Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Trust the addict you love?

Trust- We all want to trust the people we love. Love sometimes blinds us to the reality of some situations. We think if we love someone we should trust them. But trust and love are two very different things. You can not particularly like someone but trust them because they follow through. You can also love someone but don't trust them. Many people might think that loving someone but not trusting them is horrible, but if you understand addiction you will see that it is not only a good idea but necessary for the family members emotional survival.

Addiction is a medical condition that neither the addicted person nor the family member can "cure". The addicted person can learn to manage their condition and live a healthy and happy life. In order to do this the addicted person must take responsibility for their condition, their past behavior, their present behavior, learn strategies to deal with uncomfortable feelings without using, and maintain a support system of other people in recovery.

Loved ones can be supportive but they must allow the addicted person to work their program of recovery on their own terms. Family and friends of addicted people usually have their own issues that need to be worked on but these issues generally get neglected because they want to focus on the addicted persons issues, family members may even mistake the addicted persons issues for their own.

It is important for family members to understand that the addicted persons issues are not your issues. Of course they effect you but they aren't yours.

Trusting your loved one will not help them in recovery. Allowing them to earn your trust will. So observe behavior, see if it matches up with the addicted persons talk, observe if there is follow through. Over time the person you love may even become trustworthy, but they don't deserve it until they earn it.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Manipulation and Addiction

People have been writing and asking about addiction and manipulation.

The first thing to understand is that all addicted people manipulate. It isn't personal but it is what addicts do

The second thing to understand is that all family members and friends get manipulated by the addicted they care about. This is the normal dance that occurs with the disease of addiction

The third thing to know is that family members will continue to be manipulated until they make a decision to stop allowing this to happen.

As long as the addicted person is using they will not stop trying to manipulate. Don't expect the addicted person to change their behavior. This is normal behavior for the addicted person.

Family members and friends need to understand the nature of addiction. Addiction is a condition that alters the brain of the addicted person and causes a shift in perception. Because of the changes in the brain the addicted person believes that their drug of choice is what make life worth living, not family, friends, relationships, jobs, hobbies etc.

Compulsive drug use, lying and manipulation are the normal compulsive behaviors associated with addiction. Family members have no control over these behaviors although they spend tremendous amounts of energy attempting to control them.

Family members can control their response to these behaviors and that is the important skill to learn.

In their book "Love First" Jeff and Debra Jay have a chapter titled "Good Intentions Can Take You Down The Wrong Road." This chapter is about how family and friends get manipulated and inadvertently contribute to the addiction problems by helping the addicted person in inappropriate ways.

Family and friends need to learn the skill of allowing the addicted person they care about to experience the consequences of their addiction. If the addicted person isn't allowed to feel the pain they cause themselves they won't understand they have a problem or be motivated to change.

The addicted person can't see your pain. They can't see past their own needs. Anything that gets in their way is a problem that they must overcome, manipulate, get around so they can continue to use their drug of choice.

All addicted people manipulate, that's part of addiction. Don't take it personally, it's just how addicted people behave as a result of their condition.

The family needs to come together and talk about what is going on. Don't struggle alone. Check out Families Anonymous or Al Anon.

"If their lips are moving they are lying."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Role in families dealing with addiction.

Many people find their way to this blog through asking a search engine to find information about the roles people take on in an addicted family.

The classic model of what these are describe five basic roles. The Chief Enabler, the Family Hero, the Family Scapegoat, the Family Lost Child, the Family Mascot.

The chief enabler could be a parent, spouse, someone the addict works with. It is the person that protects the addicted person from the consequences of their addiction. The family hero is the person that makes the family look good from the outside. This could be a star athlete, a top employee at work, a family member who gets top grades in school. The scapegoat is generally the problem kid who gets in trouble at school or at work. The scapegoat has obvious problems. The lost child is the one that stays out of the way, socially a loner, avoids attention. The mascot is the class clown, a joker, uses humor to deal with stress, a social comedian.

What is the problem here? The main issue is that these roles are taken on as compensation for the family's inability to deal with what is really going on, typically a family members addiction. We look at the roles of enabler or scapegoat or lost child or even the mascot and we can see the down side but what about the family hero? The problem is that all these roles are compulsions that develop to buffer the individual from the craziness within the family. As I have mentioned in an earlier blog these are all forms of enabling because it help the family and the individuals to avoid focusing on the main issue.

