KUNDIAWA - Alcoholism and drug addiction are progressive and fatal diseases that undermine the family unit. Addiction is a family problem with every member, not just the addict, suffering from its effects.
In our highlands society, families operate as a system and family members interrelate to each other for a common purpose.
As a system, families seek to maintain a balance in life. They preserve functional boundaries and support each other in work, finance, problem solving and in many other ways.
When there is no food, all family units work to find some. When there is no money to pay school fees, the family rallies to get it. When a family member is sick, the others provide care and comfort.
However, in families where a member is an alcoholic, drug addict or gambler, this balance is lost and there looms a great risk of dysfunction including divorce or separation, child abuse, sexual exploitation, economic manipulation, intimidation, psychological abuse and much more.
Children of alcoholics and drug addicts exist in a dubious moral environment and frequently lack a full understanding of the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, lawful and unlawful.
Juvenile delinquency or youth crime is increasing especially in urban areas. Psychological and spiritual problem are common among the children of alcoholics, who become confused and lose a sense of who they are.
Life in the alcoholic’s family offers only continuing grief and trauma and problems with no solutions. Children who grow up in such a hostile environment suffer physically and emotionally and tend to accept dysfunction as the norm.
Dysfunctional families are defensive in their actions and denial is a major problem and one that gets in the way of change.
In dysfunctional families, there are usually enablers, especially wives, who try to protect their husband’s problems. Shame and fear motivates them to become enablers who make the problems worse rather than assisting the addict towards treatment and recovery.
Ultimately, this means the whole family not just the addict needs support, counselling, therapy, guidance and education.
Every family has its own rules and norms. In healthy functional families, rules are realistic and support a purposeful life with every member benefiting.
In the dysfunctional family, rules – so far as they exist at all - are unrealistic and inhuman. Promises are broken, dishonesty prevails and life is devoid of reality. To establish stability in the family, they put on ‘masks’ to protect each other. They follow the alcoholics’ rules of denial, silence and isolation.
In PNG services like Alcoholic Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, family support services and addiction counsellors and therapists are not available in most places. However, some churches and NGOs are voluntary providing counselling services and spiritual guidance.