Am I as Spouse or Parents Jointly Responsible for an Addict’s Behaviour?

Is it my fault? Am I complicit?  These are typical questions asked by a spouse or parent when addiction looms. There are at least two pitfalls you can fall into. Firstly, you can take all the blame onto yourself and argue that it is your genes and upbringing (with children) or that you drive your husband towards it. The second pitfall is to think that your actions have NO influence on the addict’s behaviour.

You are not the cause. You can’t cure it. You cannot control it. But you can contribute to the maintenance or escalation of the problem.

Also ask yourself: How do I react to the addiction? Do I play a specific role in the family? Three possibilities are discussed:

The Rescuer uses denial and the addict’s problems are covered up. You lie about it or don’t ever discuss it – you clean up, put them to bed, pay the debt yourself, etc. You take more and more inappropriate responsibility upon yourself.

The Persecutor uses anger and punishes the person for addictive behaviour. You belittle, tease, nag and moan so that everyone hears about it. When you aren’t acting out in anger or calling them a wimp, you are giving them the cold shoulder. You constantly bring up the past and often threaten to leave.

The Victim/Martyr uses depression and is ashamed of the behaviour.  You whine and complain and let others know how you’re being humiliated. Or you are so ashamed that you don’t tell anyone about how you are suffering. You become more withdrawn and depressive. You surreptitiously try to let the other person feel guilty about their behaviour.

Whether you stick to one role or jump between them, naturally none of them help. All three contribute to addiction and help to further progress the problem. The Rescuer ensures that the addict never needs to take responsibility, while the Persecutor and Victim/Martyr only provide further reasons and excuses for addictive behaviour.  We call this ENABLING.

About thatpsychologist

Clinical Psychologist in private practice in George and Mossel-Bay Kliniese Sielkundige in privaat praktyk op George en Mosselbaai.

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