These roles don't just go away. The person who has developed a role for themselves doesn't generally know that they are reacting to the addiction in their family through there role. When the chief enabler becomes angry and bitter, the family hero becomes a stressed out perfectionist and the scapegoat winds up an addict, the lost child becomes more socially isolated and avoids responsibility and the mascot becomes depressed and runs out of jokes they may wonder how they got to this place in their lives.

This is why it is important to understand what these roles are,and how they impact peoples lives. These roles are unhealthy survival techniques that are used by individual family members to adjust to living with addiction in the family. These roles are used to soothe each persons own anxiety but does absolutely nothing to impact on the main issue which is the disease of addiction.

The roles are another symptom of the disease of addiction as it effects the family. There is no healthy way to adjust to addiction in the family at some point the family needs to face it to get healthy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Regain your balance

Anyone who has flown in a commercial aircraft has had the emergency instructions explained to them by the flight attendant prior to takeoff. What is the procedure for when the oxygen mask drops down? The procedure is too put the mask on yourself first, before you try to help anyone else.

People are always asking how can I help my loved one? You start by getting help for yourself first, why? Because you are the one that actually knows there is a problem and that help is needed.

Addiction is a medical condition that deeply affects all family members and one of the hallmarks of addiction in the family is a loss of control. This happens to all families everywhere in the world that are struggling with addiction. Unfortunately we try to regain control by struggling to control the addicted persons behavior. This tactic usually leaves family members feeling even more out of control.

One of the first skills to learn is to give up control of the outcome for someone else. Why would I say this? Addiction is a condition that directly impacts the central nervous system. along with all others. Addiction alters the brain and the brain chemistry and changes the way addicted people think and perceive the world. One part of the brain that is controlled by addiction is the survival and pleasure centers of the brain. This is that part of the brain that is very basic and controls our survival instincts. Because of the ways that drugs change this part or the brain the addicted person believes that their drug of choice is what makes life worth living. Not family, Not a career, Not relationships, Not financial stability. It's all about the drug. This is a perception that they believe and it drives their decision making. This is a hard concept for families to understand. It is not personal it's the way the disease process changes brain chemistry. This is what you are dealing with. This is why you need help on this road.

Addiction isn't just bad decision making, although, that happens. It is a medical condition that one can't just decide not to have anymore than one can decide not to have diabetes or high blood pressure.

Regaining our balance means taking time out to take care of ourselves. Acknowledge that we have a problem that effects everyone in the family, not just the addicted person. We don't get in balance by struggling to get the addict to stop using or spend our time trying to get the addicted person into treatment. That is actually their job. It is dangerous for you to connect your feelings of well being to the actions of an addicted person who has no control over their own well being.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Perception is Truth

We act on our perceptions as if they were reality but are they?

If our reaction to addiction in the family is to try to control more aspects of the addicted persons life what does that say about our perceptions of addiction and our role in it?

If you believe that addiction is just bad decision making would you act differently toward the addict than if you believed that addiction was a disease that neither you nor the addict had any control over.

If you believed that the addicted person was suffering from a disease process and you believed that allowing the addicted person to experience the pain that they create in their lives was important, how would you act?

These are all questions that family members must come to grips with in order to figure out how to help the addicted person.

Where do we need to evolve to in our perceptions?

Try these out:

We have to learn to give up control of the outcome for the addict. This does not mean abandon them. The outcome for the addicted person is determined by them not you.

Addiction does not respond to logical thought it only responds to experience. Allow the addict to experience whatever they create in their lives.

When we rescue our family member from the consequences of their behavior we prevent them from succeeding or we prevent them from failing and feeling the consequences of their addiction.

How are they going to know they have a problem? Why should they make an effort to change if others take care of them?

What are your perceptions about addiction. How do you behave in relationship with the addicted person in your life? Does your behavior match up with what you believe?

You can't do this alone get support.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Creating Boundaries

What does it mean to create boundaries? What is a boundary? On their website coping.org, James J. Messina Ph.D and Contance M. Messina Ph.D describe a boundary in the following ways;

Emotional and physical space between you and another person.

A limit or line over which you will not allow anyone to cross because of the negative impact of it being crossed on the past.

A healthy emotional distance you can maintain between you and another person so you don't become too enmeshed and/or dependent.

These are just a few ways of describing what we are calling boundaries.

Drs. Messina also describe how to establish healthy boundaries and how you can identify unhealthy thinking that allows boundaries to be ignored or violated.

