In Ireland the stigma of addiction often brings feelings of embarrassment, shame, guilt, anger, and hopelessness in an already highly stressed family unit. Because of this stigma, and in order to survive the chaos, families often adapt a ‘Don’t Talk, Trust, or Feel’ stance. Families may deny the real issue by calling a hangover the flu or excuse a drinking/ drug binge saying it is due to stress. Children will have trust issues due to repeatedly broken promises or be hyper vigilant waiting for the next crisis to occur. Because of this closed family system feelings get turned off, denied or buried because it becomes too painful or dangerous to talk about them.
What is the person with the addiction problem doing in all this? They are also dealing with feelings of embarrassment, shame, guilt, anger, and hopelessness and coping the only way they know; by drinking, taking drugs, gambling etc. I guess the point I’m making is that everyone copes the best they can.
Clients often ask me questions like:
‘He only gambles on Saturdays so that’s ok. Right?”
“She never misses a day’s work so she can’t have a problem?”
“She likes a drink but she can’t be an alcoholic?”So as much as the addict can be in denial about the issue, family members can also be in denial about the seriousness of the problem in their home.