Families and Addiction – Part 2: Charlie’s Family – Part 1

Father explaining Families and Addiction to his daughter

Families and Addiction – Part 2: Charlie’s Family – Part 1

Once the family system is formed around an addicted individual, it acts like any other system in that the status quo tends to be maintained, members of the system become more defined in their roles, and change becomes more difficult to implement.

Let’s look at this using a sample family!

Substance User

Mary is a member of the family, one of the sisters. Mary drinks when she is out with friends. She enjoys socializing with people, but she only drinks one or two drinks on any given occasion.

She never feels the need to drink more than that, and she doesn’t tend to give in too much to peer pressure. She has no problem saying no or saying “I’ve had enough, I don’t need anything else.”

Mary would be classified as a substance user.

She drinks but she doesn’t drink abusively, and she doesn’t have any issues with her drinking.

Substance Abuser

Mary’s sister is Martha. Martha started smoking marijuana in high school. One of the things that Martha understood is that she enjoyed the way it made her forget her problems. She would smoke and feel high and not have to worry about the struggles she was having in school or at home.

Eventually, it came about that Martha began to get bullied at school for some reason. Then, she discovered that she used marijuana to avoid her hurt feelings and that she could cope with life better when using.

Now, she uses marijuana when she feels too stressed but not typically otherwise, and it isn’t really impacting her life.

However, she has crossed that line to begin using it in a way that is more abusive.

So, we would call Martha a substance abuser.

Identified Patient – “The One that is Addicted”

Charlie began drinking in the military as a way to escape the stress of combat.

Now that he is back home, Charlie still has some PTSD issues with nightmares and some difficulties facing his responsibilities.

Also, Charlie began using as a way to manage the distress and the stress that he was experiencing.

Now, he is back from active duty and is drinking on most days.

He also isn’t only drinking a little bit, he is drinking to get drunk, and he continues to consume alcohol to intoxication.

Man standing by a carCharlie started to understand that this was a problem for him and began to stop when his family complained. Sadly, he wasn’t able to sustain his sobriety and began drinking again a few days later.

Now, when he stops drinking, he gets the shakes and has nightmares about using.

Charlie meets the criteria of being addicted to alcohol.

This is an important thing to begin to understand with addiction and family systems: addiction occurs when the usage goes beyond casual or beyond even abusive use and reaches a place where the substance has taken control.

In a case like Charlie’s, even though he sees some of the consequences and wants to stop drinking, he doesn’t have the capacity to stop drinking and is being more controlled by the alcohol than being in control.

What we would do is then look at how does this impact the family.

Please See

Families and Addiction – Part 1: What is a Family System?


Virtual Presentation by Steve Wright, LCPC, RDDP in the January 24, 2018 Addiction Hope Inaugural Online Conference & link to the press release at https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/eating-disorder-hope-offers-inaugural-online-conference-300550890.html

Steve WrightAbout the Presenter:

Steve Wright, LCPC, RDDP is a therapist at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center. He served for more than 25 years as a minister working in churches with youth, families, and as a senior pastor. As a counselor, he worked in residential treatment as a therapist supervisor, coordinator, and program director first in the substance use field and then in the eating disorder field.

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.About the Transcript Editor: Margot Rittenhouse is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on June 22, 2018
Reviewed on June 22, 2018 by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Published on AddictionHope.com

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.