Needing an Identity of One’s Own
Just about everybody knows someone who is struggling with the abuse of a substance. Alcoholism in particular is so widespread in our society that in the last fifteen years there are more treatment centers than ever before providing assistance to those who have lost control over their drinking. What about family members? Alcoholism is a relationship buster. It breaks down families and damages children. It leaves spouses feeling helpless, confused and frightened. Family members know there is a problem. Everybody walks on egg shells. Talking to a loved one doesn’t help and sometimes makes it worse. Living with addiction makes life unpredictable every day. There are fights and arguments and chaos, and then there is peace-until there isn’t again and the cycle starts over. I work with adult children of alcoholics. I work with recovering alcoholics who are touched by someone’s active drinking and the roles are reversed. I work with spouses who know little about addiction. I work with mothers who are trying to protect their children. I work with adult children who have married into addiction, unknowingly, repeating the patterns of their past. Addiction is so prevalent that approximately half of all American families have been or are impacted by alcoholism.
If you are someone who lives with addiction, you worry a lot. You have become very vigilant of someone else’s drinking to the point of unhealthy pre-occupation. You ask more questions than you have answers to. You are embarrassed and feel the need to hide information about a loved one from your own friends. You feel isolated. You frequently ask your loved one to cut down or get help. You tend to feel alone and burdened by all this.
Family members who struggle in this way find that they lose themselves and their self-respect. They feel trapped. Often there is so much over involvement that a family member builds tremendous resentment. If you see yourself in these scenarios, it is important to get help for yourself so that your perceptions of what is or isn’t going on don’t become distorted by your intense emotions.