Issues Of Addiction Essay, Research Paper
People suffering from addictions most times won’t realize it, but their disease is hurting more than just themselves. It is not only the physical aspect of the addiction that hurts them, but also what it is doing to the life of the addict. “Life” can be taken as social life, working life, and even life at home. It is extremely difficult to handle these different facets of life regularly while under the control of an addiction. An addict’s problem easily finds it’s way into the home. This problem can break up a relationship, marriage, or entire family. The addict can rub off on a young adolescent, or an abandoned spouse. Most times, however, the addict doesn’t even realize it is happening. Drinking in the home can cause a plethora of other problems, also. The children are the main victims in these situations, and they are usually the ones being blamed. Addiction at home has an extremely severe effect on the surrounding people, but there is nothing these victims can do about it.
The addict is by definition the person who takes drugs for the sake of taking drugs, rather than for the sake of some other desired end. A casual user uses drugs or alcohol for increased enjoyment and to become more sociable. An addict, however, continues to use this drug for fear of returning back to “normalcy.” The addict needs no reasons to take the drug; he simply uses it because it has become his way of life. (Seeburger 50-51). To the alcoholic, alcohol seems to be a necessity rather than an extravagance. He washes away his negative feelings with the drug, trying to somehow suppress the pain that has been placed upon him. In the beginning of the drinking, this myth seems to be true. However, in the later stages, the pain comes back to a multiplied effect (Alcoholism 14)
Alcoholics share many common characteristics. Some of these attributes are: impulsiveness, anxiety, lack of consideration, irritability, anger, rage, physical cruelty, lying, and broken promises, just to name a few. Many of these characteristics, if not all of them, carry over into the home. This is where the addict’s disease begins to take its toll on children and spouses. (Alcoholism 17).
When addictions take their place in the home, abusive relationships break open. This abuse does not have to be physical, however. Emotional abuse is as damaging as physical abuse, though it is often harder to recognize, and therefore to recover from. Emotional abuse causes long term self-esteem issues and profound emotional impacts for the partners of abusers. Abuse typically alternates with affirmation of love and statements that they will change.
Abusive relationships get worse over time. Emotional and verbal abuse frequently shifts to more overt threats or physical abuse, particularly in times of stress. Abusers are generally very needy and controlling; the abuse escalates when they feel they may lose their partner, or when the relationship ends. This is the pinnacle of the addiction.
These relationships are usually highly reactive and emotionally driven, therefore mutually abusive on some level. Clear cut lines are hard to draw. Abusers do not make a choice to be abusive, they are generally doing the best they can given the emotional and psychological issues they face.
Abuse is a family dysfunction that repeats through generations. Just as addictions pass down through generations, abusers often leave their families for a family of choice, and then repeat the abusive cycle from the other side. The abused becomes the abuser and so continues the cycle. This cycle brings much pain to both sides (Abusive 2).
There are at least forty million family members directly involved with alcoholics in the United States today. The most common scenario is a man having a drinking problem, placing the wife and children in a fearful place. Here are certain excerpts from an article that recounts a woman’s story of having an alcoholic as a husband:
I know that Martin likes a beer every so often and occasionally smokes pot with a few old friends, but he doesn’t seem to have a problem. Now that we’re married and trying to start a family, I can’t stand to see him smoke pot. How can he be a responsible parent if he’s high? I confront him, and he agrees to enter a three-month outpatient program, followed by four months of follow-up care I am relieved when Martin completes the program, committed to total sobriety 5 years later, Martin now stocks the fridge with six-packs, and that scares me. This is more than mere social drinking. When I mention it, though, he becomes defensive. “What’s the big deal Carol? I’m simply enjoying one beer.” But at parties, he enjoys several beers, when he thinks I’m not looking. Meanwhile, we’re arguing more, and our fights are becoming increasingly abusive. He swings from happiness to hostility and back again Our marriage has its highs and lows, but mostly lows. Martin is out at least one night a week with his drinking or pot-smoking buddies. His temper is also escalating, and he’s expressing it physically. Martin one night threw me down to the ground, waking up our baby. I’m terrified, despite Martin’s vows that it won’t happen again. On the night of our ten-year anniversary, I sob myself to sleep. I can’t go through another decade like this. I ask him to enter a rehab facility, he agrees (Ladies 98).
