Millions and millions of people are impacted by the effects of addictive behavior. Alcohol. Drugs. Food. Sex. Affairs. Gambling. The impact of this behavior on the lives of others is devastating and compromises the well-being of the individual, family, society. It affects job performance, family interactions, safety and security of children, finances, productive use of one’s time.
Addictions result for many reasons, but at the core seems to be a lack of coping resources and often a rupture in healthy attachment to a primary caregiver. People who struggle with addictive behavior will talk about not knowing how to deal with their emotions, feeling like they have an emptiness inside, and often struggle with intense anger. They are left to face the challenges of life from a vulnerable position.
Frequently families, as well as addicted individuals, cope with addiction through a strategy called “denial.” “I don’t have a problem. I can still work.” “He’s okay. He just likes to party.” “She’s not really hiding the alcohol. She put it under the sink/in the closet for a reason.” “She has run out of her pain meds again. She must be in a lot of pain.” This is the process of not acknowledging what is obvious so that the individual and the family can preserve a sense of normalcy. Mostly they feel powerless to change the circumstances.
Left untreated, the devastation of addiction is repeated through the generations. Children of addicted parents are at high risk of developing a problem with addictive behaviors themselves. How can effective coping strategies be passed on to the next generation when there is no model for such in the home? The family violence that can be present in addicted households fuels the fire for producing angry children, who then grow into angry adults, and then parents themselves. A vicious cycle.
There are many resources for those struggling with addiction. Communities have Twelve Step meetings every day of the week. These are free and provide a network of support for the struggling individual and family. There are many, many good treatment centers that specialize in treating addictive behaviors. Therapists are available in communities who specialize in treating addictions in individual and group context, and understand the far-reaching effects.
For healing to occur, this needs to happen out of isolation, in the presence of another. Love, concern, support, confrontation, consistency. These are the elements that help people heal.
For meditation, I am posting a link to Tracy Chapman’s song “Fast Car” that poignanty brings the point home.