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On the last track, we discussed the three tools addicts use to control their families and keep them involved in the addiction. These three tools are manipulation, misdirection, and mistrust.
On this track, we will discuss the "threaten, punish, and relent" cycle.
2 Results of Family Imbalance
3 Common Family Traps
-- Trap #2 - "Threaten, Punish,
and Relent" Cycle
Stan said, "They were terrified. She's done this before. I calmed them down and sent them to their rooms, and then I told Wendy that if she didn't stop treating the kids that way, I'd move out and take them with me. It seemed to work, for a couple of weeks she was a great mom, and she drank a lot less. But then it started up again. I was going to move out… but if I did, who would take care of the kids while I'm at work? I can't afford daycare or a babysitter." Stan relented and stayed with Wendy.
Leo was in a similar situation with his 17-year-old son Craig. Craig would often stay out all weekend, coming home bruised from fights, and smelling of beer and marijuana. Leo said, "Every weekend, I warned him that if he came home like that, I'd take his car away. So he'd go out, come back trashed, and I'd take his keys. Then he'd be so good… and I'd have to give his car back. How was he supposed to get to school on time without it?"
Both Stan and Leo were training the addict in their family not to believe what they said. Their pattern of relenting empowered Wendy and Craig's addictions. Stan and Leo underestimated the strength of their family member's addictions. Many families run into the trap of thinking that addiction is a bad decision or an unfortunate turn down a bad road. Family members therefore think that a little prodding, admonishment, or punishment will make the addict "get back on track", and that their efforts will be sufficient to solve the problem.
-- Trap #3 - Makeshift Interventions
Ellen's mistake is a common one. She put the focus on changing Faye's behavior, rather than on healing herself and changing her own behavior. Do you have a client who keeps using the "threaten, punish, and relent" cycle that would benefit from being asked: "Is what you're trying working, or does it just feel that it should work?"
Leo told me, "I used to go for a thirty-minute jog every day. It gave me time to think, and made me feel really physically good. Nowadays, I feel like I can't go out. Craig might come home at any time needing first aid or a trip to the hospital." Leo and I agreed that he would start taking his jogs again, giving him a block of time where he only had to take care of himself. He made a daily schedule for his jogs, and posted it on the fridge. Being caught in the "threaten, punish, and relent" cycle had made Leo feel like nothing would ever change. After two weeks of taking his jogs, Leo felt like he was making progress for the first time in months.
On this track, we have discussed the "threaten, punish, and relent" cycle. Would it be helpful to play this track in your next session with the family member of an addict?
On the next track the three main reasons families cling to old habits of coping and become highly resistant to change: being locked into recycling past habits; relegating themselves to the sideline; and "feeling comfortable".
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