In the rooms of AA, one often hears, “Do you drink because you have problems or do you have problems because you drink?”  Truth be told, it’s both.

I once read that SHAME is the greatest determining factor as to whether or not a person developed his/her propensity to become an addict.  I whole-heartedly agree with this point.  As a therapist in private practice for 24 years, I just have rarely seen alcoholics/addicts come out of emotionally healthy and loving homes that practice all the rules of The Functional Family.  However, it often looks like The Functional Family from the outside, from the view of those outside the family system.

The Nature of Alcoholism/substance abuse is that it takes over the normal chemical processes of the body and that once them chemical is introduced into the body on a regular basis, the body acclimates and tolerance builds.  The Nurture of alcoholism is the emotional world that has grown inside of the person, which drives them to drink and use.

Sometimes it is hard for those outside to see inside of a family, and sometimes it is hard for those inside a family see inside a family. So how do we discern what relational factors are present in a family?  When beginning to look at that, it is important to take an attitude of No Judgment. Discerning is defined perceiving and “figuring it out.” Judgment is defined by condemning. There is no room for non-constructive criticism and judgment when taking the inventory of family dynamics. Everything should be done in the presence of as much love as can be mustered.

To simplify family dynamics and the Nurture of Shame, we can use Virginia Satir’s Five Freedoms as a guideline.  These, synopsized, include the ability to perceive (see and hear), feel and think what one perceives feels and thinks as opposed to what one should feel and the ability to take risks on one’s own behalf instead of always “playing it safe.” How much these five freedoms are present in a family determine how relationally healthy the system is.  In 12 Step terms, how much can each member “Live and Let Live?”

Let’s learn to practice unconditional love and know that each person is in process on his or her growth path.