“Lindsey” was determined to be the good one in the family. She didn’t want to make a bad situation worse, and she was determined to pull herself out of the darkness of her family. She knew her mom’s childhood was pretty bad and that her grandfather had been an alcoholic. She knew some terrible stuff had happened to her mom and that it wasn’t something that was EVER talked about.
She had gotten the drugs and alcohol talk by the time she was in third grade, and she resolved never to do any of that. Her response was that it was “stupid.” Her Mom was a daily weed smoker who tried to hide it from her husband. Both of them were big drinkers, and he supplemented his income with some incidental drug sales when he had extra pain pills or got a good deal on some coke.
They lived on his wages as a local delivery driver and her Mom’s disability income. Lindsey and her two younger sisters had what they needed but not much more. Her mom and dad cared for the girls but sometimes cared for partying a little more. Lindsey often ended up babysitting while her parents went out.
Lindsey felt sorry for her mom and distant from her dad but loved them both very much. She often felt like she was more of a parent to them than them to her. She learned early how to distract her dad when he and mom were fighting, which only worsened her need to control and fix things.
By high school, she was getting nearly perfect grades, managing the house and working part time. She hadn’t had much time for boys but inevitably along came “Brian,” a young guy with a family similar to hers. She felt sorry for him, too, and that sealed it for them. He felt like she liked him, which was his relationship criterion, and she felt like he needed her, so that completed the circle.
Both wanting out of the house as soon as possible, they married shortly after graduation. Within a year, Lindsey was pregnant, and Brian, working part time and desperate for money, met a friend who was making a living selling pills and weed and started to help him. He kept it from Lindsey because he knew how “phobic” she was about drugs. Then she found his stash and hit the roof.
The baby was born, the fights continued, and the cycle of addiction went on. Lindsey almost never drank and might have used weed twice in her life, but she played an integral part in the continuation of the cycle. She never faced her parent’s addiction issues and instead accepted them as a normal adaptation to their life problems. She then transferred that thinking to herself and accepted her adaptation to them as normal.
Her illness was made of unexpressed fear, anger, disappointment and subsequently the need to control and take care of others. Until she faces that part of herself, the cycle will likely continue.
• Rick Atwater is a licensed clinical professional counselor. He can reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.