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.