The Dangers of Launching While Intoxicated

The Dangers of Launching While Intoxicated

LWI and Arrested Development

“There are two ways to deal with anxiety:
one is with drugs,
the other is with self
–self is better”
— Murray Bowen, MD

In response to a previous blog on the difficulties of the Launching Phase, Patricia Rosen wondered how the process might be complicated by the presence of alcoholic drinking and/or chemical dependence.

The struggles of our adolescent and young adult children on their journey to economic and emotional self-sufficiency are greatly compounded by misuse and abuse of both legal and illegal “mind altering substances,” including misappropriation of prescription medications. Alcoholism, substance abuse, and chemical dependence can be devastating to the individual and the family. These all involve systemic processes that require systemic solutions.

In The Responsibility Trap: A Blueprint for Treating the Alcoholic Family, Claudia Bepko and Jo Ann Krestan introduced three key family systems concepts central to the understanding and treatment of addiction:

  1. Over- and under-responsibility
  2. Pride, shame and power
  3. The role of alcohol as a mediator of gender role construction

Bepko and Krestan define the “co-alcoholic” as the over-responsible, over-functioning and over-adequate non-drinking family member, be it parent, child or spouse, who is as non-responsible as the under-responsible alcoholic. Both the over-involved non-drinking individual and the person drinking alcoholically fail to take appropriate responsibility for themselves.

Substance abuse and chemical dependence can have a devastating effect on the individual and the family during the launching phase transition. Children are molded by the alcoholic family to be either over-responsible (calm, efficient, but lonely and filled with self doubt) or under-responsible (filled with rage, demanding constant care and praise, but filled with violent resentment towards anyone that helps them). At the same time over- and under-functioning in families and relationships provides a welcome mat for the development of problems with alcohol and addictive chemicals.

Ronald B. Cohen, MD of Family Focused Solutions ( explains the complications substance abuse brings to the launching phase.Systemic Family Therapy can help family members become aware of their own needs and how to aid each other in preventing substance abuse from moving from one generation to another. The adjustment to a more functional lifestyle that supports both abstinence and a stable family system requires family members to break out of the responsibility trap and adapt to new roles. Therapeutic interventions are aimed at modifying ineffective and inefficient family patterns in which symptomatic behavior is embedded. Taking responsibility for what you can take responsibility for, and attending to your needs in the context of emotionally important relationships opens the door to facilitating healing of the entire family.

The three stages in the family recovery process are:

  1. Attainment of sobriety
  2. Adjustment to sobriety
  3. Long-term maintenance of sobriety

It is vital to prepare the family for the “crises of sobriety” which engenders bitterness, resentment, fear, rage and a sense of “unjust demotion” in the co-alcoholic. Family conflicts, low family support, drug use among other family members and parenting stress have all been shown to contribute to relapse.

The good news is most families have successfully accomplished and completed this life cycle transition, thereby being well prepared for the inevitable stressors of subsequent life cycle stages. For those stuck in pre-launch relationship patterns complicated by chemical dependence, consultation with a well-trained Bowen Family Systems Coach can assist the family to expand its knowledge base and skill set, and help the entire family move forward in a positive direction. How can I be most helpful to you?

A longer version of this piece was first published, through the kind auspices of Patricia Rosen, in the December 2013 edition of The SoberWorld Magazine. It can be found beginning on page 14.

Please share your thoughts and experiences concerning the interplay of chemical dependence and life cycle transitions in the “Leave a Reply” box below. To request more information and/or schedule an initial consultation, click here. If you found this post helpful, please don’t keep it a secret. You are encouraged to click on the buttons in the second to the right hand column at the bottom of the page and share this article with your own networks. Looking forward to continuing the conversation.

Ronald B Cohen, MD, PC Ronald B. Cohen, MD
Bowen Family Systems Coach
1 Barstow Road, Suite P-10
Great Neck, NY 11021
(516) 466-7530

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