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.

2 comments:

frank cortinas said...

DEAR BOB,

YOUR ARTICLES RE: ENABLERS ARE VERY INFORMATIVE AND ARE VERY HELPFUL.
IT IS A VERY SCARY PROPOSITION FOR ENABLERS TO USE TOUGH LOVE TACTICS SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY ARE AFRAID OF THE WORSE SCENERIO OUTCOME. LOVE IS A DOUBLE EDGE SWORD. IT CAN HEAL YOU AND IT CAN KILL YOU. THE GREATEST RISK IS THAT IT WILL KILL THE ONE YOU LOVE
AND THAT, TO SOME PEOPLE, IS MORE THEN THEY COULD BEAR. GUILT AND LOVE ARE THE ELEMENTS OF AN ENABLER. DOES THIS MAKE ANY SENSE?

Bob Brown said...

Guilt and love are entangled and color the reactions of the family members to the addiction of a loved one. We try to help people understand that they are not "enablers" as an identity, but that they have learned enabling behavior as a response to the stress in their family and these enabling behaviors can be changed with the right support and understanding of the realities of addiction. When I am working with folks I don't want them to do anything at first. Many people are in the habit of shaping their response to the addiction in their family as a result of tremendous pressure either from themselves, other family members, or the addict. I don't want to add to that. It is important that family members have some breathing room to sort out what is going on before they start acting. When they do act they should only do what they believe is right for them not someone else.