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.