Tuesday, November 21, 2006

More on Roles

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving. The holiday season is always a stressful time but when you add addiction to the mix and it can be heartbreaking. Family members need to be extra careful not to isolate and to seek out support from other family, friends, and/or a 12 step program such as al-anon.

We last talked about the role of enabler in the family. In actuality everyone plays this role from time to time. Remember we talked about taking on roles as a way of coping with the "craziness" in the family. Other behaviors roles that people tend to take on in order to survive emotionally are the overachiever, this person is sometimes called the family hero. Others may display acting out behavior, getting in trouble in school or not going to school, this is the scapegoat. Another behavior is staying out of the way, laying low, spending a lot of time alone, quiet, this person gets lost in the shuffle. Then there is the clown who uses humor to defuse tense situations. All these roles have an aspect of health attached to them. They also have a cost. The problem is that these behaviors become compulsive ways of handling stress in general and lead to serious problems for the person unless they understand what is going on with them. The overachiever uses work and accomplishment to deal with stress and could become a workaholic, the scapegoat faced with stressful situations in their life may compulsively act out as a way of dealing with the stress and never know why. Every time they are on the verge of success they seem to sabotage themselves. The lost one lays low, doesn't stick his neck out. This was one of the roles that I took on when going up in an alcoholic family. I tell people today that I would have made a great Vice President. Not standing out is the goal when stressed. Of course the comedian is not made aware of what they are doing can become depressed has a hard time with relationships as an adult and tends to be emotionally immature.

What can you do? Vern E. Johnson, of the Johnson Institute advises the following; you can become an Intervener. How do you do that? It takes two steps. If you are in the habit of inappropriately confronting the chemically dependent person, STOP. If you are accustomed to protecting the chemically dependent person, STOP.

Easier said than done you say and you are right.
These are learned skills that you will acquire if you come to the family education class at Hina Mauka in Waipahu or Hina Mauka in Kaneohe on Thursday evenings.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

What's My Role

When there is a crisis or an on going stressor within the family everyone in the family is effected in some way. This is especially true when a family member or close friend suffers from the disease of addiction. We may not even be aware that we try to maintain control of the situation by taking on new roles. We act in certain ways in an attempt at responding to the addiction in our family. Everyone does this, it is unavoidable. The problem is that many of the typical ways family members react are not healthy for them and do nothing to help their loved one.

What are these roles? They are ways of trying to adjust to the disease of addiction in the family. In her book "Another Chance; Hope and Health for the Alcoholic Family" Sharon Wegscheider Cruse describes these roles. She has labeled these roles as the "Enabler, the Hero, the Scapegoat, the Lost Child, and the Mascot." Unfortunately these roles have become labels for people and labeling is not healthy either. An example would be the Enabler, everyone does this behavior to some extent. Think of enabling as a behavior rather than a title. When family members attempt to manage the addicted person by doing for the addicted person what that person should be doing for themselves that's enabling behavior, when family members find themselves shielding the addicted person from the consequences of their addiction that's enabling behavior. Family members enable in order to deal with their own anxiety and this way of dealing with the anxiety caused by the disease of addiction in the family is not helpful to the family members or the addicted person.

We get caught up in adjusting to the addiction in our family and Sharon Wegscheider Cruse reminds us that "the only healthy response to would be not to adjust to it but to open it up by voicing honestly your practical problems, your mental confusion and your emotional pain." This cannot be done alone. You need a support system. Al-Anon, Alateen, NA, AA.

More on roles in coming blogs.