First of all love and affection in the family. Addicts are incredibly loved. We loved the addicts in our family almost more than we love the other people. Inevitably, we tend to spend more time with them. We tend to be more concerned about them. We give them opportunities. We buy them things and go places and do all sorts of things to try to help them.
Addicts have more than their fair share of love and understanding and speaking as an addict, we abuse it. We still want more. We still say that we are special. We don’t care what anybody else has or does or is. We want more. We are totally self-centered and it doesn’t work. It doesn’t win us friends. Our families particularly the compulsive helpers among our families give us even more and that doesn’t help the other members of the family.
So one of the things that we encourage people to do here is to treat all members of the family in exactly the same way, love the addict by all means but love the others too. Spend time with the addict by all means but spend time with the others as well. Give the addicts something yes but give the others the same.
So we don’t make the addict special and different. The only thing that the addict does deserve is the opportunity to get well and that means very often spending money on treatment. But again, there’s a limit to that. How much money should you spend? If the addict shows no sign whatever of trying to do something for himself or herself; there must be a limit of which you say, “Okay if you don’t want it, you don’t have to have it.”
Now this sounds hard, it sounds cruel but it’s not. What I’m trying to do is to help families to stay together rather than being blown apart by the whirlwind of addiction which I’ve seen many times. That an addict has to get past you to destroy the entire family and that is not right. We need to be able to help the addict to become responsible for self rather than totally dependent upon everybody else.
Now as you can tell from that comment I have major concerns about the standard approach towards addiction in the UK by our government; giving methadone to people, providing social security support, giving diazepam, Prozac and all sorts of other drugs to people with alcoholism or eating disorders. These things don’t work. They do not help. They actually make it worse.
We had a patient recently, we’ve actually heard from him this morning, who used to leave on every Wednesday because he knew that his giro cheque came in from the government every Wednesday morning. The old joke is what’s green and gets you high? Answer, a giro cheque. The government might believe that they’re supporting their children, they’re providing for accommodation or food, or whatever. They’re not. They’re providing free drugs; free alcohol and they don’t listen.
We are setting up a dependency culture and addicts don’t get better that way. The family and the society at large gets very much damaged by that. A dependency culture whether it’s in a treatment center or by the government or by a family does not help an addict. We have to have an honest culture, if you want to live in this home, you will not be able to do so with your current behaviour. It’s tough but that’s what we have to say.
If you have drugs, we call the police. I know you’re my son but that’s what we’re going to do. If you want to get drunk all the time, I’m not going to stay with you. If you want your head down the loo vomiting all the time, that’s your choice but don’t expect me to pick up the tab or to tidy up the mess or anything else. It sounds tough. It sounds rejecting but it’s not. We’re rejecting the illness not the person. You can still love the person but not love the illness. The illness has to be confronted.
Now, addicts come from addictive families so sometimes we’re expecting people to give what they haven’t got. To give an example from my own family, my mother’s father died of a heart attack aged forty-five and her mother was alcoholic. My mum’s father died when mum was six so she brought up my aunt and uncle from the age of six on wards because her mother did nothing. That was an incredible achievement.
Now fast forward twenty-five, thirty years to me being born, that was not a happy event for my mother. My mother had brought up her brother and sister. She didn’t want to have the burden of bringing up children all over again and I understand that because I’ve taken the trouble to find out about my mother’s childhood. I would have expected to be very special to my mum but I wasn’t, I was a nuisance. Well, plenty of other people have thought that ever since then but that’s another story.
You can see where my mom is coming from and she really didn’t want to repeat the childhood that she’d had. There are things about me that she found very disturbing. For example, she said, “I saw you on television.” And I said, “Yes?.” And that was it. She wasn’t interested in the ideas that I was trying to put across. She was just proud that her son had been on television which was of no interest to me whatever and it was the ideas that I want to put across. And my mum said, “But Robert why can’t you have the same ideas two years in a row?” She did not actually want my creativity, it frightened her.
So the thing that I think is my best bit was certainly not my best bit in mother’s eyes. So families are difficult. Those of us who are addicts who have this inner sense of emptiness, we want, we want, we want to anything, anybody to try to make ourselves feel better.
Sometimes when we’re born into addictive families we don’t get that, we get the problems that the other person has got be it the parent, the wife, the whatever. So for us to try under very difficult situations or difficult circumstances to try to be understanding and supportive at the very time that we needed it ourselves is very difficult. All I’m saying is don’t under estimate the challenge. It is huge. Nonetheless, once we get into recovery, the opportunities for understanding are there if we want them.
If we want to work the twelve-step program, we can get everything we ever wanted in terms of recovery and in terms of relationships with other people. Now I have to say that some of my closest friends that I’ve met within the twelve-step fellowships, I feel closer to them than I do to some of my blood relatives. It’s not at all surprising I spend more time with them.
I get a lot of love and understanding from them that I might not get from someone who’s my family because I see this people every week, whereas my family I see some of them about once in three months, some of them about once a year, some of them even less frequently than that.
So I’m much closer to people in the fellowships than I am sometimes to my own family. I don’t think that’s a disaster. I don’t feel sad about that. I love my family when I see them but I don’t see that much of them. So I’ve got a lot of the things that I had hoped to get from family, I nowadays get within…