a family enterprise potentially breeds within itself the seeds of its later difficulties when it comes to transition and succession. When it comes to addiction, these seeds bear fruit in a particularly potent and poisonous fashion.

Consequences of Addiction in Family Business

Periodically, calls have been made to better understand the role of family in business from different perspectives. This has taken the form of a suggestion to include family effectiveness as a key variable in the study of business effectiveness (Dyer & Dyer, 2009). More broadly, commentators have requested articles that make substantial contributions to theories of family enterprise (Reay & Whetten, 2011). We propose that research examining the impact of addiction on family effectiveness and, in turn, business effectiveness responds to both of these appeals.

Addiction can be a powerful factor when it comes to the effectiveness of a family enterprise. Indeed, when addiction resides in the executive suite or among the key decision makers, it is often a definitive contributor to the ultimate failure of a firm. It is asserted here that addiction is unlikely to carry any positive benefits for the long-term effectiveness of a family firm.

The consequence of addiction behavior is often seen when communication breaks down. As Bork (1986b) noted, the presence of an addict acts to divert, shrink, and sever lines of communication among family members. This affects both family members who are active in the business as employees and those whose role is restricted to ownership. The situation is particularly difficult if the addict is the founder, patriarch/matriarch, or leader of the business. When a family firm member abuses alcohol or drugs, the power and influence of the family often protects or enables the individual by not allowing others to intervene and, in some cases, even denies the destructive effects on the individual, the family, and the workplace.

A family member in the business may attempt to address a family member’s addiction but may not have the power to establish meaningful consequences or require the individual to receive treatment. This scenario can negatively and persistently influence the overall culture of the company in a manner considerably worse than may be found in a publicly owned firm. In publicly owned firms, leaders are more likely to be chosen on merit than on family ties. Similarly, if poor choices and actions because of addiction harm the company’s culture, they are more likely to be removed. In some family enterprises where substance abuse is present, the entire family will collude and deny that the addiction is real, avoid talking about it, and protect abusers from consequences. This permits a culture-damaging leader to remain in a position of influence, leading to negative effects on corporate culture.

Preliminary Findings From One Consulting Practice

In an attempt to address this shortfall, one of the authors conducted a review of consulting engagements over a 17-year period from 1996 through 2012. The findings described in this article come from that study conducted by ReGENERATION Partners, a North American consulting practice focused on family enterprises. A total of 92 client families with whom the consulting firm had in-depth engagements lasting more than 6 months and included biweekly interactions were closely studied. Addiction had significantly affected 52 of these families (56%). A careful examination of the 92 cases reveals seven factors that had the greatest impact on the eventual outcome of the consulting engagement, suggesting areas for future research:

1. Family relationships, for example, a high level and/or long-term relationship conflict that greatly interferes with the consulting outcome (59 cases, 64%)

2. Emotional disorder, such as depression, bipolar, anxiety (56 cases; 61%)

3. Presence of addiction, either past or present (52 cases; 57%)

4. Financial strength, the ability to fund necessary change (37 cases; 40%)

5. Health of the key individuals, active major health worries such as cancer, transplant, or extended hospital care (24 cases; 26%)

6. Presence of alter ego, such as an individual who is not present in the family or business but attempts to direct the actions of someone within the family business system (19 cases; 21%)

7. Issues of aging, such as Alzheimer’s, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), and Parkinson’s (15 cases; 16%)

It is notable that many family business consultants are retained to work with a family where conflict is present. Thus, it is no surprise that relationship conflict was prevalent in most cases, followed closely by the identified emotional disorders. The high percentage of cases with addiction issues was a surprise. It was interesting to note that addiction was a culprit in 90% of consulting engagements that did not achieve the predetermined goals as it was a root cause of poor communication and trust issues within and among family members. This finding is supported by Kaye (1996), who reports discussions with three noted family business consultants with similar preponderances of addiction in their practices. However, numerous conversations with professional family business consultants indicate that few suspect the presence of addiction is as high as this study suggests, reinforcing the need for scholarly attention on addiction.

Call for Research

Alcohol and drug abuse and dependence affect a large number of individuals across a diverse socioeconomic demographic. When addictions are present, they have a dramatic and significant impact on families and employers. When viewed in a knowledgeable light, addictions can be approached and treated like a number of other issues. However, denial and lack of knowledge make treatment difficult. These obstacles affect not only families but also professional advisors.

Addiction among family enterprises is a prevalent and important issue that deserves attention both from scholars and advisors. Among the questions that future research could address are the following:

Different forms of addiction and their relative potency and consequences

The extent of addiction prevalent in enterprising families of different generations and regions

The causes of addiction in family enterprises

Moderating and mediating effects of family enterprises on addictive behavior among family members

The effect of addiction on business performance and family functioning

The effect of addiction on consulting effectiveness/ outcomes

Available addiction treatments, their effectiveness, and their appropriateness for enterprising families


This article benefited greatly from the feedback provided by the Family Business Review editor Pramodita Sharma, associate editor Trish Reay, and assistant editor Karen Vinton.

Declaration of Conflicting Interests

The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


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Author Biographies

James Olan Hutcheson is the founder and president of ReGENERATION Partners, a consulting group devoted exclusively to working with family firms. He is a Family Firm Institute Fellow and recipient of the Richard Beckhard Award.

Dennis Jaffe, PhD, is the founder of Dennis Jaffe Consulting and a professor at Saybrook University. He is a Family Firm Institute Fellow and recipient of the Richard Beckhard Award.

Kevin Gilliland, PsyD, is the founder and president of Innovation360®, a mental health treatment program based in Dallas, Texas.


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© The Author(s) 2013

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DOI: 10.1177/0894486513478871



71Family Business ReviewHutcheson et al.

1ReGENERATION Partners, Dallas, TX, USA

2Dennis Jaffe Consulting, San Francisco, CA, USA

3Saybrook University, San Francisco, CA, USA

4Innovation 360®, Dallas, TX, USA

Corresponding Author:

James Olan Hutcheson, ReGENERATION Partners, 3811 Turtle

Creek Boulevard, Suite 300, Dallas, TX 75219, USA.

Email: [email protected]

Addiction in the Family Enterprise

James Olan Hutcheson1, Dennis Jaffe2,3, and Kevin Gilliland4

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