Lesson 5 of 7 - evolve a high-nurturance family

About Addiction, Recovery,
and Personality Subselves

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council

The Web address of this 3-page article is https://sfhelp.org/fam/addiction.htm

  Updated  02-02-2015

      Clicking underlined links here will open a new window. Other links will open  an informational popup, so please turn off your browser's popup blocker or allow popups from this nonprofit Web site. If your playback device doesn't support Javascript, the popups may not display. Follow underlined links after finishing this article to avoid getting lost.

      This brief video clip overviews key points in this article:

      This is one of a series of articles on evolving a high-nurturance ("functional") family (Lesson 5). The series exists because the wide range of current U.S. social problems suggests that most families don't fill the primary needs of (nurture) their members very well. That suggests the epidemic effects of the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle proposed in this nonprofit Web site .

      Addiction is a major stressor in all societies. There is widespread public confusion and ignorance about what true addictions are, what causes them, who they affect, and what to do about them. This brief series of articles offers perspective on these topics.

      If you're concerned about an adult or child you believe may be addicted - including yourself - keep her or him in mind as you consider the ideas below.

This 3-page article covers...

   What is an addiction?

   Perspective on addictions

   What is co-addiction?

   Symptoms of a true addiction

What is enabling?

Your language can hurt or help

True and pseudo addiction recovery

Options if another adult is addicted:

A related 2-page article in Lesson 1 offers options for managing a personal addiction. Read this artice4 first.

      This article assumes you're familiar with:..

       I've been a professional family-system therapist since 1981, I've been recovering since 1986 from being raised in an alcoholic (low nurturance) family. I have studied the topics in this series professionally since then, and struggled with my own denials, wounds, and unhealthy compulsions as an ACoA - Adult Child of an Alcoholic family.

      I completed a 9-month graduate-school course on clinical work with addicted families, and I have learned about addictions and their effects from thousands of hours working with adults and children with addicted (wounded) ancestors and family members. Many were in divorcing families and stepfamilies.

  What is an Addiction?

      Have you ever "obsessed" about someone or something? An obsession is something that a person can't stop thinking about. A habit is a semi-automatic learned sequence of thoughts and actions that can be controlled. A compulsion is a repetitive action-sequence which the person cannot control by "willpower."

      The behavior sequence may or may not be harmful  - e.g. overdrinking vs. excessive nail-biting, scratching, fantasizing, or hand-washing. A true addiction is a compulsion to do something repeatedly that is clearly harmful to one's self and/or other persons.

      There are four types of addiction, which all work the same way:

  • compulsive ingestion of substances, including caffeine, nicotine, ethyl alcohol, "street" and prescription drugs, and some "comfort" foods high in sugar and fat. Some substance addictions like ethyl alcohol and heroine are amplified by bodily cravings.

  • compulsive activities, like work, sex (including pornography), exercise, worship, cleaning, overeating, shopping, Internet usage, fantasizing, and gambling;

  • compulsive relationships - i.e. codependence; and ...

  • compulsive mind/body "states" like addiction to righteous causes (zealotry); anger ("rageaholism"), and sexual or other excitement (adrenaline "rushes.")

      All true addictions follow a predictable course, and have common traits (below). They all serve to temporarily distract (self-medicate) the person from relentless inner pain - i.e. shame + guilts + anxieties (fears) + hurts + confusion + anger + frustration + sadness + hopelessness (despair).

  What Causes Addiction?

      Answers to this age-old question have ranged from "demons" to "lunar rays" (hence "lunatic") to a "weak will," to "addictive or immoral personalities." The advent of family-systems therapy in the 1950s, and of codependence, "Inner Child," and Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA) concepts in the 1980s, have combined to suggest a new explanation for addictions.

      An increasing number of mental-health professionals now believe that non-organic addictions are promoted by traumatic early-childhood experiences - e.g. chronic neglect, abuse, and/or parental abandonment. These are epidemic and widely denied in many cultures, I propose that they are caused by the silent [wounds + unawareness] cycle passing silently down the generations. Most professionals now accept that true addictions stress all members of a family system, not just the addict.

      These ideas and my own research and experience suggest these premises...

