Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Dysfunctional Family Wheel – Part 2 There Is Hope

Last week I shared a brief description of a wife who struggles with the changes as her husband turns his back on former addictive behavior.  I also offered some insights about the various roles within the dysfunctional family wheel.  This week I would like to focus on what happens within a marriage when one begins to heal.  First it is important to understand that there is nothing further from the truth than the expectation that everything will simply fall into place if the addiction would only stop.  While the outside world may view the addict as the “sick one in the family,” my typical response to that is, “unhealthy hearts don’t attracted healthy hearts”!  Although it may manifest in varying ways, the spouse is usually no more healthy than the addict, and the contaminated yeast spreads throughout the entire family.  There is more than the visible addictive behavior that needs to change!

Typically the spouse has played the martyr for years, complaining about the addict’s behavior; however when the addict begins to show interest in being more responsible and helpful, the spouse often resents the addict for “butting into” the world that the spouse has controlled “just fine” alone.  Recovering addicts often feel as though they don’t fit in, are not needed and can’t do anything right.  While it is false security, spouses typically feel safer having the addict dependent upon them and are intimidated by their new independence.  Recovering addicts feel that they were more acceptable to the spouse before they began to seek healing and fight the temptation to return to old patterns of coping.

During the early stages of recovery, the addict’s focus is on healing; leading to limited time for family.  In fact, it often seems that one addiction is replaced with another, i.e. from drugs to Bible study and/or recovery meetings.  In an effort to “stay clean,” the addict often separates from compromising relationships and begins to develop relationships with those who are supportive of healing; consequently it’s not uncommon for the spouse to still feel neglected.  They are both either afraid to talk about their feelings for fear that it will only lead to a relapse or the spouse doesn’t mince any words hoping to shame the addict into returning to his/her “normal’ self.  They both begin to wonder if they have anything in common any longer and the addict often feels as though he/she has grown beyond his/her spouse.

Is there any hope?

Addicts are often drowning in guilt; however their spouses have more difficulty recognizing that they too have fed into the unhealthy cycle.  Without conviction that the damage done in the family is just as much their responsibility as that of the addict, there is little hope for marital healing.  Once conviction has settled deep into the heart of those who are trapped in the unhealthy cycle, they must find hope that change can take place.  Without hope there will never be any sustaining action toward healing.

As inconceivable as it may seem, there is hope!  I have seen the redemptive power of God manifest itself in marriages that appeared to be all but dead when humble and contrite hearts place their lives in the hands of God.  I have witnessed the devastation of addiction, restored not to the original unhealthy relationship, but used to build stronger more Christ-like marriages beyond anything the couple ever imagined.

Don’t give up!  Stay-tuned for next week’s article on the process of recovery.


P.S.  Please feel free to contact me with questions, thoughts, topics you’d like to ponder or to read past articles at:  You may also contact me at: 
             Bonnie Jaeckle
             In Search of the Whole-Hearted Life
             Diagonal Progress
             505 Jefferson St.
             Diagonal, IA 50845 

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