“Glassland”: Children of Alcoholics in Forefront

The film is told not through the eyes of a drinker, but somebody who cannot stop a loved one from drinking. Matt Zoller Seitz, rogerebert.com, about Glassland

In Gerard Barrett‘s Glassland, a newish indie on DVD, Toni Collette‘s Jean “is a late-stage drunk whose liver is all but pickled, and for all practical purposes she doesn’t much care,” reports Ella Taylor, NPR. Jean, it seems, is drinking herself to death.

Taylor goes on to describe Jean’s older son John’s (Jack Reynor) predicament. He repeatedly attempts to rescue his mother and attend to his brother Kit (Harry Nagle), who has Down syndrome and is institutionalized. “John, for his part, is stuck fast in a state of perpetual emergency, and things seem to get worse when, in order to get his mother the extra time in the extended rehab she needs, he takes on a gig that threatens to make him an accessory to human trafficking.”

Watch the Glassland trailer below:

As many Glassland critics indicate, John could be seen as the classic enabler, the fixer, the caretaker. But Oktay Ege Kozak, Indiewire, offers apt wisdom on the lousiness of his circumstances:

Dealing with a beloved relative or friend who’s an addict is a double-edged sword. Common sense dictates that if an addict is mad at you, you’re probably helping them get better, but if they’re happy when they’re around you, you’re probably their enabler. If you want your loved one to be happy and jolly all the time, you will more than likely have to accept that they will eventually kill themselves via their drug of choice. If you want to save them, you will have to turn yourself into a willing receptacle for all of their hate and bitterness.

Matt Zoller Seitz, rogerebert.com, also nails the crux of John’s dilemma:

…It’s an impossible predicament. The sober person feels a deep sense of responsibility coupled with frustration over not being able to do anything that will unquestionably, tangibly help. It’s ultimately up to the addict to decide to change. Jean’s not there yet. Jack [John] worries that she’ll never get there, that she’ll just keep drinking and drinking and then she’ll be gone, and he’ll blame himself, even though her life wasn’t his to save, and he did the best he could.

Two real-life experts who have provided guidance regarding Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) issues are Jane Middelton-Moz and Janet G. Woititz (1938-94). From the former’s After the Tears: Helping Adult Children of Alcoholics Heal Their Childhood Trauma, a description of what ACOA’s face:

Most Adult Children report that they have always felt that they were a ‘mess’ deep down and have protected themselves and others from the embarrassment of seeing or feeling that ‘mess.’ They have felt alone in a crowd or isolated all their lives. They have taken care of others compulsively, but never let others care for them. They have sought out relationships where needs weren’t possible, or intimacy could never be achieved. Children of Alcoholics tend to have caseloads, not friends, and feel that they have to work harder than anyone else—to be more perfect, tougher, or more independent and in control. They feel they must hide the craziness they feel inside, and they must earn the right to have relationships or merely live in the world like everyone else.

Pertinent quotes from Woititz’s Struggle For Intimacy:

“You have grown up to be the perfect doormat for an inconsiderate person. Often you end up in a perfect give-and-take relationship…you give, they take.”

“...COAs’ [children of alcoholics] greatest difficulties are in the area of their relationship with themselves. Their greatest difficulty is the lack of ability to experience themselves as valuable and worthy and lovable. Their greatest assets are a capability of offering you the sense that you are valuable and worthy and lovable. There is much to be gained from being involved with a COA.”

For more info regarding ACOA recovery, consider ACOA support groups, Al-Anon meetings, and therapy from professionals trained in these issues.

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