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Families Choosing freedom from Addictions

Updated on September 15, 2009

Families Can Break From Addictions

 There are many ways that people interact to try and get their needs for love and recognition met.  Many who have been brought up in homes absent of addictions seem to do well as they raise their own families and avoid major problems.  Other families where alcohol, drugs, overly controlling parents, severe fundamentalist religious practices, criminal behavior, and a lack of a positive or spiritual, guiding value system produce serious problems for the family which are destructive and inter-generational.

This destructive way of interacting with others to get perceived needs met has been labeled codependency, as opposed to interdependency  where families work together for all members. All  are affected by the interactions between the major players, the addict and a significant other.are key. The latter is the enabler or "helper" who contributes to maintaining family balance by minimizing negative effects or consequences of the addiction. The enabler sees to it the problem is kept within the family or at least the perception of the problem is kept away from the public eye.

A young person is brought from school in an ambulance with symptoms of a cocaine overdose to an emergency room. Subsequent examination confirms that, indeed, the youngster has overdosed on cocaine. When the guardian (grandmother) is contacted she at first denies he could be on drugs. When she speaks with an alert intake counselor it is uncovered that granny has been hiding her kin's addiction by leaving a handbag lying around stuffed with cash. She believes only those without means become addicts, not realizing that her "enabling" may eventually kill the grandson.

Even if the problems are clearly defined, no member of the family identifies choices to counter faulty communications and reactions to behavior the family may describe as "crazy." Isolation is typical so that the behavior is not exposed. Friends just don't come to the house. If an outsider manages to fly under the radar some bizarre behavior may result as the family draws together to eliminate the threat. Think of the secrecy of a sex addict in the home, and what this does to the cohesion of the family.  It destroys it.  Interactions are grim between members.

There may be brief intervals of uneasy truce and even acting "as if" they are having fun as diversions are sought to ease the pressure on the family. If a family member threatens to leave or actually does get away, tremendous pressure is placed on the member by the famiy to "get back into line." Frequently the wayward member does come home and the family returned to an uneasy but familiar balance. The absent member role is assumed by another member already playing another role such as family clown or mediator.

Many studies validate that each family member plays a part to the addicted or impaired member who may be seen as the main focus of the problem. Most often codependency is associated with alcoholism or drug addiction. The writer published a dissertation in 1985 that showed, through research with subjects identifying themselves as codependent, and with hundreds of assessments not related, that other forms of addictive behavior may produce symptoms similar to those associated with drug/alcohol addiction.

Family rules are arbitrary and changing with the flow of events. Families react, rather than act, a typical response to behavior that is crazy- making because participants may not feel a sense of security. They habitually resort to negative behaviors in an attempt to divert attention away from the denied problem. An example is the alcoholic in denial. His or her partner denies and the family is taught how to keep everything a secret.

The family will identify a scapegoat in their midst who is constantly in trouble at school or in the community. These roles carry into adulthood even when "scapegoat, for example" starts his own family. He/she will continue the role in the eyes of the family even though the circumstances may have changed significantly. The point is how rigid these families become. Family myths are held dearly and become cast in stone. "You will never change!" and "You will never be any good!" are common and may be maintained while ignoring obvious success.

Typical is the eldest child who becomes "mom or dad" in the real parent's absence. While every family member may take on an overlay of attempts to control everything, The eldest assumes the role of parent, over achieving child, and family controller. They get through school with high grades, achieving prominence in all they do. This is another way to prove their own as well as the families normality. Many become social workers, counselors, and psychologists. Some refuse to have children, lest the person they marry turns out badly. This prophecy often fulfills itself.

Drug addicts, gamblers, abusers, Non-mainstream religious and cults, fringe criminal activity, over-eating, and compulsive sexual activity may be identifiedf by similar traits in common, such as secrecy, control of members bound together by crazy rules, and the tendency toward redirection of the main problem to a "more acceptable" one, identified in the family scapegoat.

Families get well. Husbands and wives develop insight into problems but not until the addiction is accepted as real and dealt with in the open. Very often the person identified as the angry one is transformed to a lamb and another family member shows an unfamiliar angry side that has been bottled up for years.

There are surprises, lies uncovered, old grudges surface. These will only lose their destructive power as they are talked about in the presence of a trained mediator who keeps the family on track (and maybe from killing one another, at least initially).Sometimes when an alcoholic denies causing a hurt, the truth is, he may not remember it because the incident occured during a blackout.( blackouts' are times when the alcoholic loses periods of time such as days or weeks and even hours and events are blocked from memory. Errant behavior may be recalled by an aggrieved child or adult who may never forget the pain causing incident, whether physical, spiritual, or mental.

Giving up control and becoming honest have everythingf to do with whether a couple can salvage their relationship. To give up control does not mean giving up, nor does it mean being out of control. Paridoxically, giving up control is the only way we seem to be able to get control. It's amazing what can get done by others when they are given the permission to take on some of lifes' chores, at home, at school, or on the job.

Honesty is accepting powerlessness. and that there is a power greater than self, some call, God. The writer is not a theologan or philosopher but having had the privilege to have worked many years with substance abuse and codependency, has witnessed the most astoudning miracles take place. Included are many conversions it woud be humanly impossible to predict. All bets are off when dealing with addictions and the people caught in its web.   Nevertheless, some do die, unexpectedly, adding to grief and sometimes guiltthat is misplaced.

Bitter, slashed and wounded families, estranged and seemingly hopeless lives may be transformed along with counselors, doctors, and ministers as those on their last chance for life are brought up by an unidentified process that, for lack of a better term, is called "treatment."

Alcoholics Anonomous as the platform, is a spiritual component in which shared stories of darkness, redemption, and healing take place Within this context, an addiction may be seen as a "gift," with healing properties that would not be available were it not for the problem. What has formerly been out of control finally seems managable

Some may not get it initially, the second or the thirteenth time, however, if they live, don't go to prison, or suicide, recovery may happen. Cures are not claimed but recovery may occur, "one day at a time." Fortunately for the family, once enlightened, they are free to set a new course for their lives. The first stop for them should have occured long before the addict finally accepts powerlessness and begins the road to recovery.

A life map  or a daily journal may clarify as answers to questions become available from others who have experienced similar, wrenching problems. The natural tendency to go it alone is difficult to overcome. This road leads right back to the same dillemas, the same confusion, and the same answers. Once this roadblock is hurdled, howerver, the going becomes clearer, the fog lifts, and solutions seem possible.

There just isn't any clear cut answer to whether a couple may stay together under different circumstances. The answer seems favorable if both tie into a spiritual program for themselves as individuals and not for the other or "for the relationship."

Positive benefits happen, sometimes despite a social worker's or counselor's prognosis. Very often with this disease, miracles happen when none are expected and especially when humans turn the outcome over to a power traditionally identified as God. In the recovery community, the preferred term for God is Higher Power."  the reason for this is those with addictions place themselves at the center of the universe, not unlike the earth for Ptolomy, a Greek astronomer, who believed the earth was the center of the universe,  with the sun and planets revolving around it.  they see themselves  as the core of being with all other beings rotating around them as the center.  This also gives them the control of all things in their environment.  Through control, they can maintain the rational system that allows them to continue the addiction.


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    • fortunerep profile image


      9 years ago from North Carolina

      I have definately been the enabler in my family, great hub.



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