The below is an extract from: Unraveling Family Secrets. Bert Hellinger interviewed on Family Constellations, By Humberto del Pozo in Santiago de Chile, September 1999.
What is the dynamics you have seen in working with addicts?
When there is addiction, for example alcoholism, we have very strange family constellations. In such a family the wife despises her husband. And she does not want that the children honor the husband or go with him and with his family, she says: “I am good, he is not good”. And then the children take revenge on the mother, they prove to her that they are not good and that she is wrong. So they take revenge. As a result it has became clear that during addiction, it actually can only be taken care off by men, not by women. So the therapists for drug addicts should be men. But women who honor men, they can help, only if they are not trying to help “the poor addict” or so, for then they treat them like they were children, and the drug addict has to become a man. And he becomes a man when he honors his father. There is a very simple image to go in this direction: for instance, I set up his father – in a Constellation- and behind him I place the grandfather, and behind him the great grandfather. And then the addict leans against his father and that is a masculine strength for him and it helps.
But on the other hand, many addicts are suicidal, and this is another dynamic, one you find in families directed by the family consciousness: A child wants to follow a dead person, for instance the mother or the father… he develops illness, is prone to accidents or to suicidal tendencies. A child sees that his father wants to follow his own father, and he says: “I will do it in you place Dad”, and he becomes anorexic… “I rather disappear”… he wants to prevent his father from dying.
This is magical thinking and completely unconscious. Only in the family constellation it comes to light, then it can be exposed and you can find a solution within the family.