26 May The Constellation of Families
A constellation, much like a family, is a grouping of stars to form a pattern. Likewise Family members group together and each has their own role, which set rules and boundaries, and ultimately work together for the well-being of the family as a whole. Similarly, the stars in the sky are divided into 88 constellations, each with their own names, purpose and meaning. The brightest constellation, known as Crux, is itself similar to the role of mom in a family as it is the strongest because it is the brightest and it protects all the others under its light. Hydra is the largest constellation and extends over 3% of the sky; this constellation is similar to the role of the father in a family. He extends his arms to the entire family keeping them protected and safe. There are also smaller constellations like the Little Dipper, which shares a role similar to that of children in a family.
Families are composed of roles, rules, routines, boundaries, and a hierarchy. These principles are set in place to help promote the well-being of the entire unit, but having an family member who is addicted, distorts this picture. Members begin taking on roles that don’t belong to them, or the hierarchy begins to shift, and boundaries are broken.
When a family member is addicted, it overtakes a family; the natural order of things are disrupted. The original rules and boundaries that helped keep the family functioning properly are no longer working, and the disruption is due to the nature of the addiction. This occurs because family members spend time covering up, or trying to control behavior addicted family member. This behavior cascades and affects the other children of the household as well. The family must now adapt to another environment where all the focus is on the addicted individual.
The following are roles families take on when there is a family member who is struggling with addiction. These roles deviate from a healthy environment, to one of distrust, fear, and instability:
An enabler always means well, but their efforts are counterproductive in that they undermine the original balance of the family. This person is often closest to the addict; it could be a parent, or sibling. This role is kind and understanding, but fails to see that they undermine the need for consequences and boundaries. The enabler finds ways to cover up or make excuses for the addict’s behavior at work, at school, or with friends. Sometimes the enabler will go as far as doing tasks and completing responsibilities in place of the addicted member, such as paying their bills, giving them money to spend on drugs, and getting them out of trouble with the law. An enabler believes their help will somehow help direct the addict in another direction towards recovery, but in fact this causes the addict to fall deeper and deeper in addiction because they know the enabler will always bail them out.
The oldest child in the family usually takes on the hero role. Their role is to over achieve and to be as responsible as possible. They are typically role models at school; they get the best grades, follow the rules, are very career oriented, and always walk a narrow path. In a family disrupted by an addicted member, the other family members point to the hero as the one member they can be proud of and not feel the shame and guilt brought on by the chaos addiction has brought into the household. Heroes seem like they have everything under control because they are mature and responsible. The price they pay for taking this role on is that they suffer from psychological depression internally. Unlike the enabler who allows the addict to do as they please, the hero suffers quietly trying to keep the family in tact.
In dysfunctional families due to the disturbance from an addicted member, one of the children usually assumes the role of the troublesome child. Unfortunately the behavior of the scapegoat manages to bring the family together in a less than ideal way. The scapegoat usually reacts and behaves poorly to get the attention from the family away from the addicted member. Due to the family’s focus on the scapegoat they avoid facing their own problems. Once the behavior of the addicted individual has taken ahold on the parent the scapegoat becomes the bud of all pain and suffering.
The Lost Child:
This role is taken on by the child who has decided that the best way of survive is to become unseen amidst the turmoil caused by the addicted member. This child is usually the one who has not received as much attention as the other siblings. Their environment makes them learn that avoidance and solitude is the best way to get by and live. They usually feel unimportant and believe that if they are out of sight they will also be out of mind. As you can see this role has a devastating psychological consequence in the end.
Finally we have the role of the mascot. Often times it is the youngest of the children who takes on this role. By the time this role is taken on by a family member it usually means the family unit has reached an unsustainable dysfunctional environment. This is the child who is coddled and is the source of amusement for other family members. The older children try to protect the youngest, they do so by withholding information and pretending that all is well. Of course, no amount of protection truly shields this child from the truth. Though this child may not know the issue is addiction, they are inevitable affected by their unstable family dynamic.
Addiction rushes through a home much like an uncontrollable brush fire. It affects not just the family, but also each member individually and collectively. Other members of the family begin to assume roles they were not intended to in a healthy family dynamic. Shame and fear begin to dominate these families which harbors within the addicted member. Most families try to keep their addicted family member’s problems a secret. Unspoken rules are created and everyone knows not to talk about their dysfunctional family with others.
It is important to be aware and to recognize when the family dynamic is severely being impacted by the presence of an addicted member. It is crucial to get help before the entire family is torn apart because of addiction. To seek assistance and information on family counseling and addiction help please call us today!