  • To survive low-nurturance ("dysfunctional") families, kids automatically develop "false selves" - a group of protective personality subselves focused on survival and immediate need-gratification ("comfort"). Usually kids' caretakers were raised in similar dysfunctional environments, and are unaware that they're controlled by false selves (wounded) also.

  • For various reasons, the environment and these subselves cause children and adults unrelenting inner pain.

  • To reduce and distract from their inner pain, typical kids develop a protective Guardian subself that can be called 'the Addict/Comforter.' This well-meaning personality specialist discovers that one or more of the four kinds of addiction effectively reduces current inner pain temporarily.

      This dedicated subself persuades the host person to medicate (distract) from their pain via a toxic compulsion despite the reality that doing so inexorably increases their inner pain and stresses important other people.

      Implication: having "an addictive personality" really means "surviving a low-nurturance childhood, and being controlled by a false self which obsessively tries to help the person reduce their inner pain via one or more locally-comforting rituals or relationships."

  • As inner pain increases, so do unconscious attempts to self-medicate it. This - and the painful social consequences of self-medication - cause all true addictions to progress through predictable stages.

      This relentless progression cn take years to reach a conclusion. It's illustrated by variations of the Jellinek Curve used in many addiction-recovery programs. Depending on many factors, the wounded person may eventually (a) hit bottom and find a healthier way of managing their inner pain ("recovery"), or (b) die prematurely.

      Note that the Curve originated when people still felt that addiction was a personal problem ("disease"). It would be more appropriate to chart the predictable changes in family dynamics as an addiction progresses - e.g.

  • reality distortion: denial, minimizing, and/or rationalization of any problems, and avoidance of any confrontations;

  • increasing conflicts, anxieties, frustrations, hurts, resentments, guilts, and anger;

  • unsuccessful attempts to confront the addict and/or co-addict and get them to change;

  • increasing trouble in and with one or more dependent kids,

  • escalating marital, work, legal, and/or financial problems, and possible psychological or legal divorce; and...

  • one or more family adults (a) hitting true bottom and starting to control (vs. cure) the addiction - and/or (b) suffering possible major health problems and premature death.

      Some substance addictions develop physiological cravings which intensify the toxic dependence - e.g. nicotine, caffeine, some carbohydrates (?), and heroine. These are cellular/hormonal reactions like hunger and sleepiness, not psychological responses. Alcoholism has a genetic predisposition - i.e. genetic alcoholics metabolize ethyl alcohol (which powers car engines) differently than non-addicts.

About the 12 "Anonymous" Steps for Recovery...

      The 12-step "Anonymous" program of life-principles, spirituality, and supportive fellowship is consistently more effective than other ways of controlling addictions ("sobriety"). This seems to be true because the program offers self-reinforcing emphasis on breaking protective denials + nurturing spirituality + giving up attempts to control the uncontrollable (inner pain) + genuinely accepting self-responsibility for addictive behaviors and consequences, and honestly apologizing (reducing guilt) where possible.

      Paradoxically, the tradition of protecting 12-step participants and their families from social and religious censure by "anonymity" (e.g. "Alcoholics Anonymous") promotes the harmful myth that addiction is a shameful personal choice - which encourages toxic self-medication!

      The traditional 12 Steps ignore the key role that personality subselves and low-nurturance environments play in promoting self-medicating compulsions. That's (probably) why many addicts adopt pseudo recovery and/or resume addictive rituals (relapse) despite painful consequences and "knowing better." See this proposed amendment to the Steps when you finish here.

      (a) Choosing a more nurturing environment and (b) intentionally stabilizing (vs. "curing") an active addiction via an effective 12-step program for at least a year are essential for effective reduction of  psychological wounds. Lesson 1 in this nonprofit Web site and its related guidebook are about effective wound (inner pain) reduction.

      Recap - I propose that all true addictions are caused by a person's ruling subselves trying to self-medicate (mute) relentless inner pain by one or more of four compulsive strategies. These strategies always work (reduce inner pain) short-term - and increase the inner pain, long-term.

