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Alcoholism of often termed the family illness, referring to the tremendous impact an active alcoholic has on those around him. There is no way the family members can escape or ignore the alcoholic. The majority of the alcoholic impairments are behavioural. So in the day-to-day interactions of family life, the family members are confronted with alcoholic behaviour. The family is, confused, be wildered, angry and afraid. They act accordingly. Their responses characteristically are as impaired as the alcoholic's.
Certainly no family member ever caused alcoholism. Yet the family may, despites its best intentions, behave in a way that allows the alcoholic to continue drinking. They may protect the alcoholic, make excuses, buy into the alibis, cover up. They might call the employer, pretending the alcoholic is sick. The alcoholic's actions are bound to increase the family's anxiety level.
Jackson describes the stages that occur as a family comes to grips with an alcoholic in its midst. Her stages were initially intended to describe the family in which the husband and father is the alcoholic.
Denial:- Early in the development of alcoholism, occasional episodes of excessive drinking are explained away both marriage partners. Drinking because of drunkenness worry, nervousness, or a had day is not unbelievable the assumption is that the episode is an isolated instance and therefore no problem.
Attempts to eliminate the problem:- Here the spouse recognizes that the drinking is not normal and tries to make sure the alcoholic to quit, be more careful, or cut down. Simultaneously, the spouse tries to hide the problem from the outside and keep up a good front. Children in the family may well start having start having problems in response to the family stress.
Disorganization and chaos:- The family equilibrium has now broken down. The spouse can no longer pretend everything is okay and spends most of the time going crisis to crisis. Financial troubles are common. Under real stress, possibly questioning his or her own sanity, the spouse is likely to seek outside help.
Reorganization in spite of the problem:- The spouse's coping abilities have strengthened. He or she gradually assumes the larger share of responsibility for the family unit. This may mean getting a job or taking over the finances. The major focus of energy is no longer directed toward getting the alcoholic partner to shape up. Instead, the spouse takes charge and fosters family life, despite the alcoholism.
Efforts to escape:- Separation or divorce may be attempted: lithe family unit remains intact, the family continues living around the alcoholic.
Family reorganization:- In the case of separation, family reorganization occurs without the alcoholic member. If the alcoholic achieves sobriety, a reconciliation may take place. Either path will require both partners to realign roles and make new adjustments.
ADDICTION, A FAMILY DISEASE
Addition is a 'family disease' that affects not only the addicted individual, but also his family members.
As addiction gets worse day by day, the family is compelled to face several unmanageable problems. Unable to cope with these problems, the family constantly lives under severe tensions and pressure. This results in the family members becoming desperate, angry, frustrated, nervous, afraid and guilty. In many ways they start behaving like the addict, even though they do not take alcohol.
Responses of the family members
a) Denying the problems:- Initially the family members deny or minimize the problems related to his drinking.
b) Justifying his drinking:- The family members give reasons for his drinking.
c) Making changes:- In an attempt to stop his drinking. The family members often believe that they are responsible for the alcoholic's drinking. They try to solve the problems at home and establish a pleasant atmosphere hoping that he will then give up drinking. The wife goes all out to please the alcoholic-pays his debts to relieve him of his financial burdens.
d) Withdrawing from society:- In spite of their efforts the family members find that he continues to drink. They do not want anyone to know this fact. Thus they become less social and keep away from their relatives and friends. They do not invite anyone home. They feel lonely and at the same time, worthless.
e) Protecting the alcoholic from the consequences of his drinking:- They protect the alcoholic by, covering up the consequences arising out of his drinking thinking that they can make him give up alcohol.
f) Making attempts to control his drinking:- In the hope of getting him out of his problem. The wife may empty or break the bottles, request the alcoholic to drink on only at house and not outside. Tell him not to drink in the mornings. Extract promises from him that he will not drink when there are guests at home. Unable to achieve anything, the family members feel angry, let down, bitter. Initially the anger, and hatred are directed towards the alcoholic, gradually, the focus is lost and they get angry with everyone around.
g) Losing control over oneself:- The family members give up all attempts to control his drinking because they realize that these methods do not help. Thus they may decide to refrain from getting angry. But they are unable to control their emotions and shot at the alcoholic for drinking heavily, beat the children for minor mistakes committed by them, get anxious about the alcoholic when he does not come home till dark etc. Her own behaviour makes her wonder whether she is losing her sanity.
h) Fear of the future:- The family members are very worried and scared. For them, the future looks bleak. Tomorrow is a big question mark.
i) Trying to reorganize the household:- They have absolutely no control over the alcoholic and the family members are not able to relay on him for anything. Their she takes up the complete responsibility of running the family and the alcoholic is only looked upon as a defiant angry child.
j) Breaking away from the alcoholic:- As the disease of alcoholism worsens the wife believers that she can lead a life independent of the alcoholic. She is -also worried that if left alone, he may ruin himself. These lead too lots of conflicts in her mind, feeling disgusted, she may leave him for a short period of time but, she normally comes back.
k) Allowing the alcoholic to face a crisis:- The wife stops taking any responsibility for the consequences of the alcoholic behaviour.
