Alcoholism (and other addictions) Are a Family/Community Disease?
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Klaas Tuinman MA
at the virtual Dawn Cove Abbey online

"Roadside Assistance" for your Journey through Life
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    Secondly, and this is important, it also it sets the pattern for this kind of lifestyle to become a
    generational reality, or issue. Because this  lifestyle will slowly, subtly, and very powerfully
    "program" the children to internalize that this is what "normal" is, and they'll pass it on later as
    the form their own relationships and families. That's how alcoholism and other dysfunctional
    living patterns  become "generational". It's how the cycles of dysfunction, violence and abuse
    are perpetuated from one generation to the next. A chronic dance of denial, codependency,
    enabling and dysfunction.

    The Family - a note: While chronic alcoholism (inebriatedness) wreaks havoc in, and with,
    the family, periodic binges, benders and toots are in many ways more devastating. This is because
    each "intermission" brings momentary hope to all the others that maybe life is finally going to turn
    around - only to be disappointed again before long. Those one-again, off-again do horrible things
    to minds and emotions.

    Like the heat increase in the Frog story (Intro page) - so gradually over such an extended period
    of time, similarly nobody in the family noticed that the "water was beginning to boil, and it was
    time to jump out of the pan". The "disease/habit" will continue to progress for the alcoholic until
    he/she is ready to reach out and get help for her/himself. Waiting for that to happen is not her/his
    only choice.

    The other family members can begin to recover whether the alcoholic is still drinking or not. But
    it can't happen until somebody picks up that telephone, or takes some steps, and asks for help.
    There is hope and help out there.

    Suggested additional reading: Life of a "secret" alcoholic

    The "Community"
    It is a community affair, because it's also impacted in equally devastating negative ways: primarily
    in traffic, boating and hunting, etc, accidents and fatalities, which kills thousands annually, and
    leaves thousands more with injuries and traumas; and because what goes on "next door" creeps
    through the fence and affect everyone  in the vicinity.

    Added to that is that frequently, Police, Children's Services, Welfare Department, Schools, and
    Hospitals, among others get involved by the wider impact of a particular family's behaviour.  
    When that is magnified by many similar family situations, the effect is huge. Not only does it
    affects the professionals and individuals involved in these, but it also has huge financial
    consequences.

    Social (society-wide)
    There is this wide-spread almost contradictory ambivalence about drinking and drunkenness:
    one  that effectively leads to a subtle form of tolerance. And because of that, there is a tendency
    to not get involved, and in that way, help to perpetuate this insanity.

    So in essence, few who have been affected by the consequences of someone's "disease" of
    lcoholism realize that by "protecting"  the alcoholic with little lies and deceptions across the board,
    a behavioural attitude that slowly, but surely, increased in size and dimension, they have actually
    created a situation that makes it easier for it all to continue --and progress-- in their downward
    spiral. That is a direct consequence of the ambivalent tolerance. Rather than help alcoholics,
    they actually enable them to continue, and to get worse.

        We're all in this together, after all. And we're all walking each other home - so perhaps it's time
we were more careful of the paths we choose in those walks and journeys.

It's Him/Her/Them!

What's going on?  I/We don't have a problem!
He... him... he/she's the Alcoholic/Addict!
She/He's the one who causes all the problems!
He/she's the one in trouble all the time ... Read on

There's an element of truth in this, at first glance, that changes
quickly when we look a bit closer; for when we do, we can see a
kind of schematic of the setup.

First, there's the person who is the main character: the one  who's
drinking is out of control. BUT  secondly, we see those in the
immediate vicinity who are also directly affected by that drinking
behaviour - and all its ramification.

In a family situation, there will be, besides the "drinker/addict", the
partner, spouse, mate, etc, and the child, or children -
and there
is the "Community". ALL  are impacted: They all hear, and see,
and very often "feel" the consequences. Many, if not most of those,
are anything but pleasant. In extreme   cases (which are very
common) they are horrible: see
"The Amazing Power Of  Alcohol"
listed here on the Navigation menu at the left, for just how big,
and bad the impact on everyone else can be.

  • Before I go farther, I want to remind you of an important fact:
** That there  are currently two radically different approaches to
understanding, and  dealing with,
alcoholism. The one is the familiar
"disease" model, and the other  is the "Habit/Learned Behaviour" model.

For more on that, see the
 Alcoholism-Home page. **
The Children:

So our next look, a deeply
related one, is the impact
on the Children: it is huge.

Suggestion: see "
Children
Of Alcoholic Families".

That impact has two
dimensions: First, the direct
effects on them.

True, but he/she's also
predictable and kids can
read the alcoholic like a
book. Of course, they know
exactly when it's the right
time to ask for extra
money, or to go somewhere
with their friends, and
also know when it's
time to make themselves
scarce and get out
of the way.

They know the routine
as far as the alcoholic
is concerned. But they
never know where the
bedraggled non-drinking
parent is coming from next.
    Now, let's continue our look at why it's a "Family Affair". The "best" working description for our
    purposes here, I believe, is that alcoholism is  a dysfunctional  state of being, condition, or coping
    strategy that affects every member of the family expand our view of the impact:

    In many cases, it's the spouse or partner  who is most severely impacted, bearing the greater brunt
    of it, whether physically, financially and materially  (as we saw in the "Amazing Power"), and/or
    mentally and emotionally. For a closer look at the latter, please see "Invisible Violence". As well,
    this person  also witnesses the impact on the children (and perhaps the extended family). And the
    children are the tertiary collateral victims.

    It is a progressive "disease", state or "condition". It may start out with casually accepting
    unacceptable behavior -- "Oh,   he/she didn't mean that, she/he just had too much to drink last
    night". .  See "Denial" and "Enabling" (on Navigation Menu). But a few years down the road the
    behavior has slowly grown more and more intolerable, but  it is still being accepted and becomes
    the "norm."

    They (spouse/partner and children) end up with chaos in their own home that a few short years
    ago would have been unthinkable. If they looked out the window and saw the same kind of things
    taking place across the street at the neighbor's house, they would probably pick up the phone and
    call  9-1-1 to get those people some help!

    As that same type of behavior becomes routine in their own home, the last thing that would occur
    to her/him is to pick up the telephone and get help. She/He has slowly been drawn into the
    thinking  that the alcoholic should be protected. He/She has learned to cover for /herhim, lie
    for her/him, and hide the truth. She/He has learned to keep secrets, no matter how bad the chaos
    and insanity all around him/her has become. And yes, it is insane and chaotic. And it will get
    worse, gradually, for alcohol is insidious - especially when we add the Dopamine Factor in.

    The Progressiveness of this catastrophic behaviour is very subtle: read the story of the Frog on
    the Alcoholism page. The major effect on the entire family, which very quickly and subtly, is
    that it becomes a  "Dysfunctional" one - and that has major ramifications in itself, because it
    becomes the new way of life, with negative consequences for all, in almost all cases.

    It impacts those family members in different ways. The kids of course, are kind of helpless pawns;
    as is the spouse; and in some cases, the children tell us, that often they have more problems
    dealing with the non-drinking parent than they do the alcoholic. Also see Codependency.
Klaas Tuinman MA
at the virtual Dawn Cove Abbey
Helping you navigate
Life's many challenges
Re-visioning Human Behavioural NeuroDiversity in a new Key
Alcoholism:
A Family-Community Affair?