      True addictions are a symptom of family dysfunction (wounded, unaware adults), not just a personal problem. If you're concerned about someone who may be addicted, do these premises fit what you know of their early and current lives and families?

      Pause and reflect. How do these premises about addictions compare with your beliefs? Who's answering - your true Self (capital "S") or "someone else"?

      An important element in understanding addicted families is the concept of "co-addiction."

 What is Co-addiction?

      Since the advent of family-systems therapy in the 1950's, society has begun to see that typical addicts' mates ("co-addicts") grow predictable, psychologically-toxic traits of their own. Three stand out:

      Co-addicts typically grow their own reality distortions (e.g. denials) about the addict's behavior and its harmful impacts ("Carl is a little overzealous about sex, but he's certainly not addicted to it.") This is probably so because wounded survivors of low-nurturance childhoods seem to instinctively pick each other as partners and associates over and over again, until they hit bottom and commit to reducing their psychological wounds.

      Many co-addicts become obsessed with the welfare and behavior of their wounded partner. This is a symptom of the widespread condition (vs. "disease") called codependence - relationship addiction. Codependence is an unconscious compulsion that reduces the wholistic health of typical family systems. The wholistic health of dependent kids is being diminished by two or more wounded (addicted) caregivers, not one. And...

      Until a co-addict's toxic compulsion is owned and controlled (vs. cured), they often enable their addicted partners. That is, they unintentionally promote the addiction's progress by fearing to confront their partner on their harmful behaviors and assert healthy limits ("Janice, trust me. If you go on one more credit-card binge, I'm going to file for divorce and custody of the kids.")

      Implications: (a) any addiction is a family affliction, and (b) where there is an addict, there is often a co-addict and/or enabler/s. The psychological wounds and unawareness that promote unendurable inner pain and compulsive self-medication reduce family nurturance-levels. This inexorably passes the inner pain and adaptive psychological wounding on to the next generation.

      Pause and reflect on what you just read. If there is an "addict" or co-addict in your life, can you see that person as a wounded survivor of childhood trauma and major family dysfunction? Adopting that view is the first step in offering meaningful help.

      Have you wondered "How do I know if someone is 'addicted' or just 'overdoing (something stressful)'"?

Symptoms of a True Addiction

      This heading should really read "Symptoms of Compulsive Self-medication for Significant Inner Pain." Stay clear: the real question is: "What are symptoms of significant psychological wounds?"

      In the last several generations, it's become clear that true addictions (vs. "overdoing it") have observable symptoms like these:

      The "addict" (Grown Wounded Child) denies or discounts that they have a harmful compulsion, despite compelling evidence; or they acknowledge "I may have a problem," and find they cannot stop their toxic self-medication ritual despite repeated attempts to do so. ("I've tried to quit smoking three times, and can't do it.") A related symptom is that the person's relatives, friends, and coworkers may also deny, minimize, and/or justify the toxic compulsion and its harmful effects.

      Common symptoms of an addictive relationship or family are co-addiction (codependence) and enabling. Enabling is avoiding painful, honest confrontations with an addict about their self-destructive attitudes, wounds, and behaviors.

      This avoidance is often justified by a dedicated Magician personality subself who insists persuasively that this is a caring way of "not hurting the addict." Other protective Guardian subselves may urge putting off needed confrontations to avoid dire consequences.

      True addictions inevitably get worse over time despite increasingly painful results - unless the wounded person hits true (vs. pseudo) bottom. The Jellinek Curve illustrates this progression for all four types of addiction, not just alcoholism. Common progression themes are...

  • increasing denials, lies, avoidances, and evasions - and denying and/or rationalizing these;

  • failed attempts to reduce or stop the addiction/s ("relapses"), and/or evasions and excuses for not trying to stop;

  • relentlessly increasing emotional numbness and/or denials of inner pain in all family members, particularly shame + guilt + anxiety + regret + frustration + confusion + hopelessness (despair). These cause increasing worry, complaints, demands, and conflicts with family members and associates;

  • increasing social "problems" like kids acting out, psychological or legal divorce, loss of work, physical and/or "mental illness", financial problems, crime, etc. And for some people, a key symptom is....

