- How codependency and addiction rattled the lives of Sigrid and Hans Rausing, siblings in one of Britain’s richest families.
One of Britain’s richest women, Sigrid Rausing, recently opened up in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs about her brother’s long struggle with addiction and how her own codependency played a role in shaping their relationship and lives.
Sigrid and her brother Hans Rausing are grandchildren of Tetra Pak founder Ruben Rausing, and heirs to the family’s fortune. In the interview, Sigrid disclosed her despair that an unlimited budget and the best addiction treatment available was not enough to help her brother get and stay sober. Even the world’s leading addiction experts specialising in treating wealthy families could not prevent the tragic trajectory of Hans’ addiction.
The Shocking Discovery in Hans Rausing’s Mansion
Although they are one of the richest families in the UK, the Rausings generally avoided the limelight. That is until 2012 when Hans Rausing’s wife Eva was found dead in their £70 million Belgravia mansion — her decomposing body hidden in a locked bedroom under piles of bedding.
The couple suffered from severe drug addiction and had become recluses in the period before Eva’s death. When her body was discovered, an estimated two months after her death, Hans was initially arrested for murder. However it later became clear that Eva died from her cocaine addiction and Hans, in his own drug addled state, was unable to cope with her death. He eventually plead guilty to delaying the burial of a body, and received a suspended prison sentence and treatment for addiction and a mental breakdown.
Sigrid said learning about Eva’s death and her brother’s arrest was a huge shock despite the couple’s long struggle with drug abuse. She said the family had tried everything to help save her brother and his wife, but in the end nothing could help.
The Suffering of Codependency
Codependency is a relationship pattern where one person puts another’s needs before their own. Often, when a family member is afflicted with addiction, others take on codependent roles — which can cause further suffering for everyone.
Sigrid, who is now 53-years-old, says she still struggles with the term codependent, but admits that codependency played a role in her relationship with her brother. In an article for The Guardian, Sigrid writes about her family’s codependent involvement with her brother and his wife stating, “Their addiction became our project, a project of endless emails, phone calls, experts, meetings, strategies, agreements, disagreements. Every week brought a new crisis, new information, and new developments.”
She says her life became completely entangled in his addiction to the point where it caused her serious bouts of depression.
She described a particularly dark time in her 20’s when Hans had come to live with her in her Islington home after being discharged from rehab. He was supposedly clean and sober, however he immediately relapsed (although she writes that she was unaware of that at the time). After he became increasingly difficult to live with, she apparently asked him to leave. However, he did not leave and instead chose to exile himself to a small bedroom within her apartment for several months before disappearing one day.
Depression and Codependency
His disappearance and estrangement triggered a bout of mild depression, but Hans eventually turned up out of the blue and entered another drug rehab. It was then, when she knew he was safe, that she was able to let her guard down and she fell into a deep depression.
Sigrid’s own suffering in relation to her brother’s addiction is not uncommon. While in the trap of codependency, close family members and spouses of addicts may give up their own mental well-being as they put all their energy into trying to care for the addict in their life.
Codependency not only causes suffering for family members, but can also inadvertently cause further problems for the addict. Family members of addicts understandably want to do all they can to help their loved one. However, efforts to help are often actually further enabling the addiction to continue.
Codependency and Addiction
Codependency is closely related to addiction and while first associated with partners of alcoholics, it is now more widely used to describe unhealthy patterns of relationships within couples and families.
Codependency is a maladaptive set of behaviours that people develop in order to deal with the emotional turmoil of having an addicted family member. Codependent loved ones become preoccupied with the dysfunctional behaviour of the addict and base their entire life around the needs of their addicted loved one.
These codependent behaviours enable the addict to maintain their role. Excessive caretaking, minimising problems, and attempt to please the addict in order to coax them into treatment are all signs of codependent behaviour.
Often addicts themselves are also codependent, and this was clearly the case between Hans and his wife Eva. Each of them was struggling with their own severe addiction and their codependent relationship allowed them to continue their downward spiral until the tragic end, when Hans was unable to separate from his deceased wife, delaying her burial for two months.
Codependency can be particularly difficult to recognise and to treat. Like addiction, codependency is rooted in feelings of shame and denial. Patterns of codependent behaviours are deeply entrenched in a family’s way of coping, and are therefore difficult to penetrate and change. For those who love an addict, it is hard to see how their own codependent behaviours are problematic. Letting go of codependency may mean making hard decisions, such as cutting off the addict’s access to money, or asking them to leave home.
Codependency is often addressed in addiction treatment centres and Sigrid admits that during the course of her brother’s addiction she also received treatment at a rehab as a family member. And, in the end, in order to move forward with her own life Sigrid had to detach from her brother’s life and addiction.
The Family Disease
Addiction is a family disease and is best treated as such. Treating codependent family members along with an addict can help improve chances of long-term addiction recovery. Treatment centres with a family programme such as the one at The Cabin Chiang Mai can offer greater insight into codependency within the family and how this relates to addiction.