Examples of unhealthy thoughts are;

"I can never say no."

"It's my duty to hold them together."

"I would feel guilty if I just did something on my own."

Drs. James and Constance Messina also suggest a method to establish healthy boundaries.

First: Identify symptoms that indicate your boundaries are currently being ignored, violated or haven't been established.

Second: Identify the unhealthy thinking and beliefs which allows this to happen.

Third: Identify new methods of thinking about the situation that encourage the establishment of healthy boundaries.

Fourth: Identify new behaviors, ways of responding to the situation that can help to establish healthy boundaries.

Fifth: Implement the new behaviors and begin creating healthy boundaries and healthy thinking about the situation.

It is very important for anyone dealing with addiction in the family to get help. You can not do this alone

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What is important to understand and important to do?

What to understand

Addiction is a condition that neither the family members nor the addicted person have control over. The behaviors that the addicted person displays are not the disease. They are the results of the disease acting on the brain/central nervous system. Addiction results in changes in the brain and effects how addicted people think and perceive the world. Their drug of choice becomes what makes life worth living and replaces relationships, career and family.

The three C's represent the following ideas; You did not cause it, You can not control it, and You can not cure it. Family members spend an enormous amount of time and energy struggling with these issues.

Addiction is not logical and not personal.

Addiction does not respond to logical thought. Addicted people can be very intelligent in every aspect of their lives but blind to the destruction they are causing in their own lives and their family member's lives. What is behind that? Remember addiction affects the central nervous system and addicted people see reality differently. What makes life worth living for them? The answer is, their drug of choice. So when addicted people make bad and hurtful choices as a result of their addiction there are no surprises here, that is what addicted people do.

Addiction is not personal. Addiction affects you deeply because it is hard to see someone you love possibly destroying himself or herself. The addicted person is not doing this to you on purpose. They are just doing what addicted people do and you happen to be a witness. Your son, daughter, wife, or husband didn't suddenly decide to become an addict, start destroying their lives and causing you misery because they thought it was a good idea at the time. The more you can learn to remove the personal aspects of your response to the addiction in your family the better able you will be to respond effectively to the reality of this situation.

Loss of trust is an important issue.

Many family members trust what an addicted person says because they want to trust them and want them to be trustworthy. They trust what they say because they think they should because that's my son, daughter, husband, or wife. They trust what the addicted person says because they think if they don't they are abandoning them. It is important for family members to understand this about the addict in their family; If their lips are moving they are lying. Never trust what an addicted person says, even if you want to. The only thing you can trust is their behavior. You can learn to trust them again only if and when they earn it. When what they say matches up with what they do on a consistent basis over time. Until such time the best response is to just observe.

What to do

Getting support is probably the most important behavior a family or individual family members can do for themselves and the addicted person in their family. Addiction thrives on isolation, fear, and anxiety. If family members don't reach out to others who are experiencing similar issues they may stay frozen in fear and shame. It is important to be able to feel free to be yourself and learn how to live a healthy life even with the stress of addiction in the family.

Create boundaries between you and the addicted person in your family. Learn to understand the difference what their issues are and what your issues are. For example, your loved one's addiction is not your issue. Your issues have to do with how you are trying to respond to their addiction. You can only take responsibility for what is yours. Their addiction belongs to them and they must learn to manage it. Family members drive themselves crazy trying to take responsibility for their family member's addiction. You are ultimately not responsible for your loved ones addiction or their recovery from addiction. Only they can take responsibility for that. Learning to take responsibility for what is yours is very important. Your job is to learn to respond to the addicted person in your family in a way that is healthy for you and others in your family while offering appropriate assistance to your loved one. Getting support will help with this and you will start to learn the resources available in your community.

Respond to the addicted person based on the reality of the situation. We find ourselves responding out of anxiety, anger, hurt, embarrassment and/or guilt. None of these motivations for responding to the addicted person in your family are helpful or appropriate. They are not effective and will not help you accomplish your goal of being of assistance to your loved one and staying healthy yourself. Learn to allow the addicted person to experience the consequences of their addiction. Each time you rescue them you prevent them from learning how to take care of themselves. Without pain no addicted person ever got help for their addiction.
It is important to deal with anxiety, anger, hurt, embarrassment and guilt feelings but that is one of the reasons for developing a support system. Remember it isn't personal and it is not your fault.