  • hitting bottom and committing to true (vs. pseudo) addiction management - i.e. permanent changes in attitudes, values, and behaviors that reduce or stop the toxic self-medication ritual without adopting a new one; or....

  • cross addiction - "controlling" one addiction (e.g. overeating), and starting and denying another one (e.g. codependence). A widespread example of cross addiction and group denial occurs in many 12-step "Anonymous" meetings - e.g. haze of cigarette smoke (substance addiction: nicotine), and an always-full coffee pot (substance addiction: caffeine.)

      Another common symptom of compulsive self-medication is...

      Repeated cycles of [ harmful and/or embarrassing behavior > surges of guilt, shame, remorse, and anxiety; > fervent vows to "never do it again!," because...

  • the underlying inner pain is the same or greater, and...

  • the person's family and social environment has probably not become more nurturing (functional),

the person relapses (repeats the toxic self-medication cycle) despite earnest vows not to do so. This inevitably increases self-scorn (shame), guilt, and hopelessness - and other peoples' distrust and skepticism.

      A fifth symptom of true addiction is relentlessly-increasing stress in and among family members, friends, and society; and declining tolerances for addiction behaviors. The psychological wounds and unawareness that promote self-medication relentlessly erode self esteem, relationships, and families. This promotes minor kids' inheriting their ancestors' [wounds + ignorance] and developing inner pain and self-medications of their own.

      As this happens, typical family members increase their false-self behaviors. This causes significant secondary (surface) problems, which increases inner pain. A common dynamic is to (fruitlessly) try to reduce the secondary problems ("You have to stop lying to me!") without identifying and filling the primary needs that cause them ("Can I do something to make it safer for you to tell the truth?")

      Discussions about addiction recovery often refer to "hitting bottom." What is that?

About "Hitting Bottom"

       Some psychologically-wounded people (GWCs) eventually accumulate enough despair, weariness, and pain to "hit bottom," often in mid-life. They break long-held denials and distortions and admit "My life is out of control," and "I am solely responsible for hurting other people by my attitudes and behaviors, and for gaining control of my life."

      Frequently, addicts experience "trial (preliminary) bottoms" and relapses before hitting true bottom. Other survivors of low-nurturance childhoods endure dissatisfying lives and die prematurely without knowing why, or what they might have done to improve their lives and guard their descendents against wounding.

Assessing for Symptoms of Addiction

      Typical people who care about (or are addicted to) an addict are unaware of being hindered by their own psychological wounds and ignorance. The best chance for making an effective assessment about whether someone (or a family) is "addicted" (wounded and ignorant) is to hire a professional addictions counselor, tho they have wounds, biases, and ignorances too.

      Unbiased assessment of the symptoms above requires (a) being guided by your true Self (capital "S"), and (b) factual knowledge of...

  • psychological wounds and their symptoms;

  • addiction fundamentals (this article or equivalent);

  • family systems and nurturance levels  

  • the [wounds + ignorance] cycle and its main effects on persons and families; and...

  • the person's progressive behaviors over some months or years.

Do you have these requisites now?

      To raise your odds of accurate addiction-assessment, (a) hire a professional addictions counselor, and (b) search the Web for current addiction-assessment resources. An excellent resource is the Hazelden Institute. Tho it focuses on chemical addictions, most of its resources apply to other toxic compulsions as well. Another useful resource is here.

      Expect any "addiction recovery" resources (including all 12-step programs) to (a) not know about  personality subselves and psychological wounds, and (b) to label addiction as a personal "disease" instead of a symptom of family dysfunction.

      We just reviewed the common symptoms of a true addiction, and perspective on hitting bottom and addiction-assessment. Now let's explore an often-overlooked recovery factor:

  Your Language Can Hurt or Help

      Premise - How people (like you) think, speak, and write about "addiction" and "addiction recovery" can help or hinder them. For many people, the words addict, addiction, addicted to, and addictive personality automatically evoke pity, scorn, shame, and associations with sickness, disease, impairment, distrust, disgust, scorn, and pity. Is this true of you? These unconscious associations can significantly hinder managing your or someone else's toxic compulsion.

