Family Recovery Program
At Lion’s Gate Recovery, we know that codependence and addiction is a Family disease, and everyone in the family is affected. It is very important that all adult family members attend our Weekly Wednesday Family Night Program for a Group Session so that the whole family can learn about addiction, heal from its effects, and move into a bright and productive future together, as a family! If you are unable to attend we do provide other options.
Family Support Helps Everyone, Not Only the Recovering Addict
Living with addiction is a scary and debilitating feeling. Living with an addict – or living in a family with an addict – can be just as scary and debilitating. People often speak of the addict and how to deal with an addiction, but the family of the addict goes through just as much pain and suffering too. It is well known that codependency and addiction go hand in hand.
Codependent families experience the pain of the addict even more than healthy families. These families often don’t know where the addict’s feelings begin and everyone else’s end. In these types of families, problems don’t just belong to the addict; they belong to everyone. Let’s explore some of the dynamics in codependent families.
What Does a Healthy Family Look Like?
It can be difficult for some families to visualize what a healthy family looks like because there are no “set rules” for what is healthy and unhealthy in our society. Yet many families are able to function at a healthy level. The traits of the healthy family all share one thing in common: They encourage other family members to be individuals, and they support the members of the family. They do not use lies or manipulation to elicit responses from others. Children of healthy parents are given the tools to find self-confidence inside themselves without searching for outside acceptance.
In healthy families, the individual members do not need outside praise or stimulation; they believe in their own self-worth. They are also able to communicate clearly and directly with each other. They do not fear the responses of others when they speak truthfully and from the heart. They set firm boundaries with each other so there is no question as to the concepts of right and wrong between family members. They encourage the members of the family to be accepting to society outside of the home. Individual family members all have separate dreams, plans and goals; they are always available for support from other family members.
What Does a Codependent Family Look Like?
Codependent families can often be described as the opposite of healthy families, but the answer is actually much more complicated than that. Members of a codependent family often use bribery, trickery or emotional ransom to convince other family members to cooperate. They need the other members of the family, but their greater need is for the other members of the family to need them too. They do not communicate effectively with others and often leave other members guessing regarding their feelings, wants and needs. They have a fear of being left behind, so they are disappointed when others experience success or happiness outside of the family.
In codependent families, individual members need constant praise from other members and outside sources. They don’t believe they have worth without the other members. They find it difficult to communicate with others and often can’t find the words to express how they feel; they often are too afraid to tell others how they feel. They are uncomfortable setting boundaries because they are afraid that others will leave or abandon them. They are afraid that if the other members of the family are accepted by society then they will want to leave. They don’t share in each other’s successes and often don’t support the members of the family who find success and happiness.
What Are the Causes of Codependency?
Codependency has many causes. Within a family, it is often caused by insecurities. When one person in the family projects insecurities onto others, it can result in a chain effect. This often happens with parents who have little self-worth and self-esteem. They often feel the need to cling to their children to find happiness. Sometimes the child can be the codependent one, and the mother or father is the enabler who cannot set boundaries. In many cases, codependency is caused by a substance abuse problem or some kind of abuse including verbal, physical, emotional and sexual.
Codependency and Addiction
When substance abuse is involved in a codependent relationship, the added factor can complicate matters. Many families have a difficult time dealing with one or more members who have substance abuse problems. Often families will ignore the problem because the shame that surrounds substance abuse is so great. Many families find it too painful to deal with. Sometimes codependent families also use the opposite approach and address the problem in an awkwardly aggressive manner. They might confront the addict in a way that makes the addict feel belittled. Often many addicts don’t even know they are addicts, so this type of confrontation generally backfires. Many families don’t know how to deal with an addict and can’t bear the thought of turning the addict out onto the street or not supporting the addict.
Most codependent families dealing with drug or alcohol abuse often find each member falling into a certain archetype. Families who deal with these issues can see these archetypes in other families. They often take on similar characteristics, characters and personality traits. Each family member will unknowingly play a different role as a coping mechanism, yet these roles will only exacerbate the addict’s behavior. Many people do not realize that addiction doesn’t simply affect the addict; addiction can affect the whole family. The following archetypes are generalizations but are often found in many families struggling with the addictions of a family member.
– The Addict
– The Hero
– The Mascot
– The Scapegoat
– The Caregiver
The addict is the family member with the addiction. This is the family member who has a disease that uses drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with life’s challenges. This person becomes the center of family affairs and issues. All other family problems are shelved until the addict can be fixed or satiated for a period of time. It sometimes feels as though the earth literally revolves around this person. The addict might not have always been the center of attention, but the addiction has put him in a place where he now craves the attention and is addicted to being the center of everyone’s worlds.
This family member is the one who feels he needs to hold together all the pieces to keep the family as functional as possible. This is often the mother or the father, yet older siblings often take on this role too. The hero believes he is doing the rest of the family a favor by “taking one for the team” and stepping up to the plate, but this member often berates other family members and becomes controlling. If another member of the family does something that could destroy the delicate balance, the hero will become irate.
The mascot often doesn’t know how to deal with the situation, so he doesn’t deal at all. He often puts aside his and everyone else’s feelings in order to offer a little comedic relief. This family member doesn’t want to deal with the messiness of the situation and doesn’t want others to bring up the situation’s messiness either. He generally avoids talking about emotions and uses humor to deal with feelings instead. He may believe he is easing tension or making others feel better, but he often is just delaying the inevitable problems.
This person is very similar to the mascot, but he doesn’t use humor to divert attention from the addict. This personal will use a variety of methods to divert attention that include the scapegoat acting out and using negative attention to make others forget about the addict. The scapegoat often breaks the law or has loud outbursts to draw the attention away from the underlying issues.
The Lost Child
This family member is usually not physically or emotionally present. He is often referred to as the prodigal son. He disappears when things feel rough and only reappears when necessary. He might admit to others that a family member has a problem with drugs or alcohol but acts like everything is fine around the family. He often harbors a lot of resentment and anger toward the addict but doesn’t speak his mind.
This person is also known as the enabler. This is the family member who makes all the other roles possible. The caregiver won’t acknowledge the addiction or won’t change the family dynamic. This person is essentially the puppet master for the rest of the family and situation.
Steps to Take to Heal Codependency and Addiction
There are options if someone in your family has an addiction, and you believe your family is using codependent methods to handle the situation. The most important part in this process is to start with yourself. You can’t help anyone else until you have taken a look at yourself and healed. The best way to begin separating yourself from a codependent relationship is to focus on your own strengths. Find out what you have to offer the world. Work with a therapist, and find an organization that supports family healing for both codependency and addiction to help you handle your situation.
You don’t need to feel alone if someone in your family is struggling with addiction. There are steps to take to ensure you can lead a happy life that helps elevate others and doesn’t repress them. Codependent families are difficult to maneuver because it’s easy to fall into the same old traps time and again. You need to be in a healthy place to help others, and many codependent families are struggling with too much pain to be able to support each other in a healthy manner. The good news is that therapy can help the whole family learn new and better ways to interact with each other and make healthy life choices.