“Detachment is not a wall; it is a bridge.”
–Courage to Change p. 22
Detachment. It’s often viewed as an ugly word, at least at first, by family members who love someone who struggles with alcoholism or addiction. Many of us come with pre-conceived notions about what detachment means. Most of us decide, without delving any further into the concept, that it means abandonment. And, we know that we’re not willing to abandon someone we love, especially when they are struggling, so therefore we won’t be detaching from them – thank you very much!
You might remember the famous “Last Lecture” given a few years ago. Well, this is my last blog and so I am going to share with you three of the most important realizations I have been blessed with in my years as a twelve-stepper. My recovery date is May 1, 1979 and so I consider myself a mere beginner in The Climb, but here is my humble offering.
My sobriety date is July 4, 1989. I planned it that way. It became clear that I needed to get sober, but I was taking a lot of drug as well as drinking a lot, and detox was difficult, at age 40. I chose to detox myself, gradually, over a period of six weeks. The timing worked out to July third, but I stretched it a bit, because I thought that the Fourth of July, Independence Day, would make a better sobriety anniversary.
In the spring of 1989, I finally figured out that I was an alcoholic. I had taught Addiction Studies in a Graduate School for four years without ever figuring out that I was an alcoholic. I even told the old joke that an alcoholic is someone who drinks more than his doctor, not realizing that I thought that an alcoholic was someone who drinks more than an associate professor. It was only years later, when I decided to go to Hazelden as a student in their chemical dependency counselor program that I read the textbook, the DSM-III-R, and applied it to myself that I figured it out. I carefully detoxed myself over a six week period and joined the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. I did so with a sense of grim resignation.
I made it through another Mother’s Day. As a person who loves to celebrate, I definitely love the aspect of honoring the loving, nurturing women in our lives. And, yet, it can still be a reminder of something that is missing in my own life – something that I dreamed of that didn’t take place because of the disease of alcoholism.
I have been amazed at how many of us come forth from a good 5th step and immediately say, “I sure have a lot to work on.” We climb to the sixth step and realize that we have nothing to work on, unless our Higher Power indicates such to us. The 6th step is counter-intuitive. I am eager to get working on my defects but my Higher Power is telling me to hold my horses until He gives the command, pointing out which shortcoming He wants to lengthen and what he wants from me.
Tomorrow I’m flying to Grand Rapids, Michigan and driving an hour north to the town of Greenville. It used to be prosperous when there was an Electrolux vacuum cleaner factory there, but the factory moved to Mexico in 2006. 2700 people lost their jobs, and the economy has not recovered. The town is 90% white, and many people drive an hour into Grand Rapids for jobs. There are no treatment opportunities in the county.
On April 29th, Claudia Black, Ph.D. and national expert on the family disease of addiction, will be presenting a workshop sponsored by The Retreat titled “Transforming Families: From Script to Choice.” This workshop will explore different ways families respond to addiction and alcoholism, including the scripts children adopt in reaction to this situation. This month’s blog post briefly describes one of these adopted roles, the “Mascot.”
Mascots are often identified as the “family clown.” They have adapted a knack to distract from the tension that is often created where addiction is present, and, hence, relieve some stress and pain for themselves and others in the family. These children have learned to avoid hard feelings, whether consciously or unconsciously, through attention seeking, humor, or acting out. The Mascot’s goal is to distract from the difficulties families dealing with addiction often face.
Due to the amount of time they spend acting, these children can lose touch with their authentic self, and can carry this role of actor into their adult years. Some adult Mascots find themselves unable to face challenging situations. They avoid conflict because their coping skill didn’t allow for learning how to take important matters seriously. As a result, Mascots are susceptible to acting inappropriately, crossing boundaries, and missing important social maturity markers.
Mascots also risk the potential of measuring self-worth by how others see them. They long to be liked, and become confused when they are not the center of attention. They may feel uneasy in the absence of drama and may create a diversion in order to feel normal. Mascots are prone to struggle with intimacy issues because they’ve learned to protect themselves from their feelings.
However, Mascots have also developed the gift of being adaptable and flexible in dealing with whatever life throws their way.
There is hope. Join us at our workshop on Friday, April 29th, when Claudia Black will share insights on how to change the Mascot’s role, and all of the roles that have been mentioned in this blog in the last few months. We hope to see you there! Here’s a link for more information, or to register for this exciting, Claudia Black, Ph.D. and national expert on the family disease of addiction opportunity, follow this link!
All children living in homes where addiction is present experience some sort of impact. Some of their reactions are predictable, while some dynamic behavior combinations are completely unique and organic to each child. These reactions are defenses and are all situationally established to create a sense of safety or relief. Claudia Black, Ph.D. and national expert on the Family Disease of Addiction, has researched the patterns of reactions that children experience. She identifies one of these childhood roles as “The Scapegoat”.