      Option - intentionally choose less evocative and more accurate terms like wounded, compulsion, and self-medicating, as in "Maria is self-medicating her inner wounds (or inner pain) by compulsive shopping." Notice how that feels compared to "Maria is a shopaholic."

      Our unaware, wounded ancestors looked to doctors to "cure" alcoholism, so we have inherited their misconception that an addiction is a disease. Diseases are malfunctioning cells and organs caused by "chemical imbalances," environmental toxins, and germs.

      These do not apply to addictions, which are a psychological/spiritual symptom of inner pain + unawareness. (exception - alcoholism has a genetic predisposition). The risk in reflexively thinking and saying "I'm addicted - I have a disease." is psychological.

      People who feel they are sick are apt to feel less good or whole than "healthy people." This promotes shame and semi-conscious anxiety ("What if my disease gets worse? What if I can't heal it?") Shame and anxiety amplify the inner pain wounded people are trying to reduce.

      Unfortunately, most current 12-step "Anonymous" literature, teaching, and programs ignorantly promote the harmful misconception that addictions are an individual disease rather than a symptom of major family dysfunction.

       More helpful terms are...

  • psychologically wounded vs. addicted,

  • wounds vs. character defect,

  • condition vs. disease,

  • trial bottom vs. relapse, and...

  • "family problem" (or "self-medication") vs. "addiction."

      People who resist changing their terminology probably deny they're wounded and ruled by a false self.

      The phrase addiction recovery can be misleading, because it implies that self-medicating people "get over" their toxic compulsion, like regaining sight after temporary blindness. A more factual  term to use is addiction management. - e.g. "Pat is trying to manage (vs. recover from) her overeating compulsion."

      The real issue is reducing psychological wounds and related inner pain, not focusing on compulsive self-medication. Addicts who hit true bottom and accept their wounds and subselves can learn to reduce inner pain by freeing their true Self to guide them. Lesson 1 here shows how to do this.

      Using the term sobriety for non-alcoholic addictions (e.g. "I've been sober from my sexual addiction for 11 months") risks unconscious associations with harmful biases about alcoholism - e.g. shame, guilt, and disease. A more neutral language choice is "I haven't acted on..." as in "I haven't acted on my sexual compulsion for 11 months now." 

      Finally, note the implication of the term Anonymous in the title of typical 12-step addiction-recovery programs and materials (e.g. "Codependents Anonymous"). This label came from the old misperception that alcoholism came from a shameful "weak will," surrender to the Devil, and/or "moral weakness." Our ignorant ancestors taught each other that addiction could be "cured" by willpower, moral righteousness, and being "humble and God fearing." Not true.

      Would you say that being depressed, rageful, or having a sleep disorder is "shameful"? Trying to self-medicate inherited inner pain deserves compassion and caring confrontation, not scorn or pity! Premise - personal, family, and societal health would be better served if 12-step policy-makers and members agreed to update their organizational titles to something less inherently shaming, like "codependents United" or equivalent. What do you think?

      Recap - intentionally choosing emotionally-neutral terms to discuss addictions and recovery can help people and their families manage an addiction successfully. Ignoring your terminology risks hindering someone's recovery because of unconscious assumptions and word-associations. On a scale of one (I strongly disagree) to 10 (I strongly agree), where do you stand on this premise now?

       You've just read what an addiction is, four types of addiction, what causes them, typical addiction symptoms, co-addiction, and useful terminology options. Now we'll explore...

  • perspective on true and pseudo addiction recovery,

  • an addiction-knowledge status check, and

  • options for confronting an addict and/or enabler.

      Recall why you began reading this. Has anything changed? Before continuing, do you need a break?

      You've probably heard or read about recovery from an addiction. What is that?.

True and Pseudo Addiction "Recovery"

      Reality - some "addicts" (Grown Wounded Children) can stop their compulsive behaviors and "stinking thinking" (self-destructive attitudes and beliefs). Others can't. Many factors combine to explain why this is so for a particular person and family. A comprehensive description of these factors is beyond the scope of this article. Here are some key things to consider:

      Three phases of personal wound-reduction are...

  • pseudo or trial recoveries,

  • preliminary (addiction) recovery, and...

