Oh, the holidays! When we think of them, so many thoughts and images pop into our heads! Snow! Family! Food! Togetherness! Traditions, old and new! Excitement is in the air, and we start planning how and when our ideal holiday will come together. Unfortunately, for those who have a loved one struggling with alcoholism or addiction, an additional level of stress typically accompanies the holidays: worry that our imagined holiday will turn into our worst-case scenario.
When I started attending recovery meetings for family members affected by someone else’s addiction, something became clear to me pretty quickly: I had no idea how to communicate in a healthy manner.
The communication that had taken place in my marriage when alcoholism was present ran through three phases. Phase 1 was to talk to him about his drinking and use whenever I could, and however I could, in the hope of making him stop. Phase 2 was not talking about his drinking and use at all, with the hope that if I ignored it would go away. Phase 3 was letting the frustration of this situation take over, and not talking about anything – otherwise known as the silent treatment. Of course, staring at someone else and thinking at them until they figure out what’s wrong is not the most effective communication tool…
“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!
As a young child, my father was in the depths of his alcoholism. I remember feeling frightened, confused and uncertain on some days, then happy, joyous, and carefree on others. I didn’t realize that my father’s drinking often determined which feelings would be present in me and my family. I did know that I was never going to be like my father!
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.
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!
Sobriety makes everything different, but it takes more than just the passage of sober days to bring about change. The idea behind my book, “Being Sober and Becoming Happy” is that first we take the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous to get our drinking to stop. Then, if we keep taking those same Twelve Steps, in sobriety, and apply them to everything we do, we end up happy. I’ve had enough time to try this theory out, and to measure the results.