For every person suffering from chemical dependency and addictions at least four people are affected. This is because the individual’s thoughts, words, deeds and existence revolves around using - when, how, with whom, how much etc . The loved one’s minds are preoccupied by the same ... when, how, with whom, how much etc. will the person be using - though the loved one might be at work, travelling, sleeping, eating etc. The mental, emotional occupation with the obsession and the compulsion to find out about the chemically dependent person is increased many fold - exactly as what happens with the person who is using. Their lives revolve around the person using. This is Co- dependency.
They feel their lives have been destroyed or put on hold by the person who is addicted. Likewise, the person who is drinking / using says that they are doing so because of the attitude and behaviors of the family - would they be right? No! Then, the loved ones who experience pain, anger, resentments, fear, disgust and a host of emotions and blame the user completely for their misery are also not right.
The person addicted to a substance is responsible for the consequences of the addiction and the ensuing behavior and he is responsible for his recovery from it too.
Likewise, the loved ones are responsible for their emotions and the choices they have made in life. They are not responsible for the chemically dependent person’s using or his/ her not finding the need to use anymore.
However, for the Co- dependents to accept this is extremely difficult, as, in their eyes the problem lies in the person who is drinking and using, not in them. They are right as a matter of relativity i.e. just because the person is using, he/ she is wrong. They fail to see in themselves, the need to control, the emotional dependency the obsession with the thought of a semblance of control in all other aspects of life when, in reality they are not in control of anything, the resentment , the anger suppressed , the fear , the anxiety , the lack of confidence , the loss of dignity etc. To accept that they are responsible for all of this, is extremely difficult. If left untreated, their lives will continue to be miserable. The family becomes more dysfunctional.
The person suffering from addiction who undergoes a transformation as a result of treatment , gets back home and to life , and wants to take on responsibilities of work, business , children, the relationship . There is a lashing out, there is a non- acceptance of this new person who has been an absentee so, an absentee husband , an absentee father , an absentee business man / employee who was stricken by the disease of chemical dependency.. The individual is looked at with old eyes. I have known wives telling me that he was better of being drunk than this new man who wants to take over control over everything now . Where was he when I needed him to be a husband, a son , a father ? There have been many divorces that have taken place after the person has been in recovery than when the person was in the throes of addiction.
Communication becomes dysfunctional and misunderstandings and arguments can arise .
Hence it is very essential that the loved ones of the one afflicted undergo co- dependency counseling themselves while the person addicted to the substances is undergoing residential treatment. This enables them to understand themselves better. During the course of residential treatment, the family is invited over to stay with the clients one member at a time .
Any family issues like between the husband and wife or parent and child can be brought on the table before the counselors and dealt with through communication . The ties with the family that were frayed are bridged and built up. Even after the individual completes treatment a follow up is essential with the family and him/ her at their residence too if required after a month or so to smooth ties and facilitate better communication .
The Co dependent also experiences during their therapy – meditations, writing, sharing etc. to get to know themselves ,reclaim their lives , take responsibility of themselves and regain their lost dignity and confidence and individuality. The emotions become more realistic, one learns to detach with love.
Thus any therapeutic process should be individualized and cohesive . This happens when each individual has worked upon himself / herself . Only when there is change within can change be recognized and understood in another individual. There can be a meeting on a common platform.