  • full (inner-wound) recovery.

True addiction recovery traits are...

  • observable lasting changes in basic priorities and attitudes, usually including a meaningful relationship with a Higher Power;

  • stable long-term avoidance of the addictive thinking and behaviors; and usually...

  • committing to some version of the 12-step principles as daily-life guides.

Some people can achieve these without attending an in-patient treatment program and/or a 12-step program, and others can't. Variables that determine this are...

the accumulated pain from wounds and addiction-effects (moderate to unbearable), plus...

the degree of the person's false-self wounding (minor to massive), plus...

the nurturance-levels of the person's home + family + work + community environment (low to high)

Pseudo Recovery and Relapses

      Some survivors of a low-nurturance childhood stop their compulsive behaviors but (a) start a compensating (cross) addiction, and/or they (b) do not really adopt the 12 steps in their daily lives. This suggests that the person's ruling subselves are pretending to "recover" without giving up their protective toxic attitudes and self-medicating rituals.

       Usually people who have not hit true bottom adopt some form of this pseudo recovery, which may or may not lead to one or more relapses to their old compulsive behaviors and denials and/or justifications. ("Becky has started shoplifting again.")

      Premise - pseudo recovery is caused by [unendurable inner pain + denial of psychological wounds + an impasse between subselves who want to recover and those who are afraid to]. This can change if the person hits true bottom and commits to some form of 'parts work.'  Pseudo addiction-recovery can be viewed as a useful step toward hitting true bottom rather than a "failure."

       Premise - most (all?) relapses are really caused by the person (a) not hitting true bottom first, and (b) not committing to permanently reduce their inner pain by freeing their resident true Self, harmonizing their team of personality subselves, and improving the nurturance-level of their relationships, home, religious community, and workplace or school.

      Most lay and professional people don't know or accept this definition of the cause of the four addictions and how to "treat" that cause. The good news is, acceptance is slowly growing. The bad news is - minor kids in addicted families are still inheriting psychological wounds and ignorance. For practical ideas on how to break this tragic bequest, see this article after you finish this.

+ + +

      To see if you're ready to apply the ideas above,  get undistracted and try this... 

Knowledge Check

      See where you are now. T = "true;" F = "false, and ? = "I'm not sure," or "It depends on (what?)"

I can describe the concepts of _ personality subselves, _ true Self, and _ false self to an average teenager now. (T  F  ?)

I accept that personality subselves are normal and real, not "pathological." (T  F  ?) If you don't, read these Q&A items and this letter to you, and try this safe, interesting exercise.

I can _ clearly explain the difference between a low-nurturance and high-nurturance family to another person now, and _ I can describe at least 10 typical traits of the latter. (T  F  ?) 

I can clearly define _ what an addiction is, and _ the four kinds of addiction. (T  F  ?)

I accept that _ a true addiction is a symptom low family nurturance, so _ addiction is a family problem, not just a personal one. Restated: effective addiction management is much more likely if the family changes, not just the addict. (T  F  ?)

I believe addicts are psychologically wounded and cannot control their compulsive self-medicating without human help and spiritual faith. They are not weak-willed, sick, immoral, a "loser," a sinner, or irresponsible. (T  F ?)

I can clearly describe what inner pain is, and how it relates to personality subselves. (T  F  ?)

I can clearly describe _ what psychological denial is, and _ what needs it serves in an addict’s family. (T  F ?)

I can describe at least four of the common traits of a true addiction now. (T  F  ?)

I can describe the main difference between preliminary (addiction) recovery and full (psychological-wound) recovery, and why the former is required for the latter. (T  F  ?)

I accept that having "an addictive personality" really means "having a disabled true Self,  (being controlled by a false self), and not knowing this or what to do about it".  (T  F  ?)

I can clearly describe _ the difference between religion and spirituality, and _ what it means to have an active relationship with a benign, responsive Higher Power  (T  F  ?)

I can describe _ pseudo recovery from addiction, _ enabling, _ codependence, _ cross addiction, _ addiction relapses, and _ how well-meaning false-selves cause each of these. (T  F  ?)

