6 posts categorized "SUBSTANCE USE/ABUSE"

April 01, 2013

Changing Your Family’s Toxic Legacy

IStock_00couple alcoholAll human beings have been -- and continue to be -- greatly influenced and impacted by our family of origin. Some of these influences have been great and some have been toxic. And all of these influences impact the legacy we pass on to our children. For those who don’t have children, these influences impact the personal legacy we leave in the world. 

 What is particularly hard on couples, individuals and families, though, are the toxic legacies. Toxic legacies leave a tsunami of damage in families and in our world. Most of the time, these toxic legacies are unconsciously lived out and sadly passed on from one unsuspecting generation to the next. Before you know it, a person can look back a hundred years and see the same insidious, painful patterns back then that are being played out in the present day. Why is that? It seems crazy that people can’t learn to not repeat the same mistakes their great-great-great grandparents, grandparents and more recently their own parents made. Is it in our DNA to repeat the same toxic behaviors as those who have come before us? Are our destinies pre-wired? 

 Let me start by defining “toxic legacy.” A toxic legacy is a pattern of hurtful, painful and/or damaging behaviors that have been handed down from one generation to another through role modeling.  When parents repeatedly interact in a family system in an unhealthy way, they are imprinting this behavior on their children. The children (us, let’s say) then often grow up and repeat the behaviors we saw played out everyday of our childhood. As children, “we live what we know and we know what we lived.” As we grow up, we repeat what we learned in the first 18 years of our lives. And if we don’t repeat it ourselves, we often marry someone who does. 

Continue reading "Changing Your Family’s Toxic Legacy" »

May 20, 2010

Alcohol and Relationships: Do You Have a Drinking Problem?

IStock_00couple alcohol Too many couples have a third party creating problems in their relationship.  That third party is alcohol.  When alcohol is a source of stress in a relationship, it is typically because one partner thinks the other partner either drinks too much or is no fun to be around when they drink.  The other partner, of course, does not think this is the case. 

For those of you who struggle with this issue in your own relationship, let me help you out.  Below are several warning signs that your drinking is, minimally, a problem and possibly alcohol abuse or alcoholism. 
•    You’ve ever been worried about your drinking and tried to stop or cut back as a result.
•    You’ve experienced blackouts due to drinking.
•    You become mean-spirited and nasty when you drink.
•    Your drinking has resulted in your missing work, losing your job or not being able to perform your job as expected.
•    Your partner, friends, children or co-workers have commented on your drinking.
•    Your drinking is a source of tension between you and your partner (and not because your partner is opposed to drinking).
•    You “have to” have a drink to calm down or relax.
•    You often drink to get buzzed or drunk.
•    You seldom, if ever, stop at just one drink.
•    You use alcohol to loosen up and give you social confidence.
•    You drink alone or hide your alcohol use.

There are several signs that your drinking has moved beyond social drinking to problem drinking, but the best indicator I know is:  if your drinking is creating problems in your relationship or your life—your drinking is a problem.  The problem is not your partner’s thinking it’s a problem. 

Continue reading "Alcohol and Relationships: Do You Have a Drinking Problem? " »

April 07, 2010

Alcohol and Relationships: When to Stay and When to Go

IStock_00alcohol coupleXSmall
Sadly, many couples and families are impacted by alcoholism every day.  As many people can attest, the damage caused by this addiction can be very long-lasting and far-reaching.  The question many partners of alcoholics have is how long should they hang in there -- when is their partner truly in recovery and when should they say enough’s enough and get out?

I don’t live in your shoes so I won’t tell you whether you should leave a relationship or not.  I can, however, give you a fairly good idea of the warning flags that signal there’s likely to be trouble ahead.  If those red flags don’t get cleared up fast, the pendulum starts to weigh much more heavily on the side of leaving.

Red flags that there’s likely more trouble ahead:
•    Your partner’s drinking has become a definite problem in your relationship, but they are in denial about their drinking.
•    Your partner has made numerous promises to get help, but has never followed through for any substantial period of time.
•    Your partner refuses to get any type of alcohol treatment and becomes angry when you suggest this.
•    Your partner’s drinking has progressively gotten worse over the years.
•    Your partner becomes volatile or belligerent when drinking.
•    Your partner continues to lie.
•    Your partner says they’re in treatment, but is attending meetings randomly, has no sponsor and makes endless excuses about why they can’t make a meeting or get into a program/therapy, etc.
•    Your partner is irresponsible and unreliable due to their drinking.
•    Your partner gets defensive when you call them on their drinking.

Continue reading "Alcohol and Relationships: When to Stay and When to Go" »

June 07, 2008


Addiction is toxic to families.  Regardless of which family member is the addict, all family members suffer.  Once a family member is under the grip of addiction, the entire family’s life gets turned upside down.  Regardless of what the addiction is (i.e. alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, etc.) it’s an incredibly painful situation to watch and to live in.

The change in moods, erratic behavior, and lies are particularly hard on families.  People can’t believe their loved ones would lie straight to their face. They can’t believe that s/he won’t just wake up one day and realize they are going down the wrong path and just change back.  They want to believe more than anything that their loved one will get it and go back to who and how they used to be…and so they wait…and they trust…and they wait…and they trust…and they…get burned.

If I could give families one piece of advice on addiction it would this:  DO NOT WAIT.  Get them into treatment as early as possible and with the best, most reputable addictions specialist as possible.  Do not play with fire; addiction will intensify in the blink of an eye.  If you’re premature, there’s no harm done; if you’re slow to act, you’re looking at a possible lifetime of fighting an uphill battle.  


July 04, 2007


The Fourth of July has finally arrived. As a result, there are parties abound; days off work, family gatherings, fireworks flying, delightful foods, and of course…alcohol flowing.

As with many holidays, this seems to be the common mix for celebrations. Often, this mix can lead to a great deal of connection and fun—an opportunity for families to connect without having the weight of work on their shoulders. When done in moderation, celebrations are a great respite for many couples and families. When celebrations are not done in moderation however, they can be a recipe for disaster.

In my experience, a key culprit to tipping the tables from fun to disaster is…alcohol. It’s important to remember that alcohol lowers inhibitions. This means that some people will become more gregarious, while others will become more obnoxious, mean-spirited, and/or difficult. Either way, this often leads to many difficulties between partners (and others).


January 30, 2007


Many couples seem to be dealing with a third party in their relationships…alcohol. One partner typically comes home from work and makes him/herself a drink to help “wind down” from a stressful day. It’s not uncommon for the person to drink two to three drinks, three to four nights a week. If there’s a party or an event on the weekend, they drink more.

This pattern can, and often does, go on for many months or even years.

Gradually the atmosphere in the home begins to change. The conversations seem to slow down, the interactions begin to center around what needs to get done rather than how each person’s day was, and the energy in the house becomes tenser. In some households, the person who has a few drinks becomes short, impatient, and irritating to be around. The rest of the family distances more.

When I work with couples in this pattern, often one partner is worried about the impact the alcohol is having in their relationship and the other partner is not. Guess who’s worried and who isn’t. You got it… the one not drinking is worried, and the one drinking is often certain their drinking isn’t a problem. The drinking partner will often say the alcohol isn’t impacting the relationship; it’s their partner harping on them about the alcohol that’s impacting the relationship.


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