I get that working with an addicted loved one can be traumatizing and cause anger and pain.
What I don’t get is all of the anger pushed outward, to be pressed on others who are *at best* sideliners to the drama unfolding in the family.
Addiction can and does tear families apart.
Addiction does tear families apart.
It helps if you work with yourself and then work with your addicted loved one. This is a difficult mental illness to manage and there is always plenty of guilt and shame to be passed around amongst family members. It is important that you get the help you need in order to deal with your addicted family member.
I have messages for everyone involved. Guess what? They are hard messages, if you don’t want to hear them, stop reading. Your anger is wasted on me. Your anger won’t affect my life at all.
This concept came up because my friend published an essay-like letter on Facebook about her family’s struggle with addiction. She did not like how anyone helped her. Nor did she like what people had to say to her about parenting an active addict.
But see, that’s part of the deal. To get help, you must listen and (sometimes) heed feedback from your world. Feedback is NOT the “nice” thing to say; it’s the “real” thing to say. It is not what you want to hear, and yet, it is what you need to hear.
The disease of addiction (when addict is actively using) causes all kinds of “crazy” behavior. For example, teenagers will steal from their parents, neighbors, and even peers in order to get the next high. Spouses will hide money and even time, to find ways to indulge in their addiction. I once knew a sex addict who spent hours in the shed outside to watch porn and masturbate. His credit cards were always maxed out (pornography can be expensive), and his time for his family was always limited.
Drug addicts are always in way over their heads. Even if they have a physician indulging their addiction and writing prescriptions, it is never enough for the addict. Part of the disease is “More, more, more, more!” One of the reasons for this is that we naturally build up tolerance to drugs, and another is that the thinking of the addict becomes flawed.
I suspect this is the reason that CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is a successful therapy because it deals directly with the flawed thinking of the addict and the addict’s family.
If you are the parents of an addict, you will be asked to do exactly the opposite of what our culture teaches you to do as a responsible parent. You will have to stop giving to your child and that is counter-intuitive to most parents, particularly to mothers. The best way to start with your addicted family member (any family member) is with a no.
Dealing with addicted loved ones is an incredibly stressful and traumatizing job. It is hard to come out the other side without being angry, hurt or even with dire consequences such as the loss of your family. I do not blame people for being angry, hurt and lashing out.
What I am frustrated with, is the resistance to professional help and the resistance to feedback. It’s expected for the addict to avoid this kind of help, but the family members could be working with professionals to get to the other side. When I say professionals, I am not speaking about 12-Step programs, I am speaking of people who live and breathe addiction because of their education, training, and work. In Florida, the credential is Certified Addictions Professional. There are a few credentialing agencies, but they all do the same thing, they assure the professionalism of the credentialed person.
Dealing with addiction is a bad situation to be in. It is very emotional for all parties because of the peculiar beliefs that the public has about addiction. Some examples of these incorrect beliefs are that addiction is a moral failing, or the “fault” of someone — usually the addict — but sometimes the parents. Addiction is no one’s fault. There is no reason for guilt or shame around addiction.
Back to the point of this writing: it’s okay and even advisable to get professional help for addiction. Twelve Step programs can augment this professional help. Family members around the addict usually take a beating during the process, there is anxiety, and real fear that can turn into anguish from tragedy. Support is a key component in recovery.
It may be difficult to get into the recovery journey, but it is what you say you want. Make no mistake, it is a lifelong journey.
It is hard to listen to feedback, it’s hard to hear that perhaps you are not perfect, but every recovery program that I have ever seen work includes this important component. You must be open to hearing others and you must be open to your own mistakes. You must, otherwise, you will fail at this endeavor called recovery.Johanna Baynard
Dedicated activist for economic equality. Baby Boomer. Wife, mother and blogger: Life According to Johanna, johannayorksr.com and themammablog.com
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