Alcoholism (and other addictions) Are a Family/Community Disease?
Dawn Cove Abbey
Healing and Recovery Outreach
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"Roadside Assistance" for your Healing Journey
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- Dedicated to helping people return (and maintain)
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From the eBook: "One! The Journey hOMe",
by Klaas Tuinman  ©
2007-2019
Questions and comments welcomed.
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  alcoholism 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.
. . . I/We are not the Alcoholic/Addict . . .

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.
And 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
in very devastatingly negative ways, as shown in the other information articles. Let's
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.