Create a team. Family members need to work together on finding the issues they can all agree on and building on them. Many time people will respond differently to the stress of addiction in the family. One person may be very emotional and another may be very stoic and keep their emotions inside. This can lead to family members misunderstanding each other and then that becomes an issue and gets in the way of responding appropriately to the addicted person. Don't let each others emotional style get in the way of working together. Usually family members all want a positive outcome. Even though they display their feelings differently family members generally have the same concerns. Respect each other. Learn to accept each others different emotional styles and support each other in becoming a team. Addiction will destroy the family unless family members make an effort to prevent that from happening.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Pain is inevitable suffering is optional

Addiction hurts. It hurts the addicted person and everyone close to the addict. BUT, how much the family members suffer as a result of the pain of addiction is something they can learn to have control over if they are willing to get help. How much of your life have you given up because of a loved one's addiction? How much time do you spend stewing, being anxious, afraid, frustrated and with thoughts of disaster pounding in your head?

It is important for family members to learn to reduce this suffering if they are to be able to live their lives and act in ways that can be helpful to the addicted person in their lives. In order to do that family members must get support. They should go to alanon meetings, open 12 step meetings, educational meetings, families anonymous meetings. Find out all you want to know about addiction on the internet, maybe more than you wanted to know.

Remember that your loved ones addiction is not your fault, and remember the 3 C's; You didn't Cause it, You can't Control it, and You can't Cure it. As with any chronic condition such as addiction, diabetes, or arthritis the person with the condition must take responsibility for the condition if they are to manage it successfully. Family members cannot manage another person's condition no matter how badly they want to or how clearly they think they seen the problem or the solution.

The addicted person needs to learn to manage their addiction and the family members need to learn to manage their response to the addicted person they care about.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Family Dymanics in Addiction

If you want to know the bare facts about addiction you can find the information on the internet. If you want to start family healing as a result of having an addicted person in your family you need to get support, reach out, as well as learn information and gradually learn to practice some new behavior skills within your family.

What family members have told me that has worked for them, was to build a team within the family. Team building, getting on the same page, working together in their interactions with each other and toward the addicted person in their lives has made an improvement in the quality of their family life.

Family members describe feeling better and feeling more empowered as they work toward building a team. Being on the "same page" when interacting with the addicted person in their family helps the family give clear messages to their addicted loved one about what the family expects. None of these families have reached any perfect goal and a perfect goal may not be possible but the process of working together has begun the healing and empowering process.

What this might mean to begin with is to find the one thing that family members can agree on rather than focusing on what they don't agree on. Many times family members agree on a lot more that they think they do, but how they think the issue should be solved is different. Rather than jumping to individual solutions learn to slow down and learn about each other and learn to respect the way each person is responding to the stress.

The only way healing can take place in a family with a loved one who has the disease of addiction is through the family learning how to build a team and learn to have boundaries between them and the addict and to operate within those boundaries with flexibility and teamwork.

This is important. Family members have described how healthier the family dynamics are when they are working to be a team. They may not agree on everything but are willing to talk with each other about their concerns. Getting support and education is very important in this process.

There is one thing I can tell you. Addiction with in a family has a corrosive effect and will destroy your family unless you are willing learn to work together and learn respect each other.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Role of the Family

Family and friends can play an important role in motivating individuals with drug and alcohol problems to get into treatment and stay in treatment. In order to do this the family members must educate themselves about the nature of addiction, they need to learn what they have control over and what they do not and be willing to give up control of the outcome for the addicted person.

The addicted person needs information about their condition. If family members aren't clear about the nature of addiction it will be hard to give clear information to their loved one. The addicted person will spend a lot of energy rejecting this information so if the family member understands that this is normal it will reduce their anxiety and help them to continue to give information to their loved one anyway. When you give information to an addicted person it must be simple and straight, such as, I love you, you need help, here is a list of treatment programs. Addicted people do not need judgments, threats or attempts at manipulating them into treatment.

One of the more difficult skills that family members and friends need to learn is how to allow the addicted person they love to experience the consequences of their addiction without trying to save them. Addicted people need pain. Without pain they will not be motivated to seek help. One important note, it is not the job of the family to create pain for the addict in hope that this will make them go into treatment. This is very important. I have talked to many parents that kicked their adult child out of the house thinking this will make them go to treatment, and the addicted person does not go. There are no simple solutions here. If you choose to kick someone out of the house it should only be done to make your life better, to protect your environment. If this results in the addicted person going to treatment great, if it does not, that's OK also because that wasn't the goal. This would be a natural consequence for the addicted person as a result of their drug use and they will have to deal with it as opposed to a manipulative consequence created by the parents to create pain.