Although hundreds of thousands of individuals are currently in treatment for their drinking, statistics don’t include the many who have yet to seek help. And for virtually every alcohol abuser, there is a family affected by his or her drinking. The mood swings and decline in health and impaired work performance that problem drinkers typically suffer have an emotional impact on everyone involved. Even when the home situation becomes unbearable, however, the spouse still finds it extremely difficult to leave the alcoholic. They give them chance after chance after chance. (Ladies 99-100).
Alcohol abuse in marriage is usually brought on by stress from work and personal reasons. Wives or husbands that are addicts can always find something to blame their drinking on, and they often times take out their frustration on their spouses. It is very common for a spouse to deny that they have a problem. This denial leads to further problems, sometimes even the end of a marriage. Often times the termination of a relationship is the ultimatum for the person to stop drinking and to seek help. If there is a split up then the addict will see that he/she is now alone, and they will have to make a decision (Alcoholism 20-22).
If one member of the family or couple is an alcoholic or substance abuser, the other partner is far more likely to be similarly categorized. Alcoholism is associated with personality and character problems as well as parenting difficulties. The condensing of such problems into a small lifespace, a single household, for example, may put other family members at greater than average risk of experiencing consequent problems such as abusive or neglectful parenting (American 119-120).
Children of Alcoholics (COAs) suffer a far worse fate than do the spouses. They not only have to put up with the current battle they are facing, but they have to worry about themselves turning into the same monsters their alcoholic parents are. They have the same alcoholic genes passed down to them. There are three common dangers they are exposed to. First off, they are very likely to become alcoholics themselves. Secondly, they are likely to display many features of an alcoholic, although they might not be drinking. Lastly, the stresses they face are likely to push the children towards a destructive lifestyle (Alcoholics 25-26).
COAs are faced with many pressures that children in happy homes aren’t faced with. COAs live with fear in their blood almost constantly. They do not trust anyone and they lie to protect themselves. They feel embarrassed because of who they are and the situation they are in. They often times separate themselves from others, making it difficult to meet new people and live a normal life.
Another pressure they face is anger. When a lot of stress builds up in the child, they usually become hostile and angry. They will talk back to the parents and place themselves into a greater danger. A drunken parent will not hesitate to set the child straight. They become abusive, and many times, a child gets injured.
Children of Alcoholics often times feel a sense of shame and guilt. They are ashamed of their parents. They are ashamed of the way they look, act, and present themselves in public. The COAs hear the giggling from other children towards the alcoholics. The guilt factor comes in when the child feels that it is his/her fault when something bad happens in the home. Whether there is an argument, a split-up, or a beating in the house; the child places the blame on himself. They feel that they are at fault when these tragedies happen (Alcoholism 26-27).
Drinking by one parent can often sever a relationship with the other parent. Heavy drinking by fathers, for instance, can negatively affect the quality of the mother and infant’s relationship. Infants of heavy drinking fathers are less likely to have secure attachments with their mothers. Infants normally form attachments with the primary caregiver, who is usually the mother. In sensitive and nurturing relationships, the attachment is secure. When contacts are insensitive or inconsistent, however, attachments are insecure.
A father’s alcohol use also contributes to characteristics of the mother, such as depression and satisfaction with marriage. Mothers with heavy drinking partners reported more depression and less marital satisfaction than those with light drinking partners. These maternal factors play a large role in the relationship between infant and mother, increasing the likelihood of an insecure attachment. The child can sense the hovering feelings of negativity over the non-alcoholic parent. It is quite disturbing to them (Research 1).
