I’m addicted to you. You’re addicted to me. We’re just one big addicted family.
Addictions. We use this word like a punch line, as if one addiction is better than another. As a parent, we need to be very aware that addiction has a very specific genetic component which, combined with socialization with your child, can create uber-addicts (pardon the lack of umlauts) with an addiction with the strength of an e-bola virus. Don’t fool yourself, your kids see what you’re doing and those little vices you have will have a vice grip on your kids in the future.
Lee says: I was raised in a family rife with addiction. From the humble streets of Havana, Cuba, both sides of my parenting had a laboratory incubating all sorts of addictive behaviors to bring forth to the New World when Castro took over. On my dad’s side, they settled on being Sex Addicts whereas my mother’s side was a potpourri of fun from alcoholics to sex and relationship addicts. However for my mom’s side of the family, the real addiction was drama. Every other drug of choice was a perk.
Many people will read this and assume that members of my family were out there raping and pillaging the world but the truth is they were normal people with their families. Their addictions manifested themselves in different ways. Some were philanderers and others were more deviant in their sexual proclivities. But the important part is what they taught their kids. All of us learned in some warped way that sex took care of those yucky feelings of insecurity, loneliness and no esteem.
There are many people who don’t believe in the existence of a disorder as sexual or relationship addiction. I would say to them that when you use anything to cover up your feelings, be it a drink, a snort, a shot, a cupcake, a relationship or sex, then you have a problem. Feelings can be yucky and we learn early on to soothe them. Look at your kids! They learned hugging a teddy bear or drinking their milk soothed those feelings of fear they had as babies. As they grow up, we unconsciously pass down our little tricks to make the bad feelings go away. Whether consciously, or unconsciously, we teach our children addiction.
Here are a few examples of how we pass it down: my Dad has taught our son that when there is a woman in a bikini on TV, he is to refer to them as a ‘niña’ which is little girl in Spanish. When my daughter was a small child, we had to do an intervention on her due to her peep addiction. Yes, the little marshmallow birds. She could go through a whole large pack of peeps in one sitting. She admitted she was powerless over the power of the peep and began her 12 steps to recovery. These may seem cute and innocuous but they are really the beginnings of a bigger problem. Our 5 year old is learning from his grandfather, someone he loves and admires, to objectify women. Our daughter somehow learned that those stiff little confections bring her some sort of peace. So the question for her is what feeling does she numb or sate by indulging in little purple sugar ducks? Easter is coming up soon and I will need to keep an eye on her.
Paul says: The other night, we were sitting with family, having a nice evening. As part of his new business, my brother-in-law has these cool promotional lasers that we were playing with. We’d shoot a spot on the wall and our collective gaggle of kids would squeal in delight, not knowing where the magic red dot was coming from. We did this for a while then moved on to some other conversation. My two year old comes to me with tears in his eyes because he is scared that the killer dot is going to get him. What did we do to sooth him? We gave him candy. The moment that he put the sweets into his mouth, the tears replaced with contentment, we knew our mistake. We just linked fear with unhealthy eating; the perfect recipe for food addiction.
I started a list of all the traumas in my children that I need to monitor and fix. I’m going to need more paper.