I understand the 12 "Anonymous" steps for addiction-management now. (T  F  ?) . 

My true Self is responding to these items now or I know which other subself is responding. (T  F  ?)

      If you can't confidently answer "True" to each of these statements yet, invest time and energy in studying self-improvement Lesson 1.

      Now we're ready to apply these addiction fundamentals to people you care about - starting with you. If you feel you may be - or are - significantly wounded and addicted, study this for recovery options. Otherwise, read on...

If You're Concerned About Another Person's Addiction

      If you're concerned about an addicted child, go here. The following applies to adults.

      After (a) learning family-nurturance, addiction, and personality-subself basics, and (b) assessing yourself for significant wounds and addiction, you may...

  • defer or avoid confronting the other person, and deny or justify this; or...

  • research how to confront ("intervene") effectively, and then do so.

Let's look at each of these alternatives:

1)  Defer Confrontation

      Typical wounded people who haven't hit bottom are ruled by subselves who are scared to admit (a) a toxic compulsion and its causes and effects, and (b) implications (like "I am really wounded, and need to heal!" Their degree of combined fear + guilt + shame will determine the degree of "resistance" they have (low to high) to even the most loving confrontation.

      Your near-sighted subselves will probably have anxieties about confronting someone about their wounds and addiction. For example, they may cause thoughts like..."But what if s/he...

  • rejects me ("Mind your own business!) and shuts me out?"

  • rages, screams and yells, gets physical, or runs away?"

  • has a breakdown?"

  • increases their addiction?"

  • blames me for their wounds and addiction?"

  • attacks me about things I don't want to face?"

      Your subselves' fears and uncertainties may be intense enough to overcome your true Self's desire to confront (a) the reality of family dysfunction and (b) the addicted person. Your protective Guardian subselves may lobby for one or more strategies like these...

Deny:: "S/He is not really addicted!"

Minimize: "S/He seems to be addicted, but it's not that bad."

Justify: "It's really best if I don't risk confronting (the other person) now (or ever) because...";  and/or...

Analyze, intellectualize, and rationalize: "Let me (numb my feelings, and) figure out why s/he's addicted.";

Worry privately or publicly all the time: anxiously repeat a stream of awful scenarios in your mind, but say or do nothing about them. A toxic variation of this is for your false self to become addicted to (codependent on) your addict.

      Or your personality subselves may…

Whine, complain, and/or plead with the target person to "do something" about their behaviors or habits for your sake and/or affected minor kids - but set no limits or consequences. Your ruling subselves can choose to be a victim (1-down), persecutor (1-up), or rescuer (1-up) in your relationship. And/or...

Try to manipulate and control the other person to change her or his priorities and behavior - e.g. "hide the bottle," get someone to "talk to" the person, lay on guilt trips, withhold, threaten (but don’t follow through), etc.

       Other strategies to justify deferring a confrontation may include...

Criticizing, ridiculing, and/or blaming the person privately or publicly: "I can't believe how thoughtless and selfish you are..."

Lecturing, moralizing, and/or preaching: "Let me tell you what you have to do, and why..."; and/or...

Punishing: "If you're going to treat me/us that way, I'll (make you hurt)."; and/or you can...

Obsess and feel responsible: "I must fix this awful, scary problem!" and/or “I must be doing something wrong!”; and/or...

Avoid ("cut off") the other person and/or situations that cause you inner conflicts about them, and deny this and/or pretend you haven't pulled back; and/or you can...

Pray for a miracle and fantasize about the person "suddenly waking up to reality;"; and/or...

Repress your feelings and needs, and stoically endure: "Well, that's just the way it is. Look at the good things we have…"

      Strategies like these aim to...

  • reduce anxiety about admitting the other person's toxic compulsion and it's impacts, and to...

  • avoid scary confrontations and conflicts.

Strategies like these unintentionally increase (enable) the addicted family's long-term problems and distress.

      Ideally, one of you will exceed your tolerance-limit for pain, weariness, and hopelessness, and break your protective denials. This is more likely if your true Self (capital "S") leads your other subselves (personality).

      When you're ready to assert your opinions and needs to the addicted person, then...

