What about the lives of the siblings of the person identified as The Addict?
In the tangled web of the family system’s illness of substance use disorder their lives are impacted, too.
And usually not for the better.
A family in crisis generated by addiction choices is like a ship with a gashed main hull listing on its side taking on water.
The boat is sinking. The passengers and crew need to quickly get to safety.
But are there enough lifeboats and life jackets to go around in time?
Looking back over the years substance use disorder torched my family, there was a lot of collateral damage. Our beloved son lived a life falling through the trapdoors of addiction. My marriage to the man I absolutely adore took a major hit.
And the lives of our three wonderful daughters were constantly upended with problems, drama and – to be completely honest – a mother kind of crazed with the deadly downward spiral of their brother’s life.
There is an array of roles played out in a family system dealing with addiction including: The Addict, The Caretaker, The Isolationist, The Truth-Teller, The Critic, The Comedian and The Enabler.
Looking back, we all played our roles well. Too well, really.
We had been a close-knit family. The disease caused a horrible rupture of pain, blame, guilt and sadness in all our lives.
My husband and I sought help from our skillful family counselor, Dr. Bill Cipriano. In addition to suggesting strategies for how to deal with our son’s spiraling illness, he offered ways to support our three daughters, who were all at different stages of their lives in college, high school and elementary school.
As things worsened for our son, there came a point where we sought counseling with our daughters. By then, our son was not living at home and was pretty much estranged from all of us.
My husband and I went with our two older daughter every Saturday at 8 am to meet with Dr. Cipriano. That was a big commitment our older daughters willingly made in an effort to somehow find solutions for us all.
At that time, our youngest daughter was in second grade, so she stayed home with our oldest daughter’s boyfriend who kindly agreed to babysit a high energy 7- year- old early every Saturday morning.
Even during the most challenging times, our family likes to keep the fun in dysfunctional. That became our motto during those years, and it has stuck.
Each week the running joke among us all was trying to decide who had the tougher job – those of us hashing it out in a counseling session or our daughter’s boyfriend, who had to keep up with our youngest daughter’s endless card playing and gymnastics on a backyard trampoline at 8 am on his day off.
The counseling sessions were incredibly helpful in a painful lets–get–it– all–out-in- the- open kind of way.
Sometimes that’s what it takes.
The process helped our daughters to feel heard and not overlooked. It led to positive change in how we understood the impact of substance use disorder in all our lives and how we managed the challenge with each other and our son.
Our daughters needed a lot of love, care and support to deal with the illness impacting our family system, just as their brother did. We worked hard to ensure that for them, just as we did for our son.
Did we do it perfectly?
But, we did it with all the love we had over years of a long haul.
None of this is easy. There are still paths that need to be smoothed from those difficult years.
But with love as our focus, our family moves forward committed to each other… and to keeping the fun in dysfunctional.
Connect With Nancy
For information and guidance for help and resources for you or your loved one please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nancy is co-author of Unchained: Our Family’s Addiction Mess Is Our Message.
Photo by Craig Adderley from Pexels