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What Is The Family Scapegoat

11 May 2017 Written by 

Alice P, an addict’s mom, wrote in to tell us about a liberating 'aha' moment she had about her painful relationship with her son Jimmy. Jimmy is an active substance abuser and extremely mean to her. There’s no nice way to put it. 

He Throws Dust In My Eyes

“Since Jimmy started using, he lies a lot. I don’t know the truth about anything,” Alice told us, “and I felt horrible all the time. It was hard enough worrying that Jimmy would overdose and pass away, or hurt someone else while under the influence. But also it was extremely painful that he acts as if I am the one who abuses him and his problems are my fault because I don’t do enough to help him.”

I Found Out I Was His Scapegoat

Scapegoat theory refers to the tendency to blame someone else for one's own problems, a process that often results in feelings of prejudice toward the person or group that one is blaming. Scapegoating serves as an opportunity to explain failure or misdeeds, while maintaining one's positive self-image. If a person who is poor or doesn't get a job that he or she applies for can blame an unfair system or the people who did get the job that he or she wanted, the person may be using the others as a scapegoat and may end up hating them as a result.  Encyclopedia Social Psychology

Alice's Enlightenment

“My therapist used the word scapegoat. She told me scapegoating is a kind of abuse. It certainly felt like Jimmy was beating me up for no reason, when I hadn’t done anything wrong. But if you don’t want someone to die, you will put up with a lot. The whole thing was confusing to say the least. Now I kind of get it. I don’t have to listen to him. My point of view matters.”

Two Heads Are Better Than One

Alice went on to say she is not the kind of person who ever looked to therapy for answers, or used facebook sites to vent her frustration, and she had not thought about trying Al-Anon, which is free and could also help her. But life with an active addict aged 22 and living at home felt like it was killing her. “I needed another point of view to help me accept that I was the one who had to change,” Alice told me.

Blame Shifting Is Responsibility Shifting

We know a lot of people find it difficult to ask for help. Alone, however, it can be too difficult to identify what about your relationships is causing so much pain. When Jimmy pins his problems on his mom, he doesn’t have to take responsibility for himself. He doesn’t even have to be reasonable. It’s her fault. If she buys his argument, she’s allowing herself to be both used and abused. If she tries to hold him accountable, he’s likely to get even madder. When you’re scapegoated by a family member, lover, or co-worker, you cannot win no matter what you say or what you do. A therapist can help identify what’s going on. 

A Reach Out Recovery Exclusive By: Leslie Glass

 

Family members need help too. Click the link below to find family support near you.

Read 27519 times Last modified on Thursday, 13 July 2017 18:22
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Leslie Glass

Leslie Glass is the winner of the American Society of Addiction Medicine 2016 Media Award for her groundbreaking documentary "The Secret World Of Recovery." She is a journalist, playwright, the author of 15 novels and the founder of Reach Out Recovery. She is the producer/director of "The Secret World Of Recovery," and the teen addiction prevention documentary "The Silent Majority" which was distributed by American Public Television to all PBS stations in 2015. Leslie is currently developing more websites and technology to further the recovery and healthy living cause.
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