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Friday, March 4, 2011

How Personal Is Pain?

Many people who suffer from substance abuse believe they have a right to treat themselves in any manner they see fit. Short of knowledge and unwilling to educate themselves, these people do not understand that their abuse creates outcomes that negatively affect other members of their family. As the demon of addiction takes complete control, they become slaves to the substances, unable to reason beyond their next fix.

I believe we must teach all ages about the possible outcomes of negative behaviors. Education must be viewed as a life-long process. Much like a criminal trying to find an "edge" to overcome detection and arrest, we must constantly develop new methods to stem problems that interfere with the good. A criminal never stops trying to be a "step ahead" to perpetuate successful crimes. We must not be willing to remain static, no matter the age, as we seek to defeat evil. Being proactive insures safety.

Those who suffer from substance abuse lose perspective of their proper roles. This is most evident in the role each plays in a family. The family suffers greatly as any one of its members experiences the effects of abuse. Continued abuse and addiction deal families knockout blows, many of which either keep the other members down for the count or maim them permanently. Many families that survive abuse face a future filled with doubt and the fears of relapse. Without extensive help, these families cannot heal.

When should a substance abuser know that he steers a life that is a potential weapon to his family? I believe the answer is very early in life. As soon as an individual takes independent actions, someone must teach him the responsibilities inherently involved. Who would allow a child to take his first spin on a bicycle without the aid of instruction, dry runs, assisted rides, a helmet, training wheels, etc.? More preparation for independent actions of any kind likely produces more favorable outcomes. And, even in case of a mishap, someone must take immediate steps to assure such a thing won't happen again... and take steps again and again if necessary.

To believe that one's actions do not affect the welfare of others is ludicrous. Even the most ruthless people desire to please the ones they love. Granted, some twist and turn the most proper intentions until they become debased; however, they usually do anything to protect their own flesh and blood.

So, why does the substance abuser often hurt those he loves? Usually by the time his molehill of use becomes a mountain of addiction, his physical and mental health have deteriorated, and he views himself hopelessly lost in his own self-destruction. His drive is the hurt and his mission is fueled by the drugs. He doesn't realize that his own pain ignites the torture of those he loves, and even if he does, he is beyond caring. In his mind, he is already a deserted island. Smiling, crying, frowning, laughing, desiring, abstaining -- all become jumbled in a search for pleasure and relief.

Therefore, I propose the family must be responsible for every child. The gang banger, the problem child, the bad seed, the runaway, the little bitch, the bully -- all are products of the family, be it conventional or one-parent or displaced or grandparent centered.

Just as importantly, the child must be taught that his life is complexly intertwined in the lives of all of those he loves. He must know that his bruise, his cut, or his pain is felt by all of those people. Call it an accident of his birth but it exists for the remainder of his life. He must know that his abuse causes terrible abuse to his family.As an integral piece of the family, he must understand the unit cannot be whole without his important participation.

Here are some ways family members who abuse substances affect others. I hope they serve as points of conversation that enlighten all.

1. Children of parents who abuse substances can suffer great risks of emotional development because parents who abuse drugs and alcohol are more likely to be involved with domestic violence, divorce, unemployment, mental illness, and legal problems.

2. Children of parents who abuse substances have a higher prevalence of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and suicide attempts than their peers.

3. Children of parents who abuse substances are three to four times more likely to eventually engage in substance abuse themselves.

4. Children of parents who abuse substances can be neglected and/or physically abused.

5. Children of parents who abuse substances can suffer terrible quality of life as addicted caregivers often spend money otherwise allocated for rent, food, and clothing on drugs.

6. Children of parents who abuse substances can develop repression and denial as they see their parents unable to label and share the experiences of their own emotions.  

7. Children who abuse substances can increase the likelihood that younger brothers and sisters will themselves use drugs and develop drug problems simply because all the children share the same house. 

8. Children who abuse substances can create conflicts between parents and between themselves and their own brothers and sisters, especially if the drug-using child steals goods and money from the home. 

9. Children who abuse substances can cause their parents to develop codependent relationships because the parents develop self-doubt and lie to cover up.  

10. Older children who abuse substances can deliberately introduce their younger brothers and sisters to drug use. 

11. Substance abuse by any family member can lead to loss of family possessions such as cars and homes, and it can also lead to bankruptcy. 

12. Substance abuse by any family member can lead to stress-related health problems (gastrointestinal problems, headaches, migraines, asthma) for others in the family.

13. Substance abuse by any family member can lead to a death that creates indelible scars in the family that never heal.


Barnard, Marina. "Drugs In the Family: The Impact On Parents and Siblings." April 26, 2005.
"Family Effects of Drug Abuse." 2011.

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