Addiction, like any other chronic illness, requires a network of participants that either supports the illness or supports recovery from it. Whether dealing with heart disease, diabetes, asthma or a host of other health conditions, the constellation of people involved include all those who in some way live with, accommodate, tolerate or support the illness. Similarly, recovery from addiction requires a constellation of family and supportive others to maximize the opportunity for ongoing sobriety.
Treatment for addiction, like other chronic illnesses, is generally sought at the height of a crisis such as a heart attack or diabetic shock. In the case of addiction a turning point may be one that involves a “bottoming out” whether it be physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, financially , legally or spiritually. The crisis is the event or series of events that occur when the system (often the family) is shaken and the veracity of the progression is realized. The question then becomes, “How did we get here?”
Each family system influenced by alcoholism and/or drug addiction is as unique as a fingerprint. Though it may share many of the same general characteristics as others, it is comprised of qualities, events and personalities that must be understood and negotiated by all parties. With active addiction present, the balance and equilibrium in a family system is generally affected gradually over a period of time. For example, the system may swing away from an open system and move toward a closed system if large amounts of attention and energy are required by the addict. The health and supportive attention normally directed to other family members is depleted by the prioritization of the addict. When this shift occurs, a type of “dysfunctional equilibrium” results.
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