CHAPTER THREE RESEARCH FINDINGS (PART ONE): THE EXPERIENCES, CHALLENGES AND COPING STRATEGIES OF A CSO LIVING WITH A PARTNER WITH A SUD
In the previous chapter of this thesis, I provided a detailed description of how the research process adopted for this research project was applied. The activities began with identifying the population for the study, the recruitment and screening for participants to be included in the samples. The preparation for data collection, the data collection itself and then its analysis followed as well as the strategies employed to ensure the trustworthiness of the research findings.
In this chapter the focus turns to the presentation of the first section of the research findings, focusing exclusively on the experiences, challenges and coping strategies of the CSOs living with a partner with a SUD. I will start out by providing the biographical information of the CSOs of the partners with a SUD who had been sampled. This will be followed by a thematic presentation of the research findings, noting their experiences, challenges and coping strategies. These themes emerged from the processes of data analysis conducted by an independent coder and myself.
After the completion of the data analysis processes, in a consensus discussion facilitated by the study supervisor, the themes the independent coder and I had identified were further crystallised and consolidated. To substantiate a particular theme, subtheme or even a category deduced from the datasets, storylines from the participants’ narratives and the interview transcripts will be given and used to underscore a research finding.
Quoting words, phrases and sentences from the participants’ interview transcriptions in substantiating a theme that emerged is not uncommon in qualitative research reports. Sandelowski (1994:479) exposes this technique as one of the devices researchers use to make their claims. In his work this author states that quoting the participants’ words provides substantiation for a point the researcher wants to make. It can also fulfil the function of exemplifying an idea, or “to represent the thoughts, feelings or moods of the persons quoted or to provoke a response in the members of the audience for the research report” (Sandelowski, 1994:480).
In addition to quoting storylines from the participants’ narratives and the interview transcripts to underscore a research finding, literature speaking to a particular theme, subtheme or a category (where applicable) will be used to either introduce a theme, subtheme or category, or to confirm and/or contrast a theme and/or storyline
THE BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION OF THE CSOs
A person’s SUD impacts strongly on and affects various relationships, especially the intimate relationships with a partner or spouse (Wilson et al., 2017:57; McCann et al., 2017:2; Rodriquez, Neighbors & Knee, 2014:294; Hudson et al., 2014:106). This can be ascribed to the interdependence of such a relationship and the fact that a partner’s SUD affects their “shared life” on both an emotional and practical level (Rodriquez et al., 2014:295). Having stated this, Lander, Howsare and Byrne (2013:194) emphasise that “each family and each family member is uniquely affected in terms of their needs left unmet in such close relationships, their emotional wellness, physical safety and financial security”.
In Table 3.1 (on the following page), the biographical information obtained only about the CSOs of a partner with a SUD who participated in the study is included. However, to create a context and a link with Chapter Four where the biographical details of the partners with the SUD are introduced their allocated identification and pseudonym is also listed with that of the CSOs but is written in italics underneath in brackets. The biographical information tabulated will be discussed afterwards.
The age distribution of the CSO-participants
Concerning the age distribution of the sample of the CSO-participants, depicted in Table 3.1 it becomes clear that the youngest participant was at the time of the study 23 years of age and the eldest 61 years of age. Two participants each were in the age ranges of 20-29 and 50-59 years of age. Three participants fitted within the 30-39 years age range, four into the 40-49 years of age range and one participant in the range of 60-69 years of age.
When fitting the participant’s respective ages into Erikson’s (in Donald, Lazarus & Lolwana, 2010:60-64) life stages of psycho-social development, progressing from infancy, toddlerhood, preschool, childhood, adolescence, young, middle to late adulthood (Dunkel & Harbke, 2017:59), six of the twelve participants fit into the stage of young adulthood (ranging from 18-40 years). The other six participants between the ages of 40-65 years match the middle adulthood stage. Each of the life stages involves a basic conflict, psychosocial crisis or emerging challenge, primarily brought about by social demands placed on the individual. To progress at each stage, the acquiring of a competency or attitude is needed for the successful resolution of the psychosocial crisis that will result in the development of a sense of competence (Dunkel & Harbke, 2017:58; Lefrançois, 1993:547, 555).
