46. SEX AND ADDICTIONS: What It Is Like To Have To Live With An Addict?
In Blog 45 I wrote, ‘Once the addict becomes fully focused and obsessed on where their next drink or fix will come from, any connection or relationship slowly becomes lost as they search for their next drink or fix’.
What is it then like to have to live with an addict, when the connection or relationship is lost ?
I have broken this topic into 6 sections:
1) Children Of Addicts
As I have written many times over, parents and their relationships are our behavioural blueprints. Parents teach their children not only about intimacy and relationships, but through their behaviour, they also usually provide a child with a sense of inner security and belonging. This helps a child build self-worth and confidence. Children absorb this teaching either consciously or unconsciously.
This teaching is however not always positive or effective – especially when one or indeed both parents are addicts.
The impact of living in the shadow of a parent with an addictive behaviour has vast emotional implications that may ripple into all aspects of a child’s (later adult) life and this is usually not constructive.
The child of an addict learns very quickly that the parental addiction will always come first and that they, the child will always come second.
This has vast implications for a child’s sense of self-worth.
Children of addicts are often expected to take responsibility not only for themselves but also possibly for younger siblings. This usually happens especially when a parent is either drunk or high on drugs. As a result, a child may grow up quicker than other children of the same age.
But this is well known.
What is less known, is that usually without realising, a child could have addictive tendencies even though they might not mirror the exact addiction of their parents.
For example, a child of alcoholic parents may not become alcoholics themselves, however they may choose a career or a hobby and so on, that may be addictive by it’s very nature. For example, choosing to work in the stock market as say a financial trader. Trading can easily turn into a form of gambling or as any trader will tell you – financial trading IS a form of gambling and it can become addictive.
Addictions can therefore be passed down from a parent to a child – even though the choice of the addiction may vary.
What is even less known or understood, is that even though a particular addiction is not formed or searched for, a child of an addict can still portray subtle addictive behavioural patterns in their every day living, or in the very manner that they deal with their lives, their projects or their relationships.
For example, one minute they can be seem dazzled and overawed by a person or project, money or a career, whereas the next minute, they could become bored, distracted and then disinterested.
The ‘enthusiasm to lacklustre behaviour’ often mirrors the emotional ups and downs of the addictive parent.
Also, and less understood is why children born, after a parent has addressed their addiction or is no longer considered an addict, yet the child still manifests addictive patterns of behaviour – even though they may not become serious addicts themselves. Other cases are when for example, an alcoholic get divorced and they then never see their child again – yet the child still becomes an alcoholic!
This is why researchers have come up with theories that addictions may for example be genetically inherited – however genetics are as not as yet fully understood either.
However, growing up in a home with an addictive parent/s, usually results in a child growing up in an emotionally chaotic environment which is similar to living on an ‘emotional roller coaster’.
This changeable behaviour can be very scary for children – who mostly need contained secure environments in order to develop and feel safe.
Consequently, when these children feel threatened or when their lives are in turmoil, usually they find concentrating at school very hard and many may ‘play up’ as a way of crying out for help.
Also, and as a direct result of observing a parent, clouded over by their addiction and unable to focus on a recovery process or daily living for that matter, many children find that focusing and working towards their own goals or finishing their own projects very hard.
Yet, they can be super responsible yet super irresponsible too.
And although they often seek constant approval many judge themselves harshly for failing or for not coming up to scratch.
In other words, children of addicts often mirror the observed addictive behaviour.
As a result, their own lives become filled with opposites, up and downs, feeling good, feeling bad and so on. Many don’t really understand what ‘normal’ behaviour is. Why would they? It’s not what they know and it’s clearly not what they’ve observed!
2) Families: Children, Siblings And Partners Living With Addicts:
Addicts can swing from deep depression, non-activity, even disappearance from the family home for days on end, through to vicious temper tantrums and violence.
And usually the addict undergoes massive mood swings from depression and silence then loving sweetness to obnoxious outrageous behaviour.
Also and for example, the ‘dry drunk’ (an alcoholic trying not to drink) can be very difficult to live with too and they can resort to vicious vitriolic outbursts interspersed with ‘sulky silences’.
