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The Effect of Affluenza Defense on Addiction

Ethan Couch has become a household name. Known as the teen who evaded jail time for using the “affluenza” defense, he killed four and paralyzed another after causing a drunk-driving crash back in 2013.

We all thought we’d heard the last of him until a video surfaced on Twitter last month showing him at a party where alcohol was served. Shortly after, Couch disappeared – along with his mom. The two were apprehended last week near the Mexican border; Ethan is now charged with violating probation, while his mom has now been charged with hindering the apprehension of a felon.

Introducing Affluenza

The term “affluenza” has been used to refer to an inability to understand the consequences of one’s actions because of financial privilege. Couch grew up getting whatever he wanted. Coddled by his co-dependent mother, he was never taught right from wrong, and, thus, never faced any consequences for his actions.

Addicted man looking at the mobile phoneHe was an entitled spoiled brat, many have claimed; a kid who thought he was invincible and above the law. Couch couldn’t be blamed, then, since his family’s wealth and a dysfunctional relationship with his parents left him without a sense of responsibility – at least, according to his defense team.

Couch was essentially given a second chance to turn his life around – 10 years’ probation, as opposed to prison time – but he squandered it instead. Just like the past, he wasn’t held accountable for his actions and suffered few repercussions for his behavior. It comes as no surprise, then, that he didn’t follow the terms of his probation and is went on the lam in an attempt to evade his punishment. After all, his parents have been paying his way out of trouble since childhood, so he’s never had to learn a lesson on his own.

Looks like all that is about to change – possibly for the whole family.

Unwanted Results of Unaccountably

While “affluenza” is obviously not a real disease, emotional neglect of children can occur in any class and can have lifelong effects on behavior. Failure to discipline a child and hold him or her accountable is one such form of emotional neglect. Those who are raised in this environment tend to become unhealthy, self-absorbed adults who are often in trouble with their finances, drugs and alcohol, and even the law.

If the Ethan Couch case has taught us anything, it’s that accountability for one’s actions is essential for sobriety.

As addicts, we become experts in shirking responsibility, avoiding consequences and living in denial, so a big part of recovery is making healthy changes in order to lead an honest and responsible life.

As parents, we must remember this: It is only by ensuring that our kids own up to their faults and are ultimately held accountable for their actions that they can truly become adults. Skirting those responsibilities for them isn’t fair to anyone.


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