How Addiction Puts Families in Crisis

addiction familyBy guest blogger Mel Dyson

Brief Bio: It’s been a long journey for Mel Dyson. As a youngster, she witnessed her own father battle with alcoholism, before herself becoming a drug addict in her early twenties, after an accident left her dependent on painkillers. Mel is now clean – and a mother herself. She spends the majority of her time bringing up her two daughters and writes and edits for a living.

 

When we think about the effects of addiction on families, we tend to think more about the addict themselves than about their partner or spouse, and their children, but the fact is, substance abuse has profound and far-reaching consequences on every member of the family. One in eight adult alcohol drinkers develop a drinking problem at some point in their lives, which means there’s a lot of families out there who are suffering right along with their addicted parents, partners, children, or siblings.

When a family member becomes addicted to alcohol or drugs, the entire family dynamic changes, because just as the addict’s behavior changes as a result of the addiction, so do does the behavior of every other family member change in response. These behavioral changes are called coping mechanisms, and they’re a way for each family member to protect themselves from being hurt by the addict’s behavior, and to ensure that family balance can be maintained. Often, these coping mechanisms are dysfunctional, and can lead to further problems in the family, and for the children of the family as they grow up. 

Within the family of an addict, at least one member will take on a role known as enabling. When it’s a partner or spouse who is an addict, the enabler role is usually fulfilled by the other partner; sometimes, the role might be fulfilled by one of the addict’s children. The enabler is someone who does everything they can to keep the family functioning as normally as possible. They make sure the bills get paid, they make excuses for the addict’s behavior, and above all, they deny what’s really going on, in an effort to make sure that the family continues to seem normal from the outside.

Children tend to take on various different roles; for example, an older child will often assume a caretaker role which might involve them taking care of younger siblings, and even providing emotional support or acting as a go-between for their parents. Some children act out by getting into trouble at school, and some cope by withdrawing and isolating themselves from the family.

How do family members begin to heal from the damage that addiction causes? For partners and spouses of addicts, there’s a strong need to work on repairing and restoring trust, in order to heal from the hurt that results from the addiction, and to begin rebuilding the relationship. For children of addicts, it’s often necessary to look at the coping mechanisms they’ve developed to discover how they’ve been affected by the addict’s behavior, and to learn how they can start to heal. This is particularly important for children, to ensure that they can learn healthier ways of coping with problems, and that they can develop healthy relationships as adults.

To learn more about the problems that families face when one member of the family is suffering from an addiction, read this article at Rehabs.com, which explores how family members cope with the altered family dynamics that result.

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The Difference Between an Obsession and an Addiction

parentAn obsession and an addiction can look the same but the root is very different.  For instance, you gamble every week spending approximately $10 on lottery tickets; gambling in this example is your behavior that can be obsessive, addictive or both.  The obsessive part of your behavior is gambling at the same store, on the same day, with the same numbers and if it is not done in this manner then you cannot win.  It does not matter if there is evidence of past wins; it only matters that things be done a certain way.  The addictive part of your behavior is dreaming of how the money will be spent, what will be bought, and who will benefit from the winnings.  The dreaming is active and an entire day can be spent just thinking about the possibilities.

Obsessive Behavior.  When you obsess, ritualistic routines are part of your everyday life.  Perhaps you comb your hair the same way you did as a teenager, you recheck all of the doors at night even though you have been told it is already locked, you replay the same conversation over and over again just trying to figure it out, you wash your hands after anyone touches them, you clean with bleach because that is the only way to get things truly clean, you straighten things up and like things in neat rows, or you count the number of beeps on your car door lock before believing it is locked.  All of these behaviors have roots in fear.  Fear that if you don’t follow your routine you will get a headache, fear that if you don’t recheck things the house will burn down, fear that you will miss something important if you can’t figure out the conversation, fear that you might get infected and die, fear that if things aren’t clean someone might think badly about you, fear that if things aren’t straight your whole life will be out-of-order, or fear that if you don’t hear a certain number you will lose the car.  Fear, either real or imagined, leads to obsessive behavior.

Addictive Behavior.  When you are addicted, you never feel satisfied unless using the substance.  Perhaps you drink alcohol to relax, take prescription drugs to numb the pain, shop for clothing to feel better about how you look, gamble to earn quick easy money, exercise to get the adrenaline high, look at porn to feel desirable, smoke to unwind, watch soap operas to feel romantic, play video games to feel successful or eat sugar to get energy.  All of these behaviors have roots in escaping from an undesirable place to a desirable place and in fantasy living.  Fantasizing about a life with less stress, fantasizing about a life without pain, fantasizing about a body that you want, fantasizing about having lots of money, fantasizing about feeling high all the time, fantasizing about being desirable, fantasizing about less anxiety, fantasizing about a romantic relationship, fantasizing about being the best or fantasizing about limitless energy.  Your fantasy life, either from real experiences or imagined, leads to addictive behavior.

Combination.  Putting obsessive and addictive behavior together can intensify both the desire to avoid fear and the desire to escape.  While you may clean with bleach because you fear that someone might think you are dirty, you can also become addicted to the smell of bleach and fantasize about living dirt free.  Or you can fantasize about being the best video game player and insist that you can’t be successful at video games until you reach a certain level three times.  This is precisely why it is hard to recover from obsessive and addictive behavior because they can be co-mingled rather easily.  The key is separating out the behaviors and tracing them back to the root of the problem in order to stop doing the undesirable behavior.

