Family Rules, Chemical Dependency and Your Life Today

We learn how to live and interact with others from experiences in our families, growing up, or in our current family environment.  The behaviors  we learned and needed,  become our guide to all the relationships we develop.  So, whether you are a part of, or grew up in, a healthy family or one that was impacted by addiction, you will tend to respond to new people and events the way you learned was best for you in your family. Following are some characteristics of healthy and unhealthy family environments.

See which most apply to you? If your family matches more dysfuntional rather than healthy characteristics, then for your benefit, becoming more aware of how you respond here and now is important for your life. Do you respond to the person and event of the moment, or is it a reflex, a repeat of  a family interaction,  and is this working for you? If you see that reflex actions often take over,  counseling can help you to handle the “now” in a more beneficial way to you.  Check the information below to see  how it might relate to you.


In Healthy Families:

1. Problems are acknowledged and resolved.

2.  All family members are encouraged to express their own: perception; feelings; thoughts and opinions; desires, fantasies.

3. Respect prevails for each person equally.

4. Communication is direct and congruent. (For example, when speaking of death, you are somber, not smiling). Messages are clear, no double meanings; what is said is meant.

5. Needs are met. There is safety, nurturing, physical, emotional care .etc., for each.

6. Each person may be different without being shamed, criticized, etc.

7. Parents can be trusted; they do what they say they will do.

8. Family roles are chosen and flexible.

9. There is an atmosphere of fun and spontaneity.

10. Each is accountable for his/her own behaviors.

11. Violation of others’ values leads to feelings of guilt and remorse.

12. Mistakes are forgiven and viewed as learning tools.

13. Boundaries are clear and flexible.

14. All family rules are appropriate.


In Unhealthy Families:
There is a very different environment. Where there is chemical dependency or other issues that dominate family interactions, (e.g. other addictions, mental or physical disorders, disabilities and such) family members become enmeshed with each other and tend to be without boundaries and have mixed roles and are unpredictable.
 The following often prevail:   ego centered members; denial and shame; inconsistency, insecurity, fear, loss of hope, powerlessness;  anger; guilt and blame.

Family rules revolve around the behaviors and wants of the alcoholic/addict, or other identified patient, such as: enable; don’t talk or express yourself; don’t feel; blame someone else for the problem.

Family members reactions include:  isolating; enabling;  acting in unpredictable, inconsistent and irrational manner; becoming intolerant and distorting of family rules. 

 Traits that predominate the family are:  false sense of control, lack of ability to trust;  devaluation of feelings and needs of self and others;  loss of personal responsibility for problems; having blurred or rigid boundaries. 



When the “identified patient”  gets into recovery and begins a better life, the impact of the disease of chemical dependency on family members does not resolve itself.  It is just the beginning for the addicted person and the family. 

Research tells us the family members also need to tend to their own recovery and change from the unhealthy behaviors that had been used to survive in that environment.  This is true, whether or not the alcoholic/addict recovers.

Living in the “unhealthy” family has spawned terms such as codependent, ACOA, (adult children of an alcoholic), COA (children of an alcoholic), to help classify the trauma to those without addiction personally, so they may learn a better, more self-caring, and serene lifestyle. 

Counseling can provide support needed, for the addict or affected friends and family, to find the path to better lives.  I can help you access the tools you need and the ways to use them, so you are able to heal the damages and scars you suffered from your ordeal.

                              “What we fail to remember, we are doomed to repeat.”