In young adulthood the basic conflict is between “intimacy” versus “isolation”. In this life stage the individual tackles the developmental task of achieving intimacy by establishing interpersonal relationships with people they can be “close to” and can be trusted, while retaining the autonomy and personal identity achieved at the earlier developmental stages (Lineros & Fincher, 2014:41; Donald et al., 2010:64; Lefrançois, 1993:555). The ultimate aim is the ability to successfully form a relationship with somebody with whom they can share their life, together with being committed to each other in the confines of a romantic relationship in which love can be experienced as a psychological strength (Dunkel & Harbke, 2017:59). Failure to achieve intimacy will result in isolation and loneliness. A person’s SUD could hamper the psychosocial developmental outcome of achieving intimacy by establishing intimate relationships. For the person with a SUD, who is in relationship with a CSO, the aim for both in achieving mutual intimacy is hampered, as the SUD has the propensity to absorb, and isolate the person abusing chemical substances but also their CSOs (Kinney, 2012: 202; Hagedorn & Hirshhorn, 2009:48).
In confronting this threat to intimacy and to break the isolation, the CSOs of partners with a SUD have to take in the unenviable position of confronting the partner’s substance abusing behaviour (Hawkins and Hawkins in McNeece & DiNitto, 2012:261), despite the trust being broken between them (Kirst-Ashman, 2013:448).
The developmental task emerging in middle adulthood according to Erikson’s life stage psychosocial development theory is that of “generativity” versus “stagnation” (Donald et al., 2010:64; Lefrançois, 1993:555). With reference to this life stage, Dunkel and Harbke (2016:59) write: “As a middle-aged adult Erikson believed that individuals begin to realize the reality of death and contemplate their legacy”. As a result, and in a pursuit to acquire generativity, the maturing adult needs to establish a smorgasbord of caring family, friendship, and work relationships in giving back to and benefitting the community (Donald et al., 2010:64; Lefrançois, 1993:555). Through generativity, care as a psychological strength is gained (Dunkle & Harbke, 2016:59). Opposing productivity is becoming self-absorbed; discontented and stagnant. Resolving this duel between generativity versus stagnation does not imply abandoning all thoughts of self, but rather reaching a balance between self-interests and interest of others (Lefrançois, 1993:555). In applying this life-stage of generativity versus despair to both the CSOs and their partner with the SUDs, the SUDs encroach on their ability to acquire generativity in the true sense of the word. The reason for this is that the partner with the disorder becomes so self-absorbed in the addiction that it may lead not only to stagnation but deterioration at multiple levels too (Rowe, 2012:60; Kinney, 2012:201).
The race, gender distribution of the CSO-sample group
As shown in Table 3.1, nine of the participants were White and thee were Coloured persons. Although both MWLC and CAD are non-racial faith-based organisations and they accommodate persons from all races and diverse religions, only Coloured and White CSOs that met the criteria for inclusion at the time of the research project volunteered their participation (see Chapter Two: paragraph 2.5.1 – Population, sampling and process of participant recruitment and paragraph 2.5.2 – Screening and selection process followed with potentially interested participants).
The gender participation of CSOs involved in this study comprises ten females and two males (Andries and Paul). This domination of female CSO-participants in this sample can be attributed to the fact that, world-wide more males than females are inclined to get involved in abuse of chemical substances. Rodriquez, Overup & Neighbors, (2013:628) state that the ratio of male to female is about three to one. Sudhinaraset, Wigglesworth and Takeuchi (2013:35) set the ratio at 10% for males to 3.5% for females. Cranford et al. (2011:21) aver that the number of married and cohabiting alcoholic males in the United Stated (age 18 year and above) outnumber the female alcoholics in the mentioned age group by a ratio of more than 2:1.
The educational level (highest qualification) and current employ of the CSO-sample group
Concerning the qualifications of participants, nine of the participants stated Matric as their highest educational qualification. Kate, who indicated Grade 10 as her highest educational qualification, went on to qualify as a hairdresser but currently works as a receptionist. Three of the participants (Andries, Cindy and Anne) had tertiary qualifications.
Concerning employment, from the information in Table 3.1 all the CSOs, except for Louna (a housewife and now on pension) were gainfully employed at the time the fieldwork was being done. Andries, Paul, and Elsa were self-employed, offering financial auditing and bookkeeping, graphic design and horse-riding instruction services respectively. Anne was employed in corporate finance, while Felicity, Olga, and Jane worked in the retail and marketing sectors. Linda was a clerk in a hospital, and Cindy a social worker at an NGO. Kate worked as receptionist at a surgery. Queen was employed as administrator for a security company. The participants emphasised how their employment was a measure of financial stability amid the financial turmoil their partner’s SUD created, an opinion also confirmed by Hudson et al. (2014:106; 107) and Wilson et al. (2017:57). Andries, Linda, Olga and Anne openly admitted to “throwing” themselves into their work to help them cope with the state of their current situation.
