Sunday, February 28, 2010

I am an Adult Child of an Alcoholic

Addiction is very powerful. I came to a new realization recently about the power of addiction and the idea that alcoholism, for example, is a disease. As far as I am concerned, all addiction is a disease. It is a disease that hurts not only the addict, but everyone who loves that addict. Addiction drives the need for control over the uncontrollable. It is a dark place to live.

A niece is addicted to prescription drugs. She can't hold down a job, so how she pays for them is a mystery. She does steal and lie, and is in complete denial that she has a problem. I believe her addictive behaviors were nurtured by her "adult child" parents, who may or may not be alcoholics themselves. Neither admits to being addicted to alcohol, although my ex-brother-in-law has now stopped drinking, but my sister has not. She is functioning just fine.

Another sister is psychologically addicted to marijuana. I say psychologically because marijuana is not physically addictive. It has no addictive properties. Usage can remain recreational, as can alcohol if one is not an addict. If one cannot control or has seemingly no control over their recreational drug usage, that person is an addict, in my opinion. This fact may be supported by data, and I know there is a ton of it out there. I just cannot quote that data right now. Alcohol and marijuana are not the problem, addiction is the problem. An addictive personality will have a problem with anything.

The two sisters live together and are "supporting" the niece to lovingly heal her. But, there is a fine line between support and enabling. I believe they are enabling her to continue her addictive, hurtful behaviors. My niece is very smart and has learned the correct language to manipulate our family very well. She is also explosive, as is the second sister. If they are questioned, a bomb goes off inside them. They spew all over you and run away before you can react or even think of how to respond.

I recently realized I was also an enabler. I can be one no longer. But, my decision has created a rift between me and my two sisters. My niece has declared "she hates me, has always hated me and will hate me forever". In response to this tirade, I yelled back, "I love you", over and over again. It does no good. At least, I can't see what good it does. But, I have to keep shouting it at the top of my lungs to equal her shouts at the top of hers. The "shoulds" in my head tell me to speak softly in the face of such loudness, but my own "adult child" behaviors are still learning how to do this.

This shouting does nothing to redirect the powerful energy flowing from both of us that slams into our hearts and souls, leaving marks, I'm sure. The scars that get left remain for years. I have spent my entire adult life trying to heal the scars left by my alcoholic father with every kind of therapy and "New Age" philosophy I could find. I have discovered over decades of reading, learning and talking about it at AA or ALANON meetings, with psychologists (in individual and group therapy), psychiatrists, EST and many other forms that I am an onion with many, many layers.

I remain hopeful that love will prevail in my family. But as I learned in ALANON, I have no control over the addict or her behaviors. I only have control over my reaction to them, and my own behavior. I realized after years of perceived support of my niece, that I was only enabling her. My sisters will have to learn that for themselves. In the meantime, I must take care of myself and withdraw from the game. I will focus on continued healing of my own scars. I choose to live in the Light.