By Diana Clark
Posted in Family Systems
Joe is a charming 30-year-old man who after graduating from college, returned to his hometown and began working for his family business. Unbeknownst to his parents, he returned with an addiction to opiates and for the last several years he has held his family hostage to his disorder. He rarely goes to work, yet expects a paycheck. He rarely prepares food, yet expects to be fed. When denied any request he flies into a rage and threatens to cut off all communication with his parents. He steadfastly maintains that therapy and treatment don’t work yet he never remains with any provider for more than a session or two. When his parents are asked what steps they have taken to protect themselves from Joe’s increasing demands, they shrug and say they have created a monster and don’t know how to change the dynamic. They beg Joe to get the help he needs, but Joe remains entirely resistant.
Expecting gratification of dreams and demands without commensurate work can lead to a sense of entitlement. This is a tricky parenting issue in this era of immediate gratification and many of the families we work with describe their concerns about entitlement with their otherwise healthy children. When combined with addiction the issue takes on a more menacing flavor. Addiction flourishes in circumstances where the person struggling with an addictive disorder is insulated from the consequences of their disorder. Such a situation often alleviates the need for sobriety.
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The following checklist may be helpful in identifying whether a parents’ behavior is a contributing factor to this all to common dynamic:
- When my loved one asks for something, my immediate impulse is to agree.
- I take care of all the mundane tasks for my loved one.
- When a problem arises in my loved one’s life, I seek to try to change the source of the problem instead of expecting my loved one to adjust.
- I have always stretched beyond my financial means to provide the best for my loved one.
- I made excuses for my addicted loved one’s failure to follow through on personal or professional obligations.
- I have paid my addicted loved one’s bills or other financial obligations even when they are actively using substances.
- I have loaned money to my loved one to pay the bills he neglected to pay.
- I have borrowed money from others to pay my loved one’s bills.
- I have taken over my addicted loved one’s responsibilities.
- I have listened to him whine about the unfairness of life.
- I have invested in my loved one’s business ventures even when the plans weren’t well thought out.
- I continued to pay for school even when they weren’t doing their part.
- I have bought him things to make her happy even when I didn’t want to.
- I have allowed disrespectful language to be aimed at me.