I HATE THEIR DRINKING
& it’s up to me to fix them!
PREVIOUS: Family ROLES – general
These posts are focused on the alcoholic family, but we can also apply the roles to other dysfunctional systems. (Addiction = any substance, person or activity which is used as a numbing agent against inner pain, becomes the only center of someone’s life & which cause chemical changes in the brain – ‘love’, sugar, alcohol, over-exercising, drugs, porn, pot, religion ….)
REALITY re. any addictive system (drug = anything used compulsively):
• the addict’s use of their chosen drug(s) is the most important thing in the life of the whole family
• addiction in not the underlying cause of family problems, it is the denial of it & of the emotional pain everyone is feeling
• not talking about the use, actions that cover it up, providing alibis, blaming others, undeserved loyalty by the family to the active addict & to the whole toxic system – enable the addictions to continue • nobody’s allowed to discuss the problem outside the family
• nobody says what they really feel or think, to themselves or to others
TYPICAL emotions of an addictive system
Anger: kids resent the drinking parent, but often transfer that anger to the non-drinking parent for being over-controlling, not providing support & protection, or for not leaving the addict
Anxiety: fear of arguments or violence create constant worry & emotional hyper-vigilance (never able to relax)
Depression: feelings of loneliness, helplessness & hopelessness are common — & inevitable
Distrust: constant disappointments, broken promises & mistreatment can make it hard for kids to trust anyone or develop close bonds with others
Embarrassment: kids are ashamed of the family “secret” & withdraw from other family members, classmates, friends….
Guilt: kids assume they’ve somehow caused the parent’s drinking
The DISEASE is the organizing principle in an addictive or depressed family system, says Claudia Black. The effected person becomes the central figure around which everyone else arranges their actions & reactions, usually in a slow insidious process, which becomes the family mobile. Members do what they can to bring as much consistency, structure & safety as possible into a family that is unpredictable, chaotic & frightening. To do this they adopt certain roles, while the ‘problem’ becomes the “elephant in the room” which no one addresses
• In addictive & other narcissistic homes – children’s need for love, support & emotional nurturing is often minimized, made fun of or forgotten altogether – in the endless tug-of-war between the family & the ‘problem’.
With few role-models to show how emotions can be expressed positively, children shut down & stuff themselves into the straight-jacket of the Roles.
• Trouble follows when the people or the tasks connected to a subsystem overlap & become blurred with those of others (such as role reversal). They may be well-meaning, but the impulse for secrecy prevents anyone from reaching out for help, so the only option they have is a misguided attempts to protect the unit through denying or minimizing the problem. The need to appear “normal” comes out in a distorted way because they don’t know what normal looks like. They compare their insides with everyone else’s outsides, & always lose by comparison
• At the same time, their worry about & love for the addict, & the all-pervasive fear of change, inevitably cause family members’ gradual slide into devastation. As a parent’s substance abuse progresses, everyone must play a part in preserving the home. TFRs are the ‘recipe for living’ in that environment (sometimes barely surviving), but discourage growth, make it hard to give or receive support & prevent everyone from responding from their True Self. Often times the rules attached to the roles are unrealistic, difficult or impossible to obey. These rules encourage dishonesty & manipulation in order to avoid rejection or punishment
NEXT: Toxic Family ROLES (Part 2)