Sons of male alcoholics, in particular, are reported to be at higher risk for externalizing problems, difficulty in school, and are also about five times more likely to have alcohol-related problems in their lives (Journal-Paternal 388). Children of Alcoholics are four times more likely than others to become alcoholics. Daughters of alcoholics are more likely to marry alcoholic men, continuing the cycle of family alcoholism. This cycle is vicious and increasingly difficult to stop. (Alcoholism Report 7).
Children of Alcoholics generally can not live the normal lifestyle that other children lead. They have certain characteristics that cause them to seem atypical. There is not much they can do about this, however, for it is in their genes and it is in their minds.
These kids become extremely anxious during their childhood. They themselves begin to greatly worry about the family and it’s issues, even though they really have no control over any of it. They carry negative feelings, which makes it difficult for them to love. These negative feelings often turn over to anger or depression.
COAs often find it difficult drawing the line between right and wrong. With no assertive role models, they learn by trial and error, which can sometimes be extremely dangerous. They often don’t believe in themselves, and are not sure what they do believe in. The children will lie to make them feel better about themselves, without thinking of the consequences.
Children of Alcoholics isolate themselves from other families. They see their family as different than others, and they are embarrassed about it. The children can get very lonely and easily depressed this way. They won’t open up to anyone else for fear of the information of the family slipping out. They feel a strong bitterness against outsiders that openly speak about their family. They can get defensive or even hostile. Anything that involves a group activity is basically out of the question for COAs. If they must participate for instance for a school project, they will make sure it is nowhere near their house.
These children find it difficult to compromise. For them, it is an all or nothing personality. They will not look at things in a different way than they have been taught to think. This attitude makes it difficult for them to get involved in relationships later in life. They are unwilling to listen to reasoning on the behalf of others. This is the fault of the alcoholic parent (Alcoholism 28-29)
The pain and suffering of being a child of an alcoholic doesn’t end when adolescence is over. The adult children of alcoholics still have many tough obstacles to face and mountains to climb. They have specific characteristics themselves, that are difficult to be controlled. Many of these characteristics are spun off from their childhood attributes.
Adult Children of Alcoholics have to guess at what normal behavior is. They lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth. They have great difficulty having fun. They take themselves extremely seriously, but they think they are different from everyone else. They over-react to changes over which they have zero control over. ACOAs are tremendously loyal even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved. And probably most obviously, they are impulsive. They tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences.
All of these reasons make it difficult for Adult Children of Alcoholics to find someone to care about that cares about them as well. Being stubborn by nature, they have a hard time finding someone to love. If they do begin a relationship, it’s hard for them to maintain it because of the fact that the other half of the relationship will find this person hard to live with. Often times they end up with an alcoholic themselves, because the alcoholic doesn’t pay as much attention to him/her. This is where the cycle comes into play (Counseling 1-2).
Counseling and education is the highest hope presently of Children of Alcoholics. They must learn of their family history, where the alcoholism fell and if there were any trends. If they find there is a risk they might fall into the trap, they should stay away from all alcohol. But even if they don’t drink, there is still a chance they will show some characteristics of an alcoholic. That is an inevitable fact of life though (Alcoholism 32).
People suffering from addictions are hurting themselves physically, emotionally, and psychologically. But that’s not all. They are also ripping apart the people that they love dearly, and they don’t even realize it. The wives, husbands, or children that they are hurting try to help them out with subtle hints at first. But if that doesn’t work, then more drastic measures have to be taken. It is not fair to these innocent people when they get dragged into a situation such as this one. The spouses get can get injured, both physically and mentally. The alcoholic can become abusive and take his anger out on whoever is around, including the people that at one time he loved more than anything in the world. It goes to show you how much a substance begins to mean to someone, when they trade everything they have ever had for it.
The children of the addicts also have a tremendous mountain to climb. They put up with an unstable home at all times. They go through hell during their childhood, which severely muddles them psychologically. They grow up acting similar to their addicted parent, which is something that they have no control over. Out of no fault of their own, they are suffering a possibly horrifying fate for the entirety of their lives. These are the steps an alcoholic takes while becoming addicted. He puts not only himself, but also his whole family, in danger of ruining their lives. That’s a chance that most of them are willing to take.