When you find yourself the object of someone else’s addiction

The portion of today’s post that is in italics is taken from Clinton S. Clark ©1993.  I highly recommend that you visit Clinton S. Clark online at The Art of Healing.

Addict Parent

Addict parents are without coping skills for feeling bad, they react or lash out in order to avoid hearing anything that they feel might cause them to “feel bad” As a way to destructively disconnect from the pain they are experiencing (feeling bad), they will try to control the information they are hearing by discounting it.  “It” being the child’s pain which in effect discounts the child’s sense of worthiness to have pain.

An addict parent is basically addicted to controlling, either in the form of controlling themselves (their behaviors and their feelings), and/or controlling other people in the same way.  And controlling information or personal space empowers the addict with feelings of control.  Controlling is a way addict parents “feel better.”

Addicts are said to abuse alcohol and drugs.  Sam will also be abused.  Like a bottle of booze waiting in the liquor cabinet, Sam will wait.  Booze is forgotten about until it’s needed and Sam will be forgotten about until he or she is needed.  If booze becomes difficult to use it is discarded.  When Sam becomes difficult to use he or she will be discarded.  Sam will learn how to function as an inanimate object similar to a bottle of booze.  This will be Sam’s acceptable role in his or her family. It will be a lonely role filled with pain, grief, anger, and rage over being used similar to a bottle of booze.

Keep in mind that Sam’s addict parent is not an evil doer.  An addict cannot consciously see the addiction they are engaged in.  They engage in the behavior because they are terrified of “feeling bad.”  This terror stems from being trained as objects of addiction themselves as children.  And objects of addiction lack the basic developmental coping skills for feeling bad; these coping skills for “feeling bad” were never allowed to develop.  This lack of coping skill creates an overwhelming sense of terror when strong feelings occur.  This is the developmental stigma of being trained as an object of addiction.  And unfortunately, an addict will continue to pass this training onto their children or the next generation in their family.  The cycle will continue form generation to generation until an unexpected event occurs to interrupt the cycle.

In order to keep Sam functioning as an inanimate object of addiction in the family, Sam’s addict parent or parents will have to use some kind of control.  For the addict, control is equated to compliance and compliance is equated to no frustration.  No frustration (or conflict) is equated to security and security equates to happy addict.  As a result of this sociophysiological phenomenon, nothing is more important to an addict than satisfying their interdependent need to maintain a sense of security.  Their object of addiction is important only as long as it accommodates the addict’s need to feel secure. The control techniques or behaviors used by the addict parent to keep their objects of addiction functioning effectively in this interdependent relationship are called “The Addictive Pull.”  The addictive pull is comprised of all the necessary control behaviors, or “destructive control behaviors,” used by the addict to keep an object of addiction functioning like a drug.

Members in a dysfunctional family operate on the same premise.  “You will submit to the control I think I need to have over you or I’ll abandon and beat you up emotionally or physically.”

Addict parents do not respect boundaries.  They have no idea what the concept of boundaries is about.  Setting a boundary for an addict parent creates an immediate hostile and abusive response.  Children raised in dysfunctional families are abused, beaten, or abandoned when they try to keep themselves from being injured or intruded upon by setting a boundary (examples: “Don’t do that you’re hurting me! Or Ow-w-w!…that hurts!”  or “Pl-e-a-s-e…don’t”) This is another part of the terror for children who were raised as objects of addiction.  The addict parent is operating on the assumption that the child is an object of use and therefore does not need to be allowed a sense of safety by allowing boundaries.  A boundary is seen by the addict parent as something that needs to be demolished in order to keep the child functioning as an object of use.

Note: Rebellion is dangerous in dysfunctional families where the child is being used as an object of an addition.  A rebellious child is similar to removing cigarettes from an addict addicted to smoking or removing heroin from an addict addicted to heroin.  The addict’s reaction to a rebellious child will be violent and non-supportive.  Setting a boundary to maintain the protection of oneself is also seen as a rebellious act by addict parents because they see this as keeping them from their addiction of needing to use something or someone to feel better or avoiding feeling bad.

Children who grow up in addiction have high tolerance levels for abuse and scared feelings.  Being abused and feeling scared becomes normal feeling and goes unnoticed or repressed.  Also called stuffing or numbing feelings.

Today’s Bonus borrowed from …In All Our Affairs:

Detachment with love sometimes means loving ourselves enough to suspend blame, fear, guilt and self pity long enough to separate the problem from ourselves, until we can clarify our options and responsibilities, identify how we are contributing to the problem, and let go of the rest.

I was first reminded that for the alcoholic, drinking is not the problem—it’s the solution.  Alcohol had served as the source of his security, courage, and serenity.  Today he is often in a state of panic because he has not yet found other sources for these very real needs….If you do want the marriage, they told me, then accept the fact that you will not get healthy behavior from a sick person or logical statements from an illogical person.

When violence first occurred in my marriage, I truly thought it was my fault and that I should never say or do anything to anger my alcoholic husband.  If I did, I thought he was justified, because in my mind he was always right; therefore I must be wrong.  Because I didn’t want to think badly of him, I just denied that any violence occurred.

Read more Clinton S. Clark at The Art Department

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