In order to play the strongest role in this with an addicted person in your family you must get education, get support, pass on the information to the addict whether they like it or not, learn to give up trying to control the outcome for the addicted person, allow the addicted person to experience the natural consequences of their addiction, and when not sure what to do seek out the support you have been developing for advice and more support.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Take Back Your Home

First it is important to understand where I'm coming from. What I talk about is based on my belief that addiction is a disease process that neither the family member nor the addicted person have any control over. People that have come to my class over the last 12 years have had a range of beliefs about this and that is fine. The important point is that they are willing to make changes to improve their own lives that have been disrupted by the disease process of addiction.

If you can't control the disease what can you control? There are two areas of our lives we neglect and can control: 1. Our response to the addiction. Not just a reaction based on fear and anxiety but a plan of action. 2. Our environment, where we live and what we allow in our lives.

Family members need support to take back their home and take back their lives. One opportunity for this is with AlaNon/ Alateen. For more information on AlaNon/Alateen follow the link on this blog. Also read the book "Addict in the Family" published by
Hazelden. Addiction pulls families apart. Within the family there may be different responses. Try to find as many areas of agreement as possible, even if it is only that our loved one is an addict. Treat each other with respect, everyone is responding to a very stressful situation.

This is a process of recovery for the family. Taking back your home is for you not the addicted person. Don't do this if your real goal is to manipulate your loved one into treatment. Also you should not do anything you are not willing to follow through on and believe is the right thing to do.

Family members start this process in a variety of ways. All families need education and support to be clear on what they believe about addiction. Also family members need to agree on what behavior change they will make and are willing to follow through on, whether it is stopping doing their son's laundry to kicking their loved one out or finding the ability to have their loved one arrested if they steal from them or break into the house. The message you are giving the addicted person is that, we love you, your behavior unacceptable, and I can't control your addiction (as much as I would like to) but I am taking control of my life.

Don't do anything you aren't willing to follow through on. This isn't a trick to cause them pain so they will go to treatment. This isn't even about the addict, it is about the family making healthy choices for themselves. Whether you stop the money, change the locks, press charges because of stealing or breaking in you must be consistent.

What do we say to the addict? This isn't a debate or a discussion. Make simple, clear statements, such as; We love you, You need treatment, Here is a list of treatment programs in the area, We will no longer support your addiction, We will support your recovery.

Remember the three C's. for families: You didn't Cause it, You can't Control it, You can't Cure it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Denial, Dishonesty, Manipulation

We have been talking about the concepts of denial, dishonesty, and Manipulation in our family class for years. In her recent book "Addict in the Family", published by Hazelden, Beverly Conyers spells it out very clearly. Addiction is very predictable and all addicted people will deny they have a problem, lie, cheat and steal and manipulate situations and people to get what they want, and that is their drug of choice.

Remember, addiction is a brain disease and the brain is altered in important ways at the cellular level because of this disease process. You can not see addiction, but you can see the result of addiction in the dishonest and manipulative behavior that addicts display regularly. This behavior is very understandable when you are clear that what an addicted person believes and acts on is that their drug of choice is what makes life worth living.

Family members think in terms of relationships, children, career, and accomplishments as what make life worth living but that is not true for the addicted person.

Remember; "If their lips are moving they are lying." "Never trust an addicted person because you think you should or because you want them to be trustworthy so badly." "the only thing that counts with an addicted person is their behavior."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Addiction in my Adult Child

There are some things that it is important to be clear about before you speak with your son or daughter about your concerns. First, separate the addiction from the person in your own mind. This isn't about their character or willpower. This is about a medical condition that neither you nor they have any control over. If you are not clear on this it is not the time to approach them.

If you have a partner, are you both in agreement about your loved one's addiction. Are you and your partner able to talk about this issue with respect even if you don't agree on how to approach the issue.

It is important to understand that addicted people generally seek help when they are allowed to experience the consequences of their addiction. Many times family members buffer the addicted person from these consequences for a variety of reasons related to guilt mixed with love and fear. This is not good for the family or the addicted person.

If you are wanting to confront the addicted person because you have had enough and are angry and resentful, step back!! This is not helpful for the addicted person or the family.

When you do talk with the addicted person be clear that you can not talk the addicted person out of this medical condition, or threaten them out of it, or beg them out of it, or bribe them out of it.

