Susan, a wife and mother of three, is addicted to alcohol. Her children pick her up off of the floor after a night filled with heavy drinking. They cry themselves to sleep every night, wishing their mother would stop. Her husband cleans the mess left behind, thinking of the excuses he made to his children for her behavior. The next day, her husband takes the kids to school then goes to work while Susan sleeps away her hangover. This is a typical day in the life of Susan – the life of an alcoholic. This is what her family sees on a daily basis.
When there is an addict lurking in the family, the entire family is impacted. For that person who is out of control, his or her behavior affects the entire family. That person becomes so addicted, so dependent, that he or she cannot see how it is hurting the family.
How is the family impacted?
Unfortunately, addicts are focused on their addiction and not on others. As in the case of Susan, she does not see how her alcohol abuse is impacting her kids and her husband. She turns inward, isolating herself from her family. She distances herself from her husband and makes excuses to her children. Her husband, although calm and patient, is fed up with her behavior. He is tired of the verbal abuse and her lack of personal responsibility. Indeed, the person with the addiction will suffer relationship problems. The addiction becomes more important than the relationships.
Family Members Become Enablers
Addicts are very manipulative and know how to use the family to get what they want. As stated in the article, “Parenting the Addict – An Effective New Philosophy”, “The addict uses the family to secure its existence. The family is very vulnerable because it is so involved with and wants to help.” The daughter of a food addict may purchase junk food to appease the mother. She believes this will make the mother happy. The wife of a sex addict may say to herself and her husband that she is not satisfying her husband. In the case of Susan, her husband cleans up her vomit and makes excuses for her. In other words, he is enabling his wife.
In each case, family members can become enablers. By controlling the feelings of family members, the addict controls their behavior.
Abuse by the Addict
Unfortunately, addicts can abuse family members. You see domestic violence, physical abuse, verbal abuse and at times sexual abuse between the addict and his or her mate. In the case of Susan, there are times she will physically assault her husband to get the next drink. In the article, “The Role Addiction Plays in Physical Abuse”, it states that with domestic violence, 80 percent of all incidents involve alcohol use. There are cases where children will repeat the pattern and abuse, either physically or verbally, other children at school.
All in all the family also suffers. This can lead to emotional pain.
Coping with Addiction
Family members can get help and find support. Children can talk to their school counselors. Family members can go to support groups. Everyone can learn about the addict’s problem and discuss their emotions. Even though the family is impacted by the addiction of the addict, they can seek help and support.