View Full Version : Addiction and the family
01-08-2008, 08:00 AM
Hi all: I am just looking for some feedback about an issue for me that I am struggling with.
My family has some strong ties with addiction, I mean, we all seem to possess our share of addictive behaviors, whether in regard to eating, drinking, shopping, etc. The gene seems to be quite strong in our lineage, and mostly has shown itself in alcoholic type tendencies. I, myself have had struggles a few times in my adult life with alcohol and how prominent it impacts on me personally; I have sought help in the past for my alcohol use. Food is also something that I have had to recreate my relationship with in my lifetime. I feel like I have full control in my life now, and that helps keep both of those issues in balance for me.
However, I have a couple of family members who still struggle very visibly, and therein lies my struggle. My family and I are travelling to FLA this weekend to visit my parents. My dad, without any doubt in my definition, is an alcoholic. We all know it, we all as his children talk about it with one another. But, in keeping with my desire to speak truth, I have been toying with the idea for the last couple of months of using the opportunity of seeing him in person to talk to him about it. Talk about my concerns for his health, my desire for him to get control of it, my deep love for him. But I don't know if I should or should not say those things. I have a great relationship with my parents, so I don't believe that he will never speak to me again. But, my parents aren't young anymore. I don't want to lose my dad several years before it needs to be, because in part he drinks way too much. I have a similar dilemma with my younger brother, who is 43 and morbidly obese. He is raising two young kids, one under a year old, and every day I worry that he will literally die suddenly. He has sleep apnea, he has emphysema, and I am sure blood pressure issues as well, but does not tell me as much.
I have to say I don't think it is that I am afraid to say something that is on my mind; at least, it seems that I have always been able to speak it out loud, especially in the last few years. And, I fully believe that I cannot control what other people do, even those closest in my life. So, I am not sure if this is purely my own internal process, just something I need to let go of even more, or if it warrants discussion with either or both of them?
I turn to my friends here because I leave in two days to see my dad and am just looking for some input. Thanks.....:love:
01-08-2008, 08:37 AM
Pardon the cliche, but the first step in solving an addiction problem is realizing there is a problem. You have identified the problem, especially your own tendencies and from what you wrote, you have seemingly gotten control of it and know yourself well enough to realize that about yourself. The hard part is knowing it about your family, and them not realizing it or not wanting to do anything about it. Addiction is one of those things that the person who is addicted has to admit and want to fix him/herself. Anyone on the outside won't be heard.
When you go visit them, let them know the struggles you have been through and that might ring a bell with them. Go to Al-Anon and get some advice from them on how to deal with it as a family member. Above all, pray for them to realize they have a problem and be there to support them when they do. I know you love your family, but they need to love themselves enough to want to end this addictive cycle and not have it repeat in generations to come. Keep on loving them, keep on supporting them, and keep on trying to help. You are a wonderful daughter and sister to them. :)
Sorry it isn't much advice. I hope it helped in some small way. Hope your visit is good.
01-08-2008, 09:04 AM
There are probably folks here are are far more qualified to address you than I. That said, however, I am a recovering addict and have a similar kind of family pattern as you.
If there was more time, I would recommend reading a book called "Adult Children of Alcoholics" by Janet Woititz. Possibly you could read it at a later time, if you have not already done so. It might be better titled "Adult Children of Obsessive-Compulsive people."
Anyway, being the child of an alocholic puts us in a place where not only do we deal with our own issues of addiction, but also our own patterns of behavior that result from growing up in this kind of situation. One of these is hyper-responsibility, as you probably know. Ingrained in us is the sense that, somehow, we are responsible both for our parents behavior ( a child's understanding that I must be the problem) and for solving the problem.
There would be absolutely nothing wrong with you addressing the situation with yur father. However, there is likely to be a family response to your intervention that may put you at odds with other members. From your brief description of your family, I would guess that, while your siblings may discuss your father's addiction between themselves, they would not be very likely to stand with you in addressing it.
They could, in fact, do the opposite and take affront for your father at you daring to accuse him of being an addict. That would be more related to their behavior, and possibly feeling that to truly acknowledge your father's addiction, they would need to address their own. I'm gathering they may not be ready to do this.
Is your father's alcoholism a problem at this point in his life. We are alcoholics when drinking creates or heightens problems in life and relationships. Does your father's drinking do this at this point in his life. Does it interfer with work, pleasure, marital or family relationships, etc? If he is 85, for instance, and he and your mom are happy, is there a "problem" that requires an urgent solution? If he is 50 and his ability to work, play or relate is impeded, then a problem might be more evident and urgent. So, maybe a process of analyzing the "problems" caused by your father's behavior, and their severity based on functioning and relating (especially taking into account life stage), might help you decide if this is more your perception of his need or a reaction to your own need to "fix" things.
I don't know if this helps or not, and I am willing to converse more (inless, of course, this is valueless to you). What got my attention was when someone said to me, "You know, your kids are very likely to deal with issues of addiction because of the family pattern. If you tackle your issues now, you may be able to model for them a way of dealing with them that will give them tools for the future when it is their turn to address their own patterns of behavior." That person made a huge difference in my life - and because of the changes in my behavior, I hope and pray that my kids know that addiction is neither shameful nor insurmountable.