It takes time and energy to do this process and even in recovery of an addiction or obsession, new addictions or obsessions often emerge to take the place of old ones.  By recognizing what is obsessive and what is addictive however, you can go back to each individual root and address the underlying problem.  While it is a hard personal journey, it is well worth the time and effort.

 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

How Anger Fuels Addictive Behavior

Anger Addiction CycleHave you ever felt as though you were doing the same thing over and over again getting worse and worse results no matter how hard you tried?  Are you caught in a downward spiral that leaves you feeling helpless and more frustrated?  While there are many reasons for addictive behavior, certain emotions such as anger can add fuel to the addictive cycle thereby increasing the intensity and feeling completely out of control.

It all starts with a painful event such as the loss of a job, the betrayal of a close friend or the disappointment of a missed opportunity.  Each of these events can spark anger directed at another person for their part in the event or directed at you for failure to handle the event properly.  The feeling of anger is uncomfortable so you counteract it with a desire to escape or a desire to find pleasure.  You turn to the addiction of your choice: alcohol, drugs, gambling, smoking, spending money, porn, excessive exercising, soap operas, adrenaline, sugar, or video games.  Other people in your life don’t like your addiction so they in turn become angry with you and withdraw.  You are now confused by their response as you were just trying to avoid the angry feelings.  This in turn results in another painful event such as a fight, loss of respect or distrust.

Acknowledge.  The first step to stopping the crazy cycle is acknowledging that you are repeating the same behavior over and over.  You can’t change what you won’t acknowledge.  So admit it.  You are doing the crazy cycle.  This is not the time to blame others for the reason you are doing the crazy cycle; this is the time to accept responsibility for your own crazy behavior.  Everyone is responsible for their own behavior.  This maybe a new concept to you as our culture is quick to blame others, parents, churches, organizations, companies, governments, and even nations for bad behavior.  But this is not constructive thinking, it is destructive thinking.  You are responsible for your own behavior.

Stop at Anger.  There is nothing wrong with feeling angry.  It is a normal emotion which even Jesus felt.  But there is something wrong with acting out in anger or doing something to escape the anger or doing something to suppress the anger (pleasure seeking behavior).  Whether you are acting aggressively angry or avoiding the anger by running away, anger is still controlling your behavior.  It is OK to be angry when you are hurt, when someone hurts you, or when someone hurts someone else.  Just don’t take it to the next step and escape from the anger; rather deal with the anger by confronting how you feel and taking responsibility for the actions that follow.  Just saying the words, “I am angry but I’m going to act responsibly” can restore the out of control feeling to feeling controlled.

Know Your Addiction.  What is your addiction of choice?  More than likely you have more than one addictive behavior.  Not all of the additive behaviors are listed so taking an inventory of your go-to addictions is extremely helpful.  Many times you will go directly from the painful event and skip right past the angry emotion to the additive behavior because you have developed a conditioned response similar to Pavlov’s dogs.  In Pavlov’s experiment, he trained dogs to salivate at the ringing of a bell by first giving food along with ringing the bell.  Before long, he only needed to ring the bell for the dogs to salivate.  You have done the same thing with your addiction.  You no longer need to feel anger to justify the addictive behavior; rather you go straight from the painful event to the addiction.  If you know your addictive behaviors, you can trace backwards to the anger anytime you feel the desire to abuse your substance and stop it from going any further.

You can take responsibility for your own behavior and stop the crazy cycle from destroying your life.  You do not have to be a victim to your addiction or continue to allow painful events determine how you will respond.  Remember, if you make a mistake along the way and slip backwards, it is never too late to turn around no matter what others around you say.  Who you are is NOT defined by your mistakes.  Who you are is defined by your character which can be shaped by your mistakes only if you let it.

 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

 

Do You Have a Food Addiction?

Some addictions are more easily identified than others and with some addictions, eliminating the substance is very effective.   however, with a food addiction there really is no way to stop eating without getting another serious problem.  So you are forced to deal with it nearly everyday and every time you eat.  This article is very enlightening as to what type of food addiction you might have and some simple ways to attempt to overcome.

Of course, the only way to have complete healing is to discover the root of the problem and fix that.  Changing your eating habits can provide temporary relief from a food addiction but long-term results require solutions that are much more personal and deeper.  Counseling helps to reveal the hidden areas of your life that could be contributing to your food addiction.  In the meantime, this article is a good place to start.

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/10/25/6-ways-to-beat-your-food-addiction/?intcmp=features

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Article about Similarities Between Fructose and Alcohol

This is a frightening article about the similarities between fructose and alcohol. Not only are the health issues troubling but the addictive implications are equally troubling. A person can be addicted to sugar and fructose just like other substances.

article

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Must Watch Video for Addicts or Those Who Love Addicts

English: Source: The National Institute on Dru...

English: Source: The National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Image taken from http://www.drugabuse.gov/pubs/teaching/Teaching2/Teaching4.html http://www.drugabuse.gov/pubs/teaching/Teaching2/largegifs/slide18.gif (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

60 Minutes has done several videos on addiction in the past and a quick search on their website can be very informative regarding the various types of addictions, brain chemistry, and recovery.  But the latest video highlighting the work of Dr. Nora Volkow who is the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse is by far one of my favorites.  In a little over 13 minutes she explains in non-scientific language how a person becomes addicted and how difficult it is to overcome addiction.  If you are an addict or you love an addict, please take the time to watch this important video.  By the end you will have a better understanding of the impact of addiction in their life and others.

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7406968n

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.