The term "homeostasis," defined as "the tendency of a system to maintain internal stability owing to the coordinated response of its parts to any disruptive situation or stimulus attempting to disturb its normal condition or function," has been applied to the family unit (Meyer, 1984, p. 177). It is the process by which something finds internal stability and balance. If anything gets out of sync, homeostasis brings it back into line. In families, homeostasis means there is a certain way things function, everyone has a specific role to play in the balance: "Each family member can make predictable reactions to any given situation based on what their role is within the family" (Meyer, 1984, p. 177).
The disadvantage of this process is that when one person tries to change, the family often acts to get his back into line. In relation to drug abuse, the family unit rationalizes that everything would be fine if it weren't for him/her. But, as the situation is now, "there's just nothing we can do about it," and as a result, the family balances itself to accommodate the drug or alcohol abuse. The unit becomes known as a "dysfunctional" family.
Experts have come to realize that drug and alcohol abuse is a family disease and that family members are as much in need of support as the addict. The term "co-dependent" is applied to these other members. They can be parents, children, siblings, friends, bartenders, teachers, counselors - anyone whose life would change dramatically if the abuser's life changed (Meyer, 1984, p. 209). The one thing all family members have in common initially is denial, whether it is the parent who refuses to accept the fact that his/her child is on drugs, or the wife who rationalizes her husband's drinking, or the abuser's refusal to accept his/her addiction.
An example is the wife of an alcoholic. She takes care of him, cleaning up after him, being responsible for all the things he messes up and keeping...
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