Can you be addicted to a show about addiction?
When it comes to people with a substance abuse problem, I was not surprised by the prevalence of:
- childhood abuse, particularly sexual abuse
- religious abuse
- domestic violence
- substance abuse in the home
I was surprised by how many of the drug addicts were the "star" or the favorite of the family. Their siblings who were dismissed as just regular folks did not become drug addicts.
I was not surprised how many adult drug addicts were:
- spoiled as children
- not given boundaries
- allowed to run wild (aka "free)
- made into mom's or dad's friend/collaborator/buddy/sibling instead of their child
When her brother offered the southern belle a reprieve, telling her, "You don't have to be the belle of the ball anymore," she broke down, sobbing with relief. What a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She could just be a regular person now!
Having worked with heroin addicts for several years I know from experience that the addicts who are hardest to treat are those whose parents never let them fall. I will remember forever the image of the 50 year old heroin addict's 70 year old mother, eyeglasses held together with a piece of tape, with a run in hose, trying her best to look presentable on what little income she had left, still working a full-time job and living with her sister so she could continue to bail him out of jail for shoplifting just one more time.
I was happy to see that the show pointed out how prevalent and dangerous prescription drug abuse is. The typical belief by people addicted to such medications is that they are not addicts because the medications are prescribed for them. If a doctor gives it to them - that makes it OK. Because they are not illegal.
They also portray enabling very well. One interventionist states, "If we could get the parents into treatment we might stand a chance." And he's right. In fact, in later episodes they start sending the family members to treatment as well, for their codependence. Examples of enabling which are depicted include:
- Driving the addict to get heroin or buy alcohol
- Buying drugs or alcohol for them so they won't experience the natural consequences of their addiction (i.e. withdrawal symptoms, having to prostitute themselves to buy more drugs)
- Allowing them to live with you because they would be homeless otherwise because they are spending all their money on drugs or alcohol
- Denial that they are on drugs
- Covering up for them with others
- Giving them money for drugs
- Using your own money to pay for things they should provide for themselves (i.e. rent, clothing, food, car payments, phone bills, etc.) because they have spent all their money on drugs
- Tolerating bad behavior which results from being intoxicated
- Tolerating abuse from the addict (i.e. stealing from you, starting fights, passing out at the dinner table, being abusive, etc.)
- Allowing them to be around your children (One of the interventionists put this very well, "Would you allow any other heroin addict around your children? Into your home?")
- Waiting up all night for them
- Worrying about them
- Allowing them to hijack your life, your emotions (i.e. leaving work to go get them when they get in trouble, staying up all night worrying about them so that you go to work the next day exhausted, being more concerned about their safety than they are, allowing them to disrupt family get togethers/holidays)
- Allowing them to play the sympathy card (you weren't there when I was growing up and that is why I am this way)
- Allowing them to steal all the love and energy from the family (every family get together, every family discussion is dominated by worry and concern for the addict). Accomplishments by other family members (weddings, graduations, job promotions, births) are overshadowed by the addict's drug use.
- Allowing the addict to play the victim
- Breaking the law (Would you allow anyone else to bring illegal substances into your house? Would you take anyone else to the section of town where crack is being sold? Would you allow anyone else to drive drunk and not say anything? Would you allow anyone else to smoke crack in your home?)
- Allowing them to screw up your life (getting into a fight at your wedding, showing up late to family functions, disrupting events, causing serious tension in your own relationships, jeopardizing your marriage)
- Caring more about them than they care for themselves
- Parenting grown children (doing their laundry, cleaning their house, running their errands, driving them around, cooking for them, paying their bills)
I think this would be an interesting show for new parents to watch. See what these parents and families did to create these situations so you might avoid repeating the same behavior with your young children.