Ad­dic­tion — A true cat­a­lyst for fam­ily de­struc­tion

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - L ORRI I RRGANG

Editor’s note: Ever since the Whig con­cluded its “Voices of Re­cov­ery” se­ries last fall, many have asked the pa­per to con­tinue dis­cussing re­cov­ery and ad­dic­tion. As an ex­ten­sion of that fo­cus, we now present “Shift the Fo­cus” an ev­ery-other-week col­umn by Lorri Ir­rgang, a lo­cal au­thor, re­cov­ery ad­vo­cate and mother of some­one in re­cov­ery. Join us as Lorri dis­cusses many top­ics per­ti­nent to the re­cov­ery move­ment.

— When some­one first men­tioned to me that liv­ing with ad­dic­tion was a “trau­matic” thing to deal with, I was taken aback. I was not the one with the ad­dic­tion, it was my son. How could it be con­sid­ered trau­matic for me? Be­cause the path of ad­dic­tion is not


short, this pro­longed stress took a toll on my emo­tional and phys­i­cal state. I had no tools, nor the con­fi­dence, to re­move my­self from the chaos when my jour­ney be­gan.

In my pre­vi­ous col­umn, I touched upon the im­por­tance of ex­press­ing one’s feel­ings. When the pain from ad­dic­tion is not “talked out”, it will get “acted out.” This can be seen ei­ther through im­pul­sive be­hav­iors or op­pos­ing de­mand­ing, strict be­hav­iors. The im­pul­sive be­hav­ior releases the pent up feel­ings and man­ages to get at­ten­tion, even if it is neg­a­tive. It may be seen through anger, rage, yelling, over­spend­ing, un­der­spend­ing, promis­cu­ity or col­laps­ing into help­less­ness.

The op­po­site be­hav­ior presents as con­trol. Look­ing back, I re­al­ized that I had adopted this be­hav­ior be­cause it falsely helped me to feel that things were not fall­ing apart in­wardly or out­wardly. I de­vel­oped an in­ac­cu­rate sense of se­cu­rity that I could some­how yield dif­fer­ent re­sults by man­ag­ing the chaos that had es­ca­lated in my world. I ini­tially tight­ened up on rules and daily rou­tines/sched­ules for my daugh­ter. My rigid­ity trig­gered her to ex­hibit im­pul­sive be­hav­iors of anger and blame that I had never seen in her. I learned to sel­f­reg­u­late my feel­ings and ac­tions in or­der to main­tain a pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ship with the “healthy child” in my fam­ily. I also felt it was my re­spon­si­bil­ity to set an ex­am­ple of a whole­some way to deal with stress. I was dis­cov­er­ing that my ac­tions/ re­ac­tions could make a dif­fer­ence with my daugh­ter and in­flu­ence her in a pos­i­tive way. Whereas any­thing I was do­ing for my son was su­per­flu­ous and dis­re­garded by him.

In ad­di­tion to be­com­ing more con­trol­ling, I re­al­ized I de­flected my anx­i­ety and pain by at­tend­ing to my daugh­ter’s needs rather than my own. Not be­cause she asked for more care or be­cause I had a gen­uine aware­ness of her needs, but be­cause it was eas­ier. I was in­ca­pable of iden­ti­fy­ing my own needs be­cause I had so many raw feel­ings. There­fore, I was over-car­ing for my daugh­ter as I was ne­glect­ing what would pro­vide bal­ance and healthy liv­ing for my­self. Par­ents who them­selves have dif­fi­culty func­tion­ing each day will ne­glect the fam­ily’s needs while sub­se­quently de­vot­ing their time to sleep­ing, watch­ing TV or ob­sess­ing over work. This en­ables them to avoid “feel­ing” or “deal­ing” with life. It also cre­ates an at­mos­phere of po­ten­tial ne­glect for any of the healthy chil­dren in the fam­ily. Both of these sce­nar­ios can man­i­fest into an in­abil­ity for chil­dren to trust the ones they love to be there for them.

As my daugh­ter and I con­tin­ued to worry and as we tried to re­frain from re­act­ing to our fears, I no­ticed we were each fall­ing into dif­fer­ent pat­terns of be­hav­ior. We des­per­ately had a need for a closer bond with each other for a sense of pro­tec­tion. At times we would find our­selves hold­ing each other cry­ing and other times we would just sit in si­lence in the same room. Then there were times when we were do­ing the op­po­site: we were with­draw­ing from our close re­la­tion­ship, iso­lat­ing, an­gry and up­set with each other. This was a sort of “trauma bond­ing” that we de­vel­oped with­out even re­al­iz­ing it.

Al­though the word “bond­ing” has a pos­i­tive con­no­ta­tion, trauma bond­ing in re­la­tion to ad­dic­tion is the con­trary. As the mother, I felt stuck as I ob­served my son’s self-de­struc­tive be­hav­iors. I knew there was noth­ing I could do about it. My daugh­ter’s re­spect for her brother made it al­most im­pos­si­ble to un­der­stand why he would choose this path. Her re­al­ity be­came a sep­a­rate en­tity from the brother she loved so much. The repet­i­tive dis­cus­sions, de­bates and ar­gu­ments with my son ended in a stale­mate each and ev­ery time. It was im­pos­si­ble to de­tach from him even though we knew we could not trust him. Hon­estly, we didn’t even re­ally like him dur­ing this time! It was so dif­fi­cult to com­pletely dis­con­nect be­cause of the elu­sive hope that “we” could fix this prob­lem.

Part two of this col­umn, “Dy­nam­ics of the Trau­ma­tized Fam­ily,” will be in print on Oct. 28. It will cover the dif­fer­ent roles or char­ac­ter­is­tics that fam­ily mem­bers will take on while liv­ing with some­one with sub­stance use dis­or­der.

Please feel free to reach out through my web­site at www. adafam­i­ly­trauma. net. Share your story or your thoughts. Ask ques­tions and share top­ics you would like to see cov­ered in up­com­ing col­umns. I look for­ward to hear­ing from you!

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