Thursday, September 18, 2008


So--who knew?? Not many people have home or school preparation for how to live more effectively with an addict. It should be worth at least 100 credits. If you are the child of an alcoholic, you learned how to survive, but not necessarily how to cope. As an adult, we need coping skills.

People always advise that one should take care of themselves. Sounds good, but what does it mean? In my years as a therapist with the Brighton Hospital family program, there was a simple picture that people seemed to grasp. I drew a boxing ring and in it was a stick figure of the addict doing a wild dance with their addiction. Arms and legs are flailing about. The other stick figure in the ring was the family member standing next to the addict doing all the well-meaning behaviors. Helping, rescuing, lecturing, saving, protecting, etc. Actually, all the family member got for their effort were several bruises as the arms and legs of the addict continued to swing about. Also--the anger grew and grew.

I then moved the family stick figure and simply placed it just outside of one of the ropes of the ring. Protection. Not abandonment, but a safe place from which to observe the ongoing dance of the addict. The rope symbolized all of the ways of taking care of yourself. They included educating yourself about addiction, attending your own support group(Alanon or Naranon),no longer taking it all personally, setting boundaries for yourself, returning to your own authentic life and the things that you have postponed doing, learning to be responsive and not reactive, tending to healthier living.

You would be amazed what changing your perspective can lead to. And, as a bonus, when you finally see that the addict continues the wild dance you can to really see how it is not about you.

Warm regards,
Nan Reynolds