It is very important that you are clear that this is not a discussion. You are not to ask questions or get into an argument about whether they are addicted. You make clear, simple statements. Such as "I am concerned about your addiction and I want you to seek help." "I love you very much and your addiction behavior frightens me and I can't live with it." "I will not support your addiction." "I will support your recovery." "Here is information on recovery centers in town." End of conversation!! They may not like what you have to say but that is irrelevant. The important thing is that you said it and it will get said over and over again.

Remember if their lips are moving they are lying. What counts is behavior not words. Many parents, as well as other family members, trust the addicted person for the wrong reasons. They trust because they want to so badly or they think they should and then they get disappointed over and over again. Never put faith in the words of an addicted person until such time that they have had long enough recovery that they have a track record of following through on those words with action. Until they learn to "walk their talk."

All family members need to get educated about addiction and get support to help themselves and their family on the path to recovery. There are some hard truths to digest during this process. For example:

Your loved one's addiction is not your issue. You are deeply effected by it and unfortunately take it on as an issue but only he/she can solve this not you.

Addiction is not personal. It is a medical condition that happens in the brain at the cellular level. This is because of the changes in the brain brought on by the chronic use of their drug on choice. The behavior you see is not the addiction. It is the result of the addiction working on the brain.

Addiction is predictable. I have been facilitating the family class at Hina Mauka for over eleven years and the questions that family members ask are always the same. Families always run into the same behaviors.

The addicted person's thinking process is changed because of the chronic use of their drug of choice. The brain is changed and one of the changes is that the addict believes that their drug of choice is what makes life worth living. Not family, relationships, accomplishments, career, or responsibilities. They put themselves through tremendous stress because of this. When family members come to understand this it answers a lot of questions.

Family members need to create boundaries. Where do they begin and end emotionally and where does the addicted person begin and end. What are your real issues and what belongs to the addict. Unfortunately family members take on the addicts issues as their own and begin to lose their own identity. This is when family members really start feeling out of control and like they are going "crazy"

Family members have control over two things. Their Environment- What is in their home, life, and How They Choose To Respond to the addiction in their family.

This is an ongoing dialogue. The process of recovery is gradual. Please leave a comment and I will respond as soon as possible

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Rules in the Addicted Family

We have talked about the unhealthy roles that family members take on in response to the stress of addiction in the family, but what are the rules that govern these families. The rules are very rigid and probably play a large part in the development of those unhealthy roles.

Sharon Wegscheider Cruse in her book "Another Chance- Hope and Health for the Alcoholic Family" points out the following: "As the addict gradually loses power over his/her own life and behavior, they wield more and more power over the lives of the people close to him/her."

Weigscheider Cruse points out seven unhealthy rules that govern families living with addiction.

"Rule: The addicts use of their drug is the most important thing in the family's life."

"Rule: Drug use is not the cause of the family's problem."

"Rule: Someone or something else caused the addicts dependency; he is not
responsible."

"Rule: The status quo must be maintained at all cost."

"Rule: Everyone in the family must be an enabler."

"Rule: No one may discuss what is really going on in the family, either with one another or with outsiders."

"Rule: No pne may say what he is really feeling."

As you can clearly see this does not leave the family members with much room to move. The shame and fear associated with coming out and seeking help is very strong. Even when the family member does seek help it starts out all about the addict. When I ask family members how they are doing they begin to talk about the addict. They don't know how to talk about themselves or of what is going on with in their lives because they have lost themselves, they have given up their identity to focus on the addict. In many cases they have taken on the problems of the addict as if those problems were their own. They don't know where they end and the addict begins. The have no boundaries and this is killing the family member and the family.

Family member need help they can't do it alone. Check out the links to Families Anonymous and Ala-Non on this site.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

What is Enabling?

People in class will say "I am an enabler" or "others have told them that they are an enabler." This only makes people feel even more "stuck" and thinking there is something wrong with them. Concept number one: Enabling is a behavior not a person. It is a behavior that a family member has learned to do for emotional survival.

Enabling is a behavior in which someone does something for the addicted person that the addicted person should be doing for themselves. Enabling is a learned behavior that can be unlearned and replaced by a healthier more productive response to your loved one's addiction.

Why do people do these behaviors? One reason is that family members are generally very anxious about what is happening to their loved one. They are also feeling a sense of responsibility to "do something" to help or are feeling pressured to do something to help. Feeling anxious, responsible and pressured is a dangerous combination. Add in a misunderstanding of what addiction is and you get a set-up for enabling behavior.

