Does Addiction REALLY Affect The Family?
As a LADC and a Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in addiction and families, I found this article Spot On!!! The devastation can be multigenerational whether its active addiction or a family history of addiction. The layers of anger, hurt, shame, guilt, resentment and depression (to name a few) run deep. Every family member can be affected differently, depending on their role and there are 6 of them:
Addict: Individual struggling with substance abuse live in a constant state of chaos. Alcohol becomes the primary way to cope with problems and difficult feelings, and in turn, he or she will stop at nothing to supply this need. As a result, they burn bridges, lie, and manipulate those around them. They isolate and angrily blame others for their problems. It comes as no surprise that their actions create negative effects for the entire family; they can’t seem to focus on anything other than the next drink.
Enabler: Deny, deny, deny – this is an enabler’s M.O. The goal of this role is to smooth things over within the family. In order to “protect” the family, enablers convince themselves that alcohol isn’t a problem and, in order to make light of a serious situation, they make excuses for their loved one’s behavior. While the enabler is most often a spouse, this role can also be taken on by a child.
Hero: The family hero is your typical Type A personality: a hard-working, overachieving perfectionist. Through his or her own achievements, the hero tries to bring the family together and create a sense of normalcy. This role is usually taken on by the eldest child, as they seek to give hope to the rest of the family. Unfortunately, a driving need to “do everything right” tends to put an extreme amount of pressure on the hero, leaving them highly anxious and susceptible to stress-related illnesses later in life.
Scapegoat: The scapegoat is just what you would expect: the one person who gets blamed for the whole family’s problems. This role tends to be taken on by the second oldest child; he or she offers the family a sense of purpose by providing someone else to blame. They voice the family’s collective anger, while shielding the addicted parent from a lot of blame and resentment. When scapegoats get older, males tend to act out in violence, while females often run away or participate in promiscuous sex.
Mascot: Think of the mascot as the class clown, always trying to deflect the stress of the situation by supplying humor. This role is usually taken on by the youngest child; they’re fragile, vulnerable, and desperate for the approval of others. Providing comic relief is also the mascot’s defense against feeling pain and fear himself. Mascots often grow up to self-medicate with alcohol, perpetuating the cycle of addiction.
Lost Child: The lost child role is usually taken on by the middle or youngest child. They’re shy, withdrawn, and sometimes thought of as “invisible” to the rest of the family. They don’t seek (or get) a lot of attention from other family members, especially when alcoholism is present within the family. Lost children put off making decisions, have trouble with forming intimate relationships, and choose to spend time on solitary activities as a way to cope.
In addition to these Roles, Claudia Black wrote about The Family Rules:
DON’T TALK, DON’T FEEL, DON’T TRUST!!!!
These rules are Very Covert and Rarely Spoken About!! Less they need to be as Addiction in the Family is similar to a Very Defined, Highly Orchestrated SILENT Dance. Each Family member has inherently learned when to step in, step out, bring in or let out another member. At any one moment their dance will consist of 2, 3 or more members. If you learn to look closely you will witness first hand negative feedback loops as well as first order change.
By The Fix staff 10/31/17
Alcohol and drug addiction can rot families from the inside. Many people never see it coming, either. Strong, seemingly unbreakable bonds can suddenly (and without warning) become soft, brittle and broken.
Addiction isn’t something that happens once and then it’s suddenly over and done with. Sadly, that’s just not how it works. It’s not isolated to one event, nor is it tied to a single person. Addiction can smolder or simmer for years, hidden and unacknowledged. Then again, it can also be a shockwave in how it destroys families, reverberating for many years to come. It’s important to understand not only the devastating effect that addiction has on families, but what options are available for family members to cope, survive and persevere. When someone is struggling with an addiction, they aren’t moving forward with their lives. They’re stuck in the same place. Truth be told, everyone around them is stuck, too. Addiction affects every single person in the family in different, unpredictable ways.
Addiction is a disease that doesn’t just affect the person who has it, but absolutely everyone it comes in contact with. It’s as swift as it is patient. Addiction causes instability and uncertainty at every turn, and it can be maddening to try reaching a sense of normalcy.
More often than not, addiction has taken up a lot of time, energy, and attention—so much so that the family becomes a distant priority. As a result, family members can feel resentful, angry, neglected, hurt or, sometimes, jealous of the drug or the drink. Unfortunately, addiction can have the greatest effect on children, damaging them psychologically and emotionally. The effects of alcohol and drug abuse on children can last the rest of their lives, which has a direct impact on everything from their education to their social stability. Homes hit with addiction are unhappy homes. There can be no rules and little to no consistency. Children raised by parents with alcoholism or addiction aren’t just confused and hurt: studies show that they often turn to substance abuse in order to escape their own lives, which only serves to make the problem worse. In other words, addiction can be a never-ending downward spiral for everyone involved.
Marriages don’t escape the blast zone of addiction, either. Many spouses find themselves neglected and ignored when their loved one is drinking or using. It doesn’t help that many people with addiction tend to isolate themselves from everyone and everything. They also sometimes find connections, relationships and satisfaction outside the marriage, which only complicates things—often leading to separation and divorce.
Despite vows to work “through sickness and health,” many marriages just can’t survive the destruction of addiction. For many people, there’s no going back to the way things were before the drinking and drugging started. In those cases, it’s about picking up the pieces and figuring out what there is left to work with, if anything at all.
Addiction also has a very literal cost, too, in that families usually experience great financial strain due to the disease. People in the grip of alcoholism or addiction won’t let anything stand between them and a drink or a drug, so the financial toll can spiral out of control until there’s no coming back. It’s also common for families to be torn apart when someone loses their job thanks to an addiction. Many families get caught in bankruptcy, foreclosure or losing their life savings in order to support a loved one’s addiction.
When it comes right down to it, it’s staggering to discover the negative impact one person can have on so many people. And it’s also important to consider that someone else’s addiction doesn’t affect everyone equally. Family therapy focuses on educating everyone in the family, both young and old, about the disease of addiction and how they can address the problems so they can move toward a place of healing. If nothing else, family therapy isn’t about becoming normal again. It’s about finding a new “normal” and reaching a collective place of calm, peace, and surrender.