The Addictive Family System0 comments
The Addictive Family System Growing up a part of a family, it's easy to believe that how you are raised and what you see in your family is a normal way to live, because as a child you have little to compare it to. Often, with time, and a lot of maturity, you begin to see that all families function differently; from setting family rules, to family vacations, to celebrating holidays, or practicing religion (if at all). When growing up in an addictive family system, it is even more difficult to detect what is healthy and “normal,” versus what is not. When there is a an addicted person, or an addicted person who also suffers from depression in the family system, the other family members within the system are heavily affected. When the identified family member is active in their addiction or depression, there is a lot of work that goes on for the system in order to just tread water and stay afloat in terms of functioning. In this specific area, when we we include depression when discussing addiction, we specifically mean an individual who experiences minor depression on occasion due to various triggers: unresolved trauma, unemployment, financial struggles, etc. This type of depression involves poor coping skills often leading to coping with alcohol or substance abuse, or sex. Often people with addiction also struggle with depression, which came first, it's hard to say. It can take years for family members to learn that holding and hiding family secrets is not okay. Being afraid to share true emotions with family is not normal, and not having your needs met is unacceptable. In order to be a fully functioning individual outside of your family, it is important to learn healthy functioning in order to re-correct your patterns for your own future. To give you an idea of the type of dysfunction in an addictive family system, below is comparison list of a functional and dysfunctional family system.
In a dysfunctional system: The system isolates, it is inflexible, and secretive, in order to protect the addicted person. There is no empathy, limited emotions are accepted. The focus and energy is on managing the system. Mistakes are shamed and criticized. The system is boundary-less, Meaning: “If I'm not happy, nobody is happy.” Family roles are determined upon the system, not the individual Patterns repeat with each generation . Family cohesion is one of two extremes: either disengaged or enmeshed
Functional Family system: The system is flexible and open to change There is empathy for all members of the system, all emotions are accepted and shared. Mistakes are disciplined appropriately and forgiven. The family contains boundaries and respect for member's boundaries. Family roles are determined by the individuals in the system. New generation, new pattern. More balanced family cohesion. Space and togetherness is allowed.
Which behaviors can you identify with from this list? Can you relate to more behaviors from the functional or dysfunctional list? If you find yourself identifying with the dysfunctional family system, ask yourself “at what cost am I helping my family function in this way?” Have you found that your efforts and energy spent towards your family has effected your life and relationships (romantic, work friends, platonic, etc.) outside of the family system? Do you think there could be a connection between the two? Think of it this way, when were you planning to start your own life? You need to let people in to have intimacy, and in order to let people in, you will have to step out of your family system sooner than later.
Repeating the pattern: Individuals raised with addiction in the family often end up marrying someone with an addiction, or carry out addictive behaviors of his/her own. It can be difficult to identify the pattern repeating itself when the behaviors or substances are different from what you have typically seen in the past. Even when the addiction is not yet known, we can still be drawn to the familiarity of the behaviors or overall dynamic. We are used to surviving in our family system, so we tell ourselves we can handle our partner's problem. Or we can carry it out ourselves. Awareness is the biggest key in breaking the dysfunctional addictive patterns you once came from. Even if the primary person struggling with addiction and/or depression is not ready for treatment, or the system as a whole is not ready for therapy, one member of the system can still greatly benefit from a codependency support group, Al-ANON or individual therapy. When we make a change within ourselves for ourselves, those around us are forced to respond to it, either in a positive or negative way.