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Alcoholism and Drug Addiction – A Family Problem

The Healthy Family:

  1. Communicates and listens
  2. Affirms and supports one another
  3. Teaches respect for others
  4. Develops a sense of trust
  5. Has a sense of play and humor
  6. Exhibits a sense of shared responsibility
  7. Teaches a sense of right and wrong
  8. Has a strong sense of family in which rituals and traditions abound
  9. Has a balance of interaction among family members
  10. Has a shared religious core
  11. Respects the privacy of one another
  12. Values service to others
  13. Fosters family time and conversation
  14. Shares leisure time
  15. Admits to and seeks help with problems

Chemical Dependency is a Disease:

  1. The illness can be described. No matter what kind of background a person may have, chemical dependency leads them to similar types of behaviors: compulsive, delusional, unpredictable, etc.
  2. The course of the disease is predictable and progressive. The person will get worse. Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual deterioration proceeds unless disease is arrested.
  3. The disease is primary, not a secondary symptom of an underlying cause. Chemical dependency must be treated before other problems can be effectively dealt with.
  4. The disease is chronic. Once you have it, you will always have it. Remember, once a pickle, never a cucumber again.
  5. The disease is terminal. If not arrested, the person will die.

Families Enable the Chemical Abuser:

  1. By covering up to protect them (work, school, etc.)
  2. By covering up to protect self through withdrawal from friends and social life.
  3. By accepting user’s behavior and making excuses for him/her.
  4. By refusing to allow the user to face consequences of using.

All of the above are usually done with caring motives.

* Roles in a dysfunctional family:

  1. Identified patient: Person getting most attention (sickness, drinking, etc.) Usually excused as being unable to cope with life’s stresses; needs protection; behavior excused. Has a poor self-image because they are treated as an irresponsible person.
  2. Chief enabler: Spouse, mother, father, or anyone who takes primary responsibility for thoughts, feelings, and behavior of another. (It is impossible for one to become chemically dependent without a chief enabler.) Enabler ends up angry, resentful, and mirroring the sickness.
  3. Hero: Sets out to be perfect to gain self-worth for the family. Often are driven people who burn out at an early age. These persons are least likely to become chemically dependent and most likely to marry someone who is chemically dependent.
  4. Lost child: Quiet child who avoids stress. Because they do not get very involved, they become lonely and feel rejected.
  5. Mascot: This child sets out to ease tension for the family. Gets a lot of negative attention and usually remains an immature person who clowns around.

* These roles are best identified in families of 6, with husband and wife being the Identified Patient. In other situations, individuals sometimes assume one or more roles at different times in life. Without Al-Anon, or some other form of family treatment, virtually all family members stand a good chance of becoming chemically dependent themselves or marrying into a chemical dependency situation.

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