Living with an addict can be very hard and family members soon learn how to walk on eggs shells as they navigate the vast range of emotions and behaviour of addicts. For many this can be very frightening especially as the addict can easily become physically aggressive.
The complete giving over of one self to an addict is often required – so as to keep a kind of sanity in place.
But somehow addicts often use this to bully their family into submission.
In order to keep the peace, often the family chooses the ‘path of collusion’ and so the addict continues to get away with their addiction.
This is what is called, ‘becoming drunk with the alcoholic or addict’. It involves the whole family cooperating in a system to facilitate the addict.
3) Getting Support
But what does colluding or ‘becoming drunk with the alcoholic or addict’ actually mean?
There are a number of different ways friends and family members can enable an addict to continue what he or she is doing.
One of those ways is to collude with the individual. Colluding with an addict only encourages him or her to continue their behaviour rather than getting the help they need to overcome their addiction.
Families or friends can collude by helping the addict lie or blame everything else on all sorts of extenuating circumstances in order to excuse the behaviour of the addict.
They can also help hide evidence or they can indeed help supply the addict by giving them money and so on.
Many hope that by putting their heads in the sand the problem will go away. Nothing ever goes away until it is addressed.
This is why families living with an addict often need and require a support group to help them cope better.
Unfortunately in some cases, little is known about the procedures or help available.
If you need help please do contact a support group. You are not alone. Addiction or living with an addict is very hard and you can get help even if it’s via support groups, help lines or on the Internet.
But why would you need support?
4) The Consequences Of An Addict’s Denial
Throughout an addict’s life the most devastating aspect not only for the addict but also those who live with an addict – is the extreme lengths an addict will go in order to deny their addiction.
They will hide bottles of alcohol, or they will hide their problem with money, or they may even steal in order to feed their habit and so on.
Worse still, are the lies that get told – lies which help keep the addict in denial. And addicts are experts at deception!
Unfortunately, colluding with these lies, usually only helps delay the addiction.
This is a further reason why getting support is so very important.
Most people find dealing with addicts, very exhausting and draining. So please, please ask for help – there IS plenty of help out there.
5) The Relationships Of A Child Of An Addict
Relationships are based on trust. Trust develops as a result of consistent behaviour.
The erratic behaviour of addicts certainly does not bode well when it comes to consistent behaviour.
If a child is unable to develop a suitable trust within the parental relationship, they may find it very hard to trust or bond with anyone later on in life.
They may struggle with trust issues and they may be very suspicious of people’s behaviour irrespective of the intention.
Unfortunately, if a parent’s behaviour is a child’s blueprint, the child of an addict may mirror the behaviour of the parent. They may also lie, they may also refuse to face up to issues, they also may hide their feelings, and so on.
But also, if parents and their relationships are our relationship blueprint and if ‘birds of a feather flock together’ and what we know we attract (as written in my previous Blogs), then children of addicts will generally attract people with addictive tendencies, even though they may be hidden initially.
And this I have observed time and time again, over all the years of seeing couples.
At first the ‘addictive attraction’ may not be at all obvious but as time goes on – often this pattern becomes more evident.
And, although it may take years before the addiction makes an appearance, when it does, it may even be cloaked in all sorts of unexpected behaviour.
In therapy often I have stated that we are unfortunately not computers. No therapist can ‘re-install’ you. This means that what you have experienced as a child can obviously not be changed. So the best you can do is to learn to understand your childhood inside and out, so that you can get to grips with how and why you behave as you do. But and more importantly – this will help you understand who you are attracted to and why. Doing this will allow you to make better life and partner choices.
And so, if the parental relationship is not constructively consistent, it can have adverse affects on any child’s relationships later on in life. If a child has not learnt to develop trust and so on, they may find it very hard to develop intimacy and a trusting bond with others in adulthood.
© 2017 Information Copyright Deidré Wallace
Note: Please do subscribe to my blog website. I will not bombard you with e-mails. You will get a monthly reminder of my website for your perusal. However, if there is a new offer, separate to the blog site I will e-mail you. However, please be assured that I will not fill your inbox with e-mails. Thank you.