Enabling behavior is a method family members use to soothe their own anxiety. These behaviors do not help the addict. They actually prevent the addicted person from experiencing the reality of their addiction. Enabling behaviors also prevent the family member from understanding that their loved one's addiction is not their issue. It effects them deeply but their loved ones addiction is their loved ones issue. The family member actually has other issues they need to work on.

"The role adopted for survival can also be the role that will destroy." Go to alanon meetings or families anonymous meetings. If there are no families anonymous meetings in your area start one. Go to the families anonymous link on this website and they show you how to do that.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

"The Revised 12 Steps"

This is from the "Adult Children of Alcoholics" Communicator -March 1990 - Council Bluffs Iowa - Enjoy and Learn!!

1.We admitted we were powerless over nothing. We could manage our lives perfectly and we could manage those of anyone else that would allow it.

2.Came to believe that there was no power greater than ourselves, and the rest of the world was insane.

3.Made a decision to have our loved ones and friends turn their wills and their lives over to our care.

4.Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of everyone we knew.

5.Admitted to the whole world at large the exact nature of their wrongs.

6.Were entirely ready to make others straighten up and do right.

7.Demanded others to either "shape up or ship out".

8.Made a list of anyone who had ever harmed us and became willing to go to any lengths to get even with them.

9.Got direct revenge on such people whenever possible except when to do so would cost us our own lives, or at the very least, a jail sentence.

10.Continued to take inventory of others, and when they were wrong, promptly and repeatedly told them about it.

11.Sought through nagging to improve our relations with others as we couldn't understand them at all, asking only that they knuckle under and so things our way

12.Having had a complete physical, emotional and spiritual breakdown as a result of these steps, we tried to blame it on others and to get sympathy and pity in all our affairs.


Anyone who is struggling with addiction in their family needs information and support to accomplish the things that will bring them into a healing process. There is a lot of emotional pain generated by this disease. Isolation, trying to maintain the status quo, and walking on eggshells only make it worse.

Everyone takes on some type of role for emotional survival when the family is struggling with addiction. It is important to understand that roles adopted for survival can also be the role that will destroy.

When you begin to reach out you can learn about what you are doing that is healthy for you and learn what you need to change for your own well being.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Healing Involves Suffering

What am I suppose to do just let him use? Just let her ruin her life? Just let him be an addict? This dilemma is front an center many times in the family program each week.

Family members are struggling with loss of control, struggling to make something good happen. It takes time for family members to understand what it is they have control over and what they don't. Family members and friends can learn to exercise control over their own environment and how they personally respond to the addiction in their lives.

What they don't have control over is whether or not their loved one has the disease of addiction and what the addicted persons behavior is as a result of this condition. BUT that is what they want to have control over and unfortunately many continually struggle with trying to force control over the addicted person and this causes tremendous emotional pain.

Like the addicted person when family members have had enough suffering they may become open to a different way of looking at things that might help them move toward healing.

Creating boundaries is one of the most important skills family members and friends of addicted people can learn. It is very important to clearly learn the difference between what are their issues and what are your issues.

Number one is that their addiction is not your issue. It effects you deeply and causes you pain but you can't solve this issue for them. So what are your issues? They are all the emotional turmoil going on within you as a result of your reactions to the addiction and the addicted person.

It is very empowering to understand this and understand there are skills and new behaviors to learn that will help you and as a result allow the addicted person a chance to experience the consequences of their addiction.

Remember addicts need to suffer so they can figure out there is a problem that they need help with. And one more thing the addict can't do it alone!! AND the family members can't do it alone either. Family members need support within a safe and supportive environment where they can check out new ideas, see how others have been successful or have repeated the same unproductive behaviors over and over again. Just like the addicted person.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

What about Family Roles

The key to understanding these roles is that they are not just labels, they are learned behaviors that are employed by people within a family system. These behaviors are essentially survival techniques that family members employ in an attempt to escape the pain, fear and confusion that addiction is causing in their family system and gain some control over the chaos in their lives. The problem is that these behaviors provide short term relief but in the long run are destructive. and if they are not understood and the underlying feelings dealt with they may become compulsive behaviors that negatively impact each family member for years to come.

The textbook "labels" for these behaviors are the Chief Enabler, The Hero, The Scapegoat, the Lost Child and the Clown. Definitions for these are easy to find on the internet or in book about addiction. So, what about family roles.

