It is said that “Addiction is a family disease.” Actually, it’s more like a family train smash!
The effects of an addict in the family are far reaching, traumatic and, in some cases, even dangerous to others in the family group.The situation is often exacerbated because the parents or spouse are in “denial” about the severity of the situation. They believe that it is “just a phase“, or “we can get through this by ourselves” etc.
The result of this denial is that the situation drags on without any change till it is too late. The addict’s addiction is now chronic and entrenched and the rest of the family has been “injured” sometimes very seriously.
Although no one wants to admit it, there is a point where serious thought must be given to “separation” or exiling the addict from the family circle.
Consider the following;
The very nature of parenting is; two people fulfilling necessary roles in order to safely raise and educate offspring in the skills needed to have a successful and happy life themselves.
However, the parents are the first casualties in this tragedy as the father’s natural instincts to use discipline and authority to solve the problem clashes with the mother’s natural instincts to nurture, protect and excuse.
It is most often the mother who becomes a master “enabler” as she makes excuses for the addict’s behavior. It is the “enabler” who pays for clothes, entertainment and even rent for the “suffering” addict thus freeing the addict’s money for purchasing alcohol and drugs.The enabler is the one who bails the addict out of trouble with the law, pays fines, settles debts, buys food and clothes. When the addict has a hangover or is “strung out“, it is the enabler phones the addict’s employer to make an excuse . The enabler generally creates an environment that protects the addict from the consequences of addiction. The enabler doesn’t allow the addict to “hit the bottom” so that recovery can occur sooner rather than later.
This behavior clashes with the father’s tendency to punish and discipline the addict, to take everything away from the addict and even to kick him or her out of the house.
There are heated arguments, blaming and even “walking out” as each tries to convince the other as to what is the right thing to do.
The marriage suffers and often falls apart as this all-consuming family tragedy plays out and exhausts both parents emotionally and physically. They never go out for the evening and never take holidays. Inviting others to their home is avoided because of the shame of having an addict in the family. Slowly the parents themselves become isolated, angry, depressed and estranged from one another and from their other children.
The Intellectual Sibling
This child is usually severely impacted emotionally by the turmoil and stress of the situation. Typically this child will withdraw completely from the family and will isolate more and more.
This is the child that comes home from school and quickly eats then rushes up to his or her room and stays locked in there all the time. The intellectual child gets seriously damaged by his or her inability to cope with the sounds of parent’s fighting, the addict’s tantrums or violence. Deep psychological traumas will affect this child even into adulthood and will affect future relationships due to his or her isolationist nature.
This child focuses blame, not on the addict, but on the parents for not controlling the situation and protecting the rest of the family.
The Resentful Sibling
This child is full of anger. He or she resents all the attention that the addict gets. This child feels that he or she is invisible to the parents because they focus all their attention and time on the addict. Even when the addict is not home they worry about him or her instead of giving attention to the other children.
The resentful child is hurt and wants to hit out at anyone and everyone. Fighting at school is a norm and often bullying behavior manifests as this child seeks attention. Unlike the intellectual child, this child doesn’t isolate but pushes to the front instead.
The resentful sibling sets out to refocus attention on him or herself by emulating the very actions that the addict uses. This child turns to drug and alcohol consumption to gain lost parental attention and eventually becomes an addict too.
The Groupie Sibling
This child hero-worships the addict. Usually it is the youngest child in the family who looks up to the “rebel” and emulates him or her.
The groupie is at highest risk as he or she sees everything that the addict does as heroic. Addictive behaviors and speech get imprinted on this child’s psyche and he or she sees the “drugs, sex and rock and roll” lifestyle as exotic and exciting. Everything the addict says is lapped up and the addicts heroes (rap stars, etc.) become this child’s heroes.
The groupie sibling is bound to follow in the addict sibling’s footsteps.
It is a hard decision to make, but if the family is to be saved and survive this disease, it may be in their best interests, if everything else has failed, to part company with the addict.
I believe that a final attempt at “Intervention” should be tried using a specialist who is trained in these skills. If the addict is still resists, then he or she should be read following letter. It should be hand written and signed by both parents and given to the addict to keep.
I write this letter to you, not out of anger or hate, but out of love.
You are my dear child and I have never, even for one minute, stopped loving you, though you may think that I have. Whenever you were ill, I gladly got up in the middle of the night to attend to you and to watch over you with a prayer on my lips – such was my love for you.I want you to know this.
Today you suffer from a life-threatening disease. This is not your fault and I do not hold you responsible for having caught it. I also know that this is a very hard disease from which to recover. Achieving sobriety and abstinence is fraught with pain and tears and will be the hardest journey you will ever take. If I could do it for you, I would, even at the cost of my own life.
But I can’t.
I know that this mountain has to be climbed by you and by you alone. No one can recover for you. No one can be appointed to do it in your stead. It must be your journey out of the darkness into the light.
I have read many books, spoken to many people, all who represent the collective knowledge of thousands upon thousands who have suffered from your disease. Without exception they all say the same thing. Only you can “do whatever it takes” to stop your insanity.
But you won’t.
You have given me never-ending reasons why you can’t take this journey. I have heard every possible “rationalization” from you. I have lain awake so many nights doubting my own sanity because the things you said made such sense. But now I know that you will only stop when you, and only you, have a burning desire to stop.
Which you don’t
Now I have come to realize that only two outcomes are possible. I accept this as absolute truth. Either you will stop, or you will die. That’s it, no in-between gray area. No other outcomes … no other dreams for me.
And so I have to prepare us for your death from this disease that you refuse to acknowledge. I know you think I’m strong.
But I’m not.
That is why I have to do whatever it takes to save our family from the pain that your destruction will cause us all. To this end, my dear child, it will be best if we part company, so that we will be spared the suffering of waiting for you to recover, or die.
Which you will.
We must part company so that the 90% of our time, energy and inner strength that your brothers and sisters have been deprived of for so long now, be given to them before they too become dysfunctional because of our neglect of their needs. I fear that one day they will resent us for not giving them of our energy as we did for you.
Please don’t think that we are doing this because we are angry with you. We are past that now. We are giving you the freedom to choose your own destiny. We just can’t share that choice with you. I am sure you think that we are abandoning you,We are not.We will be here, anxiously waiting for your knock at our door, instead of a policeman’s.
All we ask is that you do not knock until you are completely substance free for at least a year and your life is back on track.
If you choose not to take that path, then we will all respect your choice. Only, don’t ask us to share the consequences of that choice. Don’t ask us to hear your voice. Don’t ask us to contribute to your demise by giving you money, clothes, food or shelter. But most of all, don’t ask us to listen to the lies, the manipulation and the insanity.
Because we can’t.
So my dear child, it is now up to you. Go with G-d and go in peace.
If you should develop a “burning desire” to become clean and sober, there are many fine institutions and clinics which are available to you. Some are even free, such as (Name) at (Telephone #).
However, you will have to do it by yourself. Don’t even tell us about it. You just do whatever it takes to get a year’s clean time. We can’t do it for you. G-d knows I would if I could.
But I can’t.
Ever in my prayers …