The use and abuse of drugs affects all family members in different ways. It has been said that when one family member is chemically dependent the entire family suffers. A family or a family system so to speak is a group of interacting people each of whom affects the other in profound and often hidden ways. If one family member changes, it effects the entire family system and not always in the same way. There is an invisible set of demands and transitions that organizes the way that family members interact. These family interactions establish the how, when, and to whom to relate, these patterns serve to reinforce the family system. No matter how dysfunctional it may become the family does whatever it must to survive. .
Children learn to survive inside a family where confusion, denial and tension are a way of life. The home environment is filled with personalities, volatile circumstances and unpredictable events. In a violent and explosive atmosphere children and adults live with fear as the alcoholic or drug addicted parent becomes increasingly abusive. A Childs life becomes a wheel of confusion that is played over and over. In times of such conflict, young family members may retreat to the privacy of their room. Alone in their room they hope to avoid the struggle of substance abuse. Instead, they suffer in silence. .
Parents often lean on the children for the very emotional support that the parent should supply the child. With no clear set of defined boundaries inside the family the children feel threatened and are unable to express them selves in a normal child to parent relationship. Children are forced to assume dysfunctional roles. This type of cause and effect occurrence is what George refers to in his book, Counseling the Chemically Dependent. George classified the dysfunctional family, " as being molded into actions and reactions" George characterizes these actions and reactions in the four personality descriptions that follow.