I also know that when I addressed my father's addiction - which me and my siblings had talked about - my brother and sister ramped up the enabling, and circled the wagons around my father to protect him from my meddling. Ultimately, they were protecting themselves and projecting on me. I had to look at my own reasons for approaching my father, as well, and realized that, since he was dying anyway, it was more about me than him.
01-08-2008, 09:50 AM
Well, it only seems to be in recent months that my father's behavior is interfering with his daily living. My mom and he seem to argue more frequently, he will insist on her buying alcohol at times when the budget does not allow it, and he is drinking harder liquor more frequently. In addition, about a year ago my dad was pretty drunk, and had a confrontation with my brother's father in law that was physical. The guy said some things in front of my dad that were downright crude and inappropriate, but I tend to believe that my dad reacted the way he did in part because of the booze.
Does he live his life pretty well most of the time in spite of the alcohol? I think so, he and my mom are pretty content in FLA and he is retired, working part time at a job he loves, and able to putter a bit around their home and go to the beach for soul searching when he needs. So, part of this is my process for sure. Bottom line: I hate to see him hurting himself in this way. I hate to see my mom enable it for whatever her reasons are. I still feel like such a little girl when it comes to this issue at times. And, Andrew is right, I often do feel like I need to be the one to walk in and clean up the whole mess.
I do want to buy the book that Andrew mentioned, and I am thinking also on png's suggestion of AlAnon. I feel like I am at the point that I need to make peace with it, whatever that means I do or I don't. And, even if my siblings don't defend my dad's actions, they don't feel the need to address it either.
01-08-2008, 01:56 PM
Maybe Vanessa, during your visit you can have a one-on-one heart to heart with your dad and just relay your feelings and fears. Do it as a "I feel this way..." and not "your...is bad" to avoid accusatory feelings on your dad's part. He'll feel like you are attacking him if you use 'you' statements. But i think if you just lay how YOU feel on the line and how worried you are, it will give him the info he needs to process what he is doing and the affects on others. Bottom line with addictions, you can't help the addict until they want to get help. But if they can get a glimpse of how their behavior is affecting others then it might possibly help spur them on.
Good luck with this, I'm thinking about you. It's so difficult, I understand the difficulty in even bringing it up. I have similar issues that I'm working on getting over! It's especially hard with parents, as I was raised to totally respect and obey.
01-08-2008, 03:05 PM
Yeah, Tdogg, I grew up with the respect and obey litany as well, and I have great respect for my parents. And, I would not want it to be a situation where my dad feels attacked, and really don't want to hurt him. I don't love him any less for this, I have struggled with it literally most of my life, but I love him so much I feel like I am playing into the enabling and denial by not saying at least something, about MY feelings, less than about his behavior. And that is partly what I need to be clear about in my mind prior to maybe having the conversation.
Thanks for the thoughts, Tdogg. It really is one of the most painful circumstances that i have struggled with in my life. I am so thankful to my parents in so many ways for all of the things that they have given me, materially and otherwise. I know that I will continue to look toward my friends here for support and feedback, and will pray on what is the best road to take when I am with them. I am so grateful for my friends here, thank you for your support. :love::love::love::love::love:
01-10-2008, 10:23 PM
Just thinking about you right now. Praying for you to have clarity, courage and compassion. You are such an awesome woman, I know you will handle this very well. :love:
01-15-2008, 03:51 PM
I returned from my visit on Sunday evening. I had such great time with my parents, my partner, and our daughter. It was one of our best visits in a long time. I ended up deciding that I would not talk with my dad about his drinking, but that decision was based on a discussion that I did have with my mom about it.
You see, we have never, EVER, as a family (besides between sibs) spoken out loud about my father's drinking, and/or my mother's enabling behaviors around the drinking. NEVER. And I am in my forties and it has been ever present throughout the majority of my life. My mom opened the door a crack in FLA, speaking about her concerns of my dad's health, due to being overweight and having COPD on top of that. So, I asked her about his drinking. And she told me, told me how much, told me how she has no control over it, tells me her own concerns. It really was a total relief to me, and maybe even to her, to speak it out loud.
I decided that to speak to her about it was enough for me. She told me that he is well aware that is probably an alcoholic. WOW. Like I said, enough for me. Doesn't mean he will do a gosh darned thing about it, but at least I know that he has an awareness. As well as my mom. I can now accept my powerless over it, if that makes any sense at all. For addictive families, it probably does.
Anyway, that is my update, thank you all for your support and concern. It means a lot to me..... :love:
01-15-2008, 04:07 PM
Excellent perspective. I'm glad you and your mom were able to talk about it. Your dad is an adult and has dealt (or, not dealt as the case may be) with this his whole life - the best thing anyone could do is bring it into his awareness. Beyond that, it's up to him. I am glad that you were able to voice your concerns in an appropriate way, and are able to 'let go' where your responsibility ends.
You're a wonderful woman, Vanessa. We love you. :):love::love::love:
vBulletin® v3.8.4, Copyright ©2000-2013, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.