When people are stressed they will respond in some way and they will respond in some way for survival. Remember these are behaviors, reactions to overwhelming stress. the Hero behavior is about finding control outside the family. It could be in school, in sports or other area. The scapegoat behavior is being the anti-hero. This behavior is about gaining control by acting out the chaos they feel inside the family and themselves. The lost child behavior is about staying out of the way, lying low, not sticking your neck out. the clown behavior is about laughing on the outside and crying on the inside, using humor to deal will anxiety. That brings us to the chief enabler. All the behaviors related to the family roles are a form of enabling behavior because they are a result of not understanding addiction and not being able to honestly talk about it within the family. The chief enabler is the person who displays the most focused and direct enabling behaviors such as paying the addicted persons bills, making excuses for them, preventing open discussion of addiction in the household and at the sometime trying to manipulate the addict into changing through begging, threatening, pleading, walking on eggshells, etc., etc.

Enabling behaviors are a direct result of attempting to control fear and anxiety by performing some behavior that the addicted person wants. This reduces anxiety for a short while but it always returns.

Here is the secret to recovery: Anyone who is in recovery must pass through some level of suffering to be successful. Recovery is about becoming comfortable with handling uncomfortable feelings. This is true for both the addict as well as the family members. Attempts to avoid doing what is uncomfortable by employing enabling behaviors to shield the addicted person from the consequences of their addiction only results in more pain and are a roadblock to possible recovery. They also shield the family from honest communication and dealing with the pain they have been experiencing.

Monday, January 29, 2007

How Do I Help The Addicted Person???

How do I help? The first thing you must understand is that you cannot do this alone. You must have a support system in place, you need someone you can talk with about the process. Most family members are dealing with a high level of anxiety and/or fear. If this anxiety/fear is not processed in a supportive environment we will fall into the trap of enabling behaviors to relieve our uncomfortable feeling and it does nothing for the addict or us. The other thing that happens is we isolate from positive support systems. Once we are clear that we cannot do this alone we have chance of success. Support systems such as Alanon/Alateen and Families Anonymous are available you can find the link on this site.

The next step is to come to an understanding that you actually cannot control the outcome for the addict. As you gradually come to terms with this reality your options to respond to the addiction expand. Learn to give up control of the outcome for the addict and your fear and anxiety reduce. as this happens you will find room in your heart for compassion and love.

The addicted person needs information about their condition. Provide straight information about resources in the community and that they need help. this is not a debate, or a discussion about whether or not they are addicts. Don't be surprised if you are rejected in this effort or even blamed. the important point is that you provide straight, non judgemental feedback and information. Remember, do not argue with them or nag them or threaten them or listen to their excuses.

Allow the addicted person to experience the consequences of their behavior. addicted people only enter treatment because they experience some level of pain that breaks through their denial system. This pain could be legal, financial, emotional or medical. If there are no consequences there are no reasons for an addicted person to seek change. If they have been hearing about treatment programs in the community from you they may decide to go to one if they experience consequences they don't like. Stepping aside and letting them suffer as a result of their addictive behavior is a way of bringing their bottom up. The earlier in this process they experience pain the better.

Giving someone information if they don't want it is not easy, not taking their rejection of that information personally is not easy, allowing a person that we love to suffer as a result of their addiction is not easy. this is why you must have a support system. In my class over the past 11 years family members will say to me, "Bob, that's easier said than done." My response is always "of course it is and it is still what needs to be done." It is usually at this point in the class when family members either realize they have work to do or leave and don't come back. There are no magic bullets in dealing with addiction in your family and yet the process of recovery can be very rewarding one.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Check Out This Link

I just added a link over there on the right "Issues for Families." This is will take you to a website created by the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba and it is filled with information and resources about responding to addiction with family members or friends including gambling addiction. The link I provided takes you directly to the issues for families section. The general website can be found at- www.afm.mb.ca -

Over the years that I have been teaching the family class in Hawaii the majority of people that have come to the class were those that have adult children that are addicts and this link addresses this issue along with many many others. If you are confused, stressed, trying to make someone who doesn't want help get it and keeping all this a secret, this website is for you.

Addiction is a family illness. It causes isolation, neglect of core values, stressed family ties, shame and financial difficulties to name a few. Everyone is effected and needs help with understanding what is going on.

Your not alone.

Check out the links on the right.

Find someone to talk with.