Over the past few decades, experts have increasingly recognized that addiction is a primary, progressive and chronic disease that, if unchecked, can be fatal. This is when When Addicts Kill Families. Many have failed, though, to realise that those closest to the addict, primarily the family, generally suffer psychological damage and often become as emotionally distressed as the addict himself.
Being in the business for twenty years, we know addicts, right now, who are tearing families apart. Families who refuse to let go, and in doing so have become as sick as the addicts. We are seeing families be torn apart from the inside out. Parents are getting sick, tired and divorced. Siblings are becoming hopeless, disillusioned and troubled as young adults themselves. The addicts in active addiction, often sit un-phased by all this, treating each day as a personal feel good party. Even post drug rehab stints of 90 days or more, they simply start again – by choice – and wreak havoc on the families, without a care for God, self or other. Addiction for a serial relapse specialist can be something that trumps all reason. They destroy, hurt, break and punish. As long as the family won’t let go. Today, this is called enabling and may offer us the only way to stop serial relapser’s from hurting self and families alike. We may have to let them go with tough love, so they at least stand a chance of living life one day. When Addicts Kill Families, it is an inside job.
Addiction doesn’t kill the addict. It kills the family, kids and people who tried to help!
Given the common effects of the disease of addiction and the society we’re raised in, it’s all but impossible for those around a drinking alcoholic or addict or drug addict not to be drawn into the sickness. Such persons, especially the family members, are apt to become anxious and fearful and to develop feelings of low self-worth, anger and resentment. In short, they’re likely to develop their own emotional illness in connection with another’s addiction, and they too, need help in dealing with the problem.
Family addiction (the term refers to a family in which addiction is present) is a lonely and desolate emotional and spiritual plateau on which many persons near and dear to an alcoholic or addict live. We can recognize those suffering from family addiction by the fact that almost all their important actions are reactions to some act of the drinking alcoholic or addict. When Addicts Kill Families, most of their own vitality has drained away.
These family members suffer in ways that are devastatingly similar to the suffering of the alcoholic or addict in their family. Like alcoholic or addicts, they too centre their lives on alcohol and on their response to it. They’re virtually out of touch with reality. Because they make up a family that has an alcoholic or addict parent, spouse or child, their concept of events going on around them is usually filtered through a haze of self-debasement, mistrust and resentment.
Often, family members – usually a wife, a husband, a parent – have tried to do something about the presence of alcohol and addiction in their home. They’ve tried counsellors, prayer, doctors, being nice and being tough. But the drinking has continued. After a while, they’ve begun to live like robots. Tears, laughter, joy, happiness, excitement no longer exist for them in their alcoholic or addict wasteland. The drinking has continued, and the family members have remained centered on alcohol or drugs, not realizing that they’ve been developing serious emotional and living problems of their own.
As with an alcoholic or addict, anger and self-pity are two of the primary emotions of these people. Their anger distorts any accurate perception of what’s going on. Self-pity warps their powers of decision, and most of their actions are mere reactions. Anger and self-pity propel such persons through life as they suppress or bypass whatever or whomever stands in the way of their defensive struggle against the unfair burdens they carry. Strangely living in either the past or the future, they ignore the present. But in spite of feeling worthless, hopeless and guilty, they dream impossible dreams for the future. For them, the present is torturing time; an hour, a day is an eternity to be suffered rather than enjoyed. The present – when they do look at it – is a time only to be lived through while recalling the painful past and dreaming of a better future. Today doesn’t count; it’s only a burden to be endured.
When Addicts Kill Families
When we suppress the present, joy goes out of our lives. Life becomes fear, dread, conjecture, worry, lies and a putting on of “company manners”. When we live in dread, life is pain, pleading injured silence and punishing. And sadly, a family that lives with addiction often sees that kind of life as normal.
Trapped in an unacceptable living condition, the parent, spouse or child of an alcoholic or addict escapes into fantasy. Reality is too painful to be faced, so it’s ignored, smoothed over, covered up. The family concentrates instead on the reverie of a better past or the illusion of a perfect tomorrow. Their conversation is sprinkled with “I could have …,” “I should have …,” “Some day …”.
Their pain and anguish combine into a destructive force that increasingly numbs their feelings and dulls their minds. Often their mental pain shows in physical symptoms: headaches, stomach aches, unexplained jabs of pain, more headaches, ulcers, more headaches – always headaches. No wonder such people often resort to bullying, demanding, threatening and indulging in self-pity.
AN ANSWER: DETACHMENT
The feelings of anger, shame and guilt associated with family addiction come from the constant confusion, conflict, unpredictability, inconsistency, mistrust and sense of failure that each member experiences. The family victims seldom learn without outside help that they didn’t cause the disease and that they can’t control it.
Literally, to save and enjoy their lives, they need to do something positive, something that will help them focus on their own problems and the treatment they need to get well. They need to shift the focus of their attention from alcohol and the alcoholic or addict to themselves: to their problems, their reactive behaviour, and what they can do for themselves in their own recovery from the family disease of addiction. To free themselves for these positive steps in their return to a healthy life, these family victims need to separate themselves from their reactive behaviour and its causes. How? By developing the skill of detachment.
“Detachment” is often a chilling word but less so than our title here When Addicts Kill Families. It summons images of unfriendly isolation and solitary existence. When we hear the word used to describe somebody, we tend to think of a person who’s aloof, separated from the rest of the world, self-contained, a bit self satisfied. But those who have experience in Al-Anon know that detachment doesn’t have to be negative.
Furthermore, if we look at its opposite, involvement in a family where an alcoholic or addict is drinking, detachment is far and away the healthier, happier state to be in.
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