Emotional responses of the family members
1) Guilt - Our culture impels that if a person drinks too much, his parents or wife is to be blamed. This attitude of society often leads to self-blame and it produces more guilt and shame. This prevents both: he alcoholic and the family members from developing self-awareness which can lead to a positive change.
2) Grief - It is the result of all sorts of losses-loss of prestige, personal dignity, care, understanding and love, friends, finances-loss in each and every area of their life. They do not share their feelings of grief with anyone, they suffer alone.
3) Anger - When no one cares to listen to them the family members experiences anger and deep sadness. Their utter helplessness makes them angry. They are angry with themselves.
4) Hurt - If the anger is suppressed and not let out, it results in frustration, resentment and hurt feelings and anxiety.
5) Shame - The in appropriate behaviour of the alcoholic in front of relatives and friends makes the family embarrassed. Shame produce slow self worth in each members of the family leading to social isolation.
6) Fear - Living in a problematic distressed family, produces fear-fear of the future, fear of family life, fear of financial matters, fear or helps, fear of arguments, fear their physical well-being. There feelings of fear are a result of the internalized emotional stress that each and every family members experiences.
7) Loneliness - The stressful situation in the alcoholic's family results in the breakdown of normal family communications. Love, Care and Concern are lost in the stress, anxiety and crisis experienced. The isolation created by lack of communication always leads to bitter loneliness.
The children of alcoholics learn three unwritten laws or self imposed commands. They are 'don't talk, don't trust, don't feel'. They may play one or more roles within family. ie, responsible child, adjusting child, placating child, rebellious child.
Though they are harmful to our family relations, being related, we have the moral right to love, care, and help them to come out of it. For that psychological efforts have to be promoted. As the medical science has developed more in this century, the addition could be cured by root.
The effects on the children of alcoholics
Lack of role model, lying, loss of self esteem, fear, depression and suicidal idea.
The children Learn Three Unwritten Laws or self imposed commands
Don't Talk, Don't Trust, don't Feel and play one or more roles within the family:
Alcoholic family reactivity patterns
The functional family system
(The family with an Alcoholic member)
The neurotic enmeshed family system
(The Alcoholic Family)
The disintegrated family system
(Family separation & isolation)
The absent family system
(The long term isolated alcoholic)
A GUIDE FOR THE FAMILY OF THE ALCOHOLIC
The family's best defense against the emotional impact of alcoholism is gaining know, ledge and achieving the emotional maturity and courage needed to put in into effect.
Individuals who may be capable of assisting alcoholics outside the family may become confused, destructive persons if a member of their own family becomes an active alcoholic. This is especially true if the drinking alcoholic is the husband, or wife.
The "next of kin" or 'person most responsible for the alcoholic may need more assistance and counselling than the alcoholic if an effective recovery program is to be launched. Alcoholism is an illness, but one which has tremendous emotional impact upon the immediate family. Those most affected by the alcoholic are the spouse, parent, sister, brother and child. The more distorted the emotions of these persons become the less adequate their help will be. The interaction may and often does become destructive rather than helpful.
For example wives may find themselves blamed for everything that is wrong is an alcoholic marriage. This may reach the point where they may fear this is true. Yet alcoholism is an illness. The wife is no more responsible for alcoholism than she would be for the existence of diabetes or tuberculosis in her husband. Now wife ever made her husband an alcoholic, there fore no wife can be held responsible for his recovery. However, by lack of knowledge she may allow the illness to go unnoticed. By lack of adequate understanding and courage she may acquiesce in the development of the disease. For the existence of alcoholism the wife is not responsible, but she can abet the husband avoiding treatment, or takes steps which may lead to earlier recovery though this cannot be absolutely assured.
This same principle holds true for all members of the family, especially the one person upon whom the alcoholic ultimately depends. This primary person in the alcoholic's life cannot "treat" the illness. No doctor should treat his own serious illness, and few will ever act as physician for a member of their immediate family, especially spouse, parent or child. As alcoholism progresses relatives become involved emotionally.
THE ALCOHOLIC'S WEAPONS
The first weapon is ability to arose anger or provoke loss of temper. If the family member or friend becomes angry and hostile this person has been completely destroyed in so far as ability to help the alcoholic is concerned. Consciously or unconsciously the alcoholic is projecting an image of self-hatred against the other person. If it is met by angry, hostile attacks it is thereby verified and the alcoholic's own mind justifies the former drinking and also now has an additional excuse to drink in the future.
The second weapon of the alcoholic is the ability to arouse anxiety on the part of the family. Thereby they are compelled to do for the alcoholic that which can be done only by the alcoholic if the illness is to be arrested and recovery initiated.
