First and foremost alcoholism is a family disease in a way that that is unique. First and at the centre of the stage is the alcoholic, but around him are those whom he infects. The interdependency develops insidiously, slowly and without warning. Suddenly almost all are emeshed in the web of addiction. All are determined to maintain the status quo and protect the alcoholic from himself and from the consequences of his drinking. Initially this is perceived as both love and loyalty by all the close family members. The alcoholic is a secret, fragile creature who is sick and must be cared for. The purpose of this behaviour is to maintain a cohesion when in fact there is no cohesion, it is a delusional state that the family enters into.All the relationships within the family network are attachment disorders. All are addicted to the alcoholic as the alcoholic is addicted to the alcohol.
I am the daughter of an alcoholic who killed herself when I was 12 years old. My son is an alcoholic, my first husband was abusive and drunk himself to death. I have survived by spending much of my life as a psychiatric nurse/ therapist learning about this terrible disease. I have run alcohol groups both for alcoholics and for the families of alcoholics. I have a particular interest in supporting the children of alcoholics.
My novel ‘ Paradise Lost’ is the story of a woman who eventually kills her alcoholic mother after years of child hood abuse. She gets away with it. The central question of the novel is:’Do some people deserve to be murdered?’ Every reader must decide this for themselves, and I have been criticised by some for writing what is essentially an immoral novel. Is it immoral to get away with cold blooded murder? Yet there is the guilt, and the guilt is as destructive and dangerous in it’s way as the alcoholic. There is no escape: not for anyone. Guilt is the predominant emotion for every alcoholic and also for the family that supports him.
Guilt is the legacy of alcoholism.It is this emotion more than any other that sets the stage for the collapse of the alcoholic family and the destructive nature of the relationships therein. Eventually the family members blame each other for what has happened to the alcoholic and to the catastrophic nature of the collapse.
Jung thought every patient unique and it was this uniqueness that made them valuable.Mental illness he beleived to be essentially a disunity of the personality. Few diseases ,if any, cause more disunity of personality than alcoholism. Children of alcoholics repress their feelings especially those of fear because of the dynamic to defend the alcoholic and to protect him from himself.
‘ If I’m a good girl he won’t drink’.
“He drinks because of me.’
‘ If he loved me he wouldn’t drink- he does drink therefore I am unloveble’
‘It’s my fault’.
The child of every alcoholic is insecure, and frightened because their world is chaotic.Sadly the children of alcoholics are damaged people. They suffer a self possessed agony which maybe compared to either suffocation or drowning because of the total immersion that is the hall mark of every alcoholic relationship. The person they love most in the world cannot be trusted, the person they need most in the world cannot be trusted, so they grow up without either self belief or confidence.
Image by Picasso:
M.Lord. BA, RGN/RMN. Dip:mental health/University of London.Cert:philosophy of the body/University of Wales.
Author of Paradise Lost(Mollie Bach)