Thursday, June 24, 2010

Addicted

 

Have a family member or friend that is struggling with addiction? I highly recommend this book.

In The Lost Years, a mother and daughter tell the story of the daughter's battle with addiction. (The daughter is the creator of the show Addicted on TLC!) What I loved about this book is that it didn't tell me how addiction works, what the addict feels, how it affects the family, and in turn how the family influences the addict. It showed me. The story is more powerful than any lecture you'll ever hear on the subject. And the mother's tough love is admirable. 

As a counseling student and the sister of an addict, I was captivated by this story. It took me inside the mind of an addict and showed me what my brother was going through in his final months. Though their stories look very different, their mindset was very much the same. The other thing that compelled me to this book was the glimpse into the family system. Yes, I am a firm believer in family systems theory. What does that mean? 

Picture the family as a mobile. (Yes, the baby mobile that is hung from a crib will do.) When one object on the mobile is bumped or begins to spin, the whole mobile is affected and displaced. A family member's problem always affects the entire family system. And likewise, a problem you see in one family member often reflects a bigger problem within the family system. So say, a child is acting up at school. As a school counselor, you can pull that child aside and try to solve the problem by talking to him, but the issue won't be resolved until you work with the family and get to the root of the problem. Often the root of it is within the home - say, an unstable marriage, for example. (That's the short explanation.)

So back to what I was saying... I loved seeing the family system. I was able to see and label the areas of dysfunction within the family. And it has helped me to reflect upon my own family and see our dysfunction. ...Real quick: EVERY family has dysfunction in it! Do not think I am dissing my own family for a moment. I love them with all my heart. And while all have dysfunction, some have more than others, especially those with addiction in them. These families often have more unspoken rules (Events, guidelines, or norms that aren't mentioned or discussed) and family secrets than others.

Like I said, the book has really helped me to see what addiction looks like in the family system and to process all of this within the family system. If you're a counselor or related in some way to an addict, this book is a must read.
 

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