Nature and length of the CSOs’ relationships with the partner with the SUD and number of children in their care
The relationships of the participants in this study lasted an average of just over eleven years. However, if we remove the two participants, Louna and Linda who were married for 35 and 27 years respectively, the average drops significantly to just over seven years. Considering the average age of forty-year-old participants we can conclude that CSO relationships started late in their lives and generally did not last long.
In Table 3.1 (see Section 3.2), it is documented that Cindy, Elsa and Jane did not have children. It was a matter of choice; Elsa was too old (54) to have children and never had children of her own before this relationship; Cindy said “no children by choice” until her partner showed he could be sober for at least three to five years; and Jane said that they wanted to adopt children but when the substance abuse started did she decide against it. Andries had one child and was considering leaving his partner. Paul and Louna each had three children of their own. Having children under these circumstances brings additional responsibilities for the CSOs. These issues have been itemised for discussion in more detail under the titled themes.
When considering the matter of children in families with SUDs, Hussaarts et al. (2011:38) mention that an average of five individuals is directly affected. The impact of SUDs directly falls heavily on family relationships, habits, communication and finances (Wilson et al., 2017:56; McCann et al., 2017:2; Hudson et al., 2014:106, 107; Lander et al., 2013:195; Benishek et al., 2011:82). The children, especially when young are powerless, and helpless, to deal with the tension caused by an unpredictable and dysfunctional system and they become entrapped with suppressed feelings of fear, sadness, anger and humiliation (Black, 2001:11, 15).
When the parent with a SUD is the mother, [as is the case with Ida and Grace], the children spontaneously comment that they feel unloved and neglected and often experience abuse and abandonment (Brakenhoff & Slesnick, 2015:217). CSOs of partners with a SUD know this, as they themselves are caught up in these circumstances, having to take care of children while they themselves struggle for their own survival
State of sobriety of the CSOs’ partners with the SUD
At the time of the research, Andries’ wife, Ida, Linda’s husband Conrad and Jane’s life-partner, Honey experienced intermittent states of sobriety in that they were either still using or had relapsed into a SUD condition. With Linda’s husband Conrad, there had been a history of relapses; while with the other two (Ida and Honey) they had only experienced one relapse each. Queen and Olga’s partners had been clean for two months; Elsa, Kate, Olga, Queen and Felicity’s partners managed to remain sober for two months and up to but less than one year. Cindy, Paul and Louna’s partners (Mike, Grace and Stefan) were sober for longer than 12 months, with Mike and Grace being sober for 24 months and Stefan for 36 months.
CSO-participants’ attempt to reach out for professional help
It seems that generally a CSO would be the person to reach out for professional advice for their situation being caught up in a SUD (McCann, et al., 2017:56; 57; Toner & Velleman, 2014:147). I therefore decided to enquire about this tendency in my delimited study area. Linda, Louna, Cindy, Felicity and Elsa informed me that they sought professional help and advice. Cindy, a social worker by profession, searched for information on the phenomenon of SUD on the website and started attending a support group, while simultaneously threatening divorce, should her partner not stop using drugs, and agree to go for help. Louna went to speak to her church minister. The other three, Linda, Felicity and Elsa had not gone for help to professionals, of whom Linda and Felicity later and currently still belong to support groups, having joined one previously.
CSOs’ accounts of abuse of chemical substances
As part of collecting biographical information I enquired if the CSOs themselves had or are abusing any substances. Paul mentioned that he had a brief encounter with using illegal substances. Olga and Anne admitted that they used alcohol and occasionally drank too much alcohol in an attempt to deal with their partners’ SUD. The other participants did not report any noteworthy substance abuse.
Having presented the biographical information about the sample of CSO-participants, the focus of the discussion will now centre on the themes and subthemes that were derived from the processes of data analysis as well as the consensus discussion on the topical information gathered from the participants
PRESENTATION OF THEMES AND SUBTHEMES ABOUT CSOs’ EXPERIENCES, CHALLENGES AND COPING IN LIVING WITH A PARTNER WITH A SUD
The themes and subthemes are presented in the ensuing part of this chapter, focusing specifically on the CSO-participants’ experiences, challenges and coping strategies in the context of living with a partner with a SUD. These themes and subthemes were informed by the information presented in the written exercises they completed and the first face-to-face interview I had with them. During this interview, the information shared in the written exercise was explored further and gaps were filled in. Their suggestions on how and in what way they and others having similar experiences would like to be supported by social workers, would be thematically presented as part of the fourth chapter of this thesis that covers the second part of the research findings.
