Addiction can take hold of many families and as per statistical analysis, virtually everyone on the globe has interactions with at least one family member, friend, colleague, or associate who has suffered or is currently suffering from addiction. As a field, the culture of addiction has taken great strides over time in developing a definition of addiction as a mental illness which has physical and mental symptoms to overcome as it progresses. In families too, addiction can shred relationships to an extent that sometimes, they are beyond repair, at least for the immediate circumstances. However, many addictive relationships can be put within the context of competitive relationships that have helped to form and maintain these patterns.
Addictive families have undergone labels in current treatment centers with terms such as “enabler”, “codependent” and “co-addicted”. While these terms can realistically describe?? relationships which foster continued use and abuse of drugs and alcohol, many families can have similar titles which do not involve substance use as the primary reason to come into treatment. Families with any individual member who appears to be functioning less in society and in social relationships may or may not present with addiction, but certainly can have individuals in the family system which help to support them being the central figure in dominating family relationships.
Within a competitive perspective, it has taken a great deal of unconscious effort on the part of the identified figure to dominate the family’s focus and attention. Also, it has taken a lot of effort for the family to maintain this perspective, though it can be difficult to see as a family member. A way to perceive how this is so is to look at both functional and dysfunctional sports teams as a system which can either support or shun individuals.
A functional team can utilize special members on the team with talent, leadership skills, or otherwise exceptional characteristics to stand out from other team members as a representative of the organization and a face to the franchise. Examples of these types of individuals include the stars of all types of sports, including Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning, Michael Jordan, and Wayne Gretsky. Along with talent in their respective sports, each has become a dominant figure from their teams as a way to stand apart from their teammates while not being determined as outsiders or troublemakers, but rather as individuals who support the overall system by their contributions.
Dysfunctional teams can also have their stars, and individuals who separate themselves in ways similar to dysfunctional families. Troublemakers on the team or individuals who find themselves in legal or social trouble detract from the overall system and focus negative attention on themselves and the system which supports. Examples of these kind of throughout news sources, including Terrell Owens, Laurence Taylor and Michael Vick. While undeniably talent and special in their own right, each of these players have wreaked havoc on their teams with either legal or social ramifications.
Families can use these examples to restructure their own organizational system. Rather than specializing addicts as members who consume all attention and require a system to reduce their negative influence, their talents and importance to the family system can be instead transformed to highlight hidden layers of talent and uniqueness. Utilizing skills surrounding addiction can be a difficult thing for any family member to make into a reality, and it is frequent that important consequences be set to offset negative behavior. By making this individual a leader and imparting the realization that they can be a rolemodel to other family members, addicted persons can acquire the skills needed to use their skills in an effective, rather than destructive manner.