The Family Dependent

Every day I speak with people calling to place a family member or loved one in treatment for issues related to addiction. Their expectations on how treatment should look are very subjective, clouded by years of pain and suffering. Some people just want to find a workable solution to living with a functioning alcoholic, or to manage their professional who is addicted to heroin, so that no one at work will find out. It is hard to comprehend the toll an alcoholic or addict takes on the family.

I once worked with a family whose son and brother was almost sixty-years-old and was still living in the same apartment his parents rented for him during his under-graduate degree program. He never held a job, but made a nominal income working from this apartment – buying and selling collectibles online. This man had never lived anywhere other than this place and he had developed no personal or social network. He had an alcohol use disorder throughout college and this steadily worsened over the years.

Rather than make the necessary tough decisions and enforce firm boundaries as parents, his mother continued to pay the rent and support him for the next thirty years. No one in the immediate family took any notice of this behavior – until the mother passed away. The son’s father admitted to not acknowledging the co-dependency of his wife towards their adult son, as this was the easier route, requiring no direct confrontation. After his mother passed, there was no one in the family who wanted to take on the duties required to support him and so the calls were made to find him treatment – almost thirty-years after the problem became apparent! This man did not have the opportunity to develop a career, have a family or even mature to the point where he could sustain an independent life, he was completely dependent on his family for his care. At Arrowhead Lodge Recovery, we were privileged to help this man begin his long journey back into the world.