2) Prepare to Intervene

      A poorly-prepared confrontation risks making family dynamics worse. Options:

  • Put your own wound-recovery ahead of helping other people, unless their life is at risk now.

  • Practice putting your true Self in charge of your other subselves. Your odds of a successful confrontation with the other person/s are best with your Self solidly guiding you.

  • Educate yourself on psychological wounds, the [wounds + ignorance] cycle, codependence, enabling, the 12-step philosophy and resources, and the concept of intervention - a respectful group-confrontation with a true addict in denial (next page).

  • Stay clear that any "addiction" is a symptom of the real problems: ignorance + inner pain + a disabled true Self + (probably) a low-nurturance environment.

  • Work to (a) maintain a genuine mutual-respect attitude, and (b) sharpen your assertion and empathic-listening skills. Use these when the other person denies, evades, attacks you, and/or justifies their compulsion, rather than using these popular lose-lose alternatives.

  • Keep your personal Rights in mind, and practice setting and enforcing your personal boundaries - in general, and with the other person. Stay clear: you are not responsible for the wounded adult's  choices and consequences - s/he is. Strong urges to rescue or "save" the person (other than your own child) may signal that a false-self dominates you. Keep these wise guidelines with you along the way...

  • Review your attitude about personal spirituality. Successful addiction and wound recovery is most likely with steady faith in a benign (vs. demanding, wrathful, jealous, and punitive) Higher Power. If you and/or the other person have no meaningful spiritual awareness or faith, lower your expectations and keep exploring.

  • Identify specifically how the other person's behavior affects you and other people you care about. Confronting another person about an addiction is usually altruistic and selfish - i.e. the other person committing to addiction recovery will fill some unmet primary needs in you.

      More confrontation-preparation options...

  • View confronting someone as a gift to both of you. Do the words confront and confrontation feel "negative" (cause you anxiety)? Confronting is another term for asserting your opinions and needs, and negotiating healthy changes as teammates. If your Self (capital "S") is in charge and you're fluent in effective communication skills, you'll be able to handle the other person's reactions to your assertions calmly and respectfully.

  • Get very clear on why you need to confront the other person. Do you need to...

    • inform him or her of your concern, and/or some action you're going to take because of their behavior? And/or to...

    • request or demand that s/he (must want to) change something? Effective demands require you to define and enforce a specific consequence if the person doesn't comply. And/or do you need to...

    • problem-solve together? - i.e. to invite the person to help change something abut your shared environment (like your family relationships, roles, or dynamics)?; and/or...

    • help the person hit true bottom?, and/or...

    • act to prevent or manage a crisis?;  and/or..

    • all of these goals, or some other ones?

  • Keep your perspective. Your main goals are to...

    • preserve your integrity and self-respect, and...

    • plant seeds (ideas and information) which may bloom at a future time.

    If the person does break their protective denials and start preliminary recovery, that's a marvelous bonus!

  • Learn to recognize pseudo or "trial" recovery. It is a creative attempt by well-meaning subselves to pretend to be managing an addiction, but not making any permanent changes in core attitudes or pain-management strategies. Typical people who relapse (resume their toxic behaviors) have not hit their true "bottom," and have usually been in pseudo recovery.

  • Inform other relevant people of these preparation-options, and ask for their help. "Relevant" means other people who live and/or work with the person you're concerned about - like parents, grandparents, siblings, close friends, therapists, (ex) mates, clergy, doctors, and co-workers. As you do this, be alert for signs of psychological wounds. Wounded people are often unable (vs. unwilling) to provide effective addiction-management help.

  • Consider consulting with a professional addiction counselor to increase your odds of confronting successfully. Ask their opinion about if, when, and how to do an "intervention" with your target adult. This powerful option is outlined on the next page.

      Recall that all these are ways of preparing yourself to confront an addicted person and/or any enablers. If these options seem like a lot of work - they are! The potential long-term benefits of a successful confrontation justify the effort. Pause and notice what your subselves are thinking and feeling now about these options.

As you prepare, keep in mind that addictions are symptoms of the real problems - inner pain + psychological wounds + unawareness. Few addicts or lay or professional supporters know this or what to do about it.