The alcoholic cannot undo what others have already undone. This in reality increases the alcoholic's sense of failure and guilt and increases the family's sense of hostility and condemnation if the alcoholic. Thereby the alcoholic is doubly injured. The criticism, scolding and moralizing add to the alcoholic's guilt and resentment against self and family.
Alcoholics are propelled along the progress of the disease when the family is unable to cope with anxiety aroused by the alcoholic. This is in effect part of the illness. Neither the alcoholic nor his family is able to face realty.
Love and compassion
One of the more serious failures in approaching the alcoholic is the inability to understand the meaning of love. The wife has no right to state, "if you loved me you would not drink".
Alcohol is an anesthetic. When the alcoholic drinks he anesthetizes his pain. This is the pleasure of alcohol escape. It is a problem-solving device to relieve unpleasantness, anxiety, tension and resentment. When the alcoholic drinks pain is avoided for the time being but pain, tension, anxiety and resentment are increased severely in the family. When the alcoholic drinks pain is avoided for the time being but pain, tension, anxiety and resentment are increased severely in the family. When the alcohokic sobers up there is little desire to suffer the consequences of drinking. Remorse and guilt now compel the - alcoholic to prostrate him self before the family, beggar mercy and promise that it will never happen again. Or the reverse side of the coin may appear, complete unwillingness to discuss what happened. Each attempts to gain the same goal, the avoidance of the consequences of drinking. If the alcoholic succeeds by either means his pain is again avoider or relieved but the family again pays the price of the consequences of drinking.
Love is Destroyed
Love cannot continue to exist in this type of action and interaction. The alcoholic uses alcohol to escape pain by drinking and learns, how to use the family to escape the pain of the consequences. The family suffers when the alcoholic drinks and then suffers the painful consequences also. If the family bears the brunt of the drinking and absorbs its consequences then compassion cannot exist Compassion is bearing with or suffering with a person, not suffering because of the unwillingness of the other person to suffer. If this condition is allowed to continue by the - family, love is gradually destroyed and replaced by fear, resentment and hatred. The only way love can be retained is by family members learning not to suffer when drinking is in progress and refusing to undo the consequences of drinking. Anything less than this is not compassion and only relationship without, justice and compassion is not love.
The traffic result is that alcoholism is thereby encouraged and fear and resentment take over human emotions. This is why family members, especially the next of kin of the alcoholic, need held if the disease is to be arrested and recovery initiated. Other wise the entire family becomes ill emotionally. This condition is but another symptom of the progress of the disease.
THE 'ROLE' OF PARENTS AND TEACHERS
The role of parents and teachers in preventing youth from getting into the drug - scene can best the filled by sympathetic understanding of what is going on in their minds in hearts. Even if the parents and teachers are to old to be interested in the new attractions, they must make themselves young enough in thought to share the feelings which these youth have received from the atmosphere around them, - blowing in from all over the world.
A word of warning: sometimes these pressures and desires also come to the parents and teachers tool'. More and more adults have problems which they don't want to admit, but which cause them to drink, or gamble, or play around in dangerous way, too. You need only count the increasing number of alcoholics and alcohol selling shops, or reflect on the new and important place and "source force" which helps more and more people to buy new land, build new homes, wear clothes they cannot afford, and generally try to impress their friends and relatives with items that are bigger and better.
Especially parents must be aware of how their grown - up children are developing in life. If their studies are weak, if they keep irregular hours and do not easily answer questions about their activity or friends; if they growth in, do not eat, oversleep and are secretive, it is a time for loving, sympathetic seeking to understand rather then harshly criticize. Talk with them about their plans for the future, their interests and how to go about achieving them. Let them share with you the impressions they get from their friends, and how they feel because of these things. Confide in them - the problems which you adults feel too with the strains of modern life in our land- locked, opportunity - locked country.
Common Features of the Family with an Addict Members
The addict is the symptom carrier of the family dysfunction.
The addict helps to maintain family homeostasis.
The addict reinforces the parental need to control and continue parenting, yet he finds such parenting inadequate for his needs.
The addict provides a displaced battlefield so that implicit and explicit parental strife can continue to be denied.
Parental drug, and alcohol above is common and is directly transmitted to the addict or results in - inadequate parenting.
The addict forms cross - generational alliances which separate parents from each other.
Generational boundaries are diffused - there is frequent competition between parents.
Frequently the crisis created by addict is the only was the family gets together and attempts some problem solving, or is the only opportunity for a "deed" family to experience emotions.
Ashitha P. Joy is MSW student in Assumption College, Changanachery, kerala, India.
Dr. Hari S.Chandran, M.Phil (Psy), Ph.D, PGDPC, C. Psych.(England) is working as Cons. Psychologist, Department of Deaddiction & Mental Health, St. Gregorios Mission Hospital, Parumala. Kerala,India. firstname.lastname@example.org