In Figure 3.1 (on the next page) an overview is provided on the themes related to the CSO-participants’ experiences, challenges and coping strategies in living with a partner with a SUD.
I will now proceed with the presentation of the themes and their related subthemes, starting at Theme One and ending with Theme Six. In substantiating or exemplifying a theme or a subtheme, or the thoughts, feelings or moods of the participants (Sandelowski, 1994:480), I will quote directly from the participants’ narratives and/or the verbatim transcriptions of the first follow-up interviews I had with them. The identified themes and subthemes, with their supporting storylines from the transcripts will be compared and contrasted with the body of knowledge available from literature sources as a means of literature control.
THEME ONE: CSOs’ EXPERIENCES OF LIVING WITH A PARTNER WITH A SUD
The CSO-participants’ accounts are compiled from information shared both in writing and verbally. They describe the regular happenings that occurred in their lives when they lived with a partner with a SUD. Analysis of this data is presented as themes with related subthemes and illustrated in tabulated format as Table 3.2 (see below). Perusal of it clearly points out that overall it was a negative experience
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS AND DEDICATION
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF ADDENDUMS
LIST OF TABLES
LIST OF FIGURES
LIST OF ACRONYMS
CHAPTER ONE GENERAL INTRODUCTION AND ORIENTATION TO THE STUDY
1.1 INTRODUCTION, BACKGROUND AND HISTORICAL OVERVIEW, PROBLEM FORMULATION AND RATIONALE FOR THE STUDY
1.2 THE THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK FOR THE STUDY
1.3 THE RESEARCH QUESTION, PRIMARY GOAL AND OBJECTIVES OF THE RESEARCH
1.4 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
1.5 RESEARCH METHOD
1.6 ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
1.7 CLARIFICATION OF KEY CONCEPTS
1.8 FORMAT OF THE RESEARCH REPORT
1.9 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER TWO DESCRIPTION AND APPLICATION OF THE QUALITATIVE RESEARCH PROCESS UTILISED IN THIS STUDY
2.2 JUSTIFICATION OF THE APPLIED DESCRIPTION OF THE QUALITATIVE RESEARCH PROCESS AS CENTRAL CHAPTER FOCUS
2.3 THE NATURE OF AND THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE QUALITATIVE APPROACH: AN APPLIED DESCRIPTION
2.4 THE RESEARCH DESIGN APPLIED
2.5 THE RESEARCH METHODS AS APPLIED
2.6 COLLECTING THE DATA
2.7 APPLICATION OF DATA ANALYSIS
2.8 THE TRUSTWORTHINESS PROTOCAL APPLIED
2.9 A DESCRIPTION OF HOW THE ETHICAL PRINCIPLES. ADOPTED FOR THIS STUDY WAS APPLIED
2.10 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER THREE RESEARCH FINDINGS (PART ONE): THE EXPERIENCES, CHALLENGES AND COPING STRATEGIES OF A CSO LIVING WITH A PARTNER WITH A SUD
3.2 THE BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION OF THE CSOs
3.3 PRESENTATION OF THEMES AND SUBTHEMES ABOUT CSOs’ EXPERIENCES, CHALLENGES AND COPING IN LIVING WITH A PARTNER WITH A SUD
3.4 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER FOUR RESEARCH FINDINGS (PART TWO): SUGGESTIONS FOR SOCIAL WORKERS SUPPORT TO CSOs OF A PARTNER WITH SUD – CSOs AND THEIR PARTNER WITH THE SUDS’ SUGGESTIONS
4.2 BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION
4.3 PRESENTATION OF THEMES AND SUBTHEMES: PARTICIPANTS’ SUGGESTIONS FOR SOCIAL WORKERS SUPPORT TO CSOs LIVING WITH A PARTNER WITH A SUD
4.4 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER FIVE SUMMARIES, CONCLUSIONS, LIMITATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
5.2 CHAPTER-WISE SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
5.3 LIMITATIONS INHERENT IN THIS STUDY
5.5 CHAPTER SUMMARY
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