For the last 22 years the month of September has been nationally recognized as Addiction Recovery Month. There are various organizations and individuals that not only acknowledge the recovery movement for alcoholics and addicts, but also for individuals whose lives have been negatively impacted by a loved ones drinking or drug use. They understand the importance of celebrating recovery for family members as well.
Codependents can be drawn into dysfunctional relationships where active addiction is prevalent causing tremendous stress that can result in physical, emotional and spiritual consequences. If an individual grew up where there was significant drinking or drugging a multitude of problems can occur when these children become adults resulting in adult child syndrome.
Material to promote Addiction Recovery Month is abundant in the Jefferson City community because we are very fortunate to have a variety of recovery support groups for family members. Al-anon is a support group for the friends and family of an alcoholic, Families Anonymous is for friends and family members of addicts and alcoholics (primarily parents), and CoDA is available for codependents who find themselves in unhealthy relationships, typically where alcoholism or addiction is present.
I took the opportunity for Addiction Recovery Month to talk to a variety of people in family recovery and asked them a few questions about their recovery. The interviewees will remain anonymous in order to respect their confidentiality.
What has benefited you most from family recovery? "When I first came into recovery I was looking for a way to keep my husband sober. Instead, I realized I had become lost in his disease. I found a better way to deal with life. I found myself again through this program." "Being able to keep myself from having a panic attack." "Being able to get through the day without crying all the time." "Learning how to really care for myself."
What is the hardest part of working a recovery program? "Keeping the focus on myself and my feelings. For years I had avoided feeling!" "Setting boundaries and enforcing them." "Letting go with love." "Living my own life to fullest while knowing that I may be called upon to plan my son's funeral." "Trying not to worry so much." "Making the time." Life is always getting busier and it so easy to forget to make meetings a priority. But it doesn't take long to recognize that I am slipping back into old habits."
What is the reason you continue to seek recovery support? "Taking care of me is the most important thing I can do for my loved one's recovery." "To be able to share the pain in my heart with others who know the same pain." "Simple isolation sets me up for failure. Sharing the struggle lightens my burden and allows others to grow along with me."
How has working your own recovery program helped your loved one (if at all)? "When I got out of his way and worked my own program things began to change. Change can be uncomfortable but it was the very best thing I could have ever done for him. We broke the cycle and we started a new path." "When I stopped trying to demand, direct, beg or plead the alcoholic/addict in my life to get help, he started to want it for himself. I also learned that I had my own issues to work on. When I started focusing on me and not the alcoholic it created "room" for him to make his own decisions about recovery and getting well."
I have been involved and worked with numerous family members over the years and am a family member as well. I started attending family support groups over 10 years ago. One of the first things they taught me was the three C's - "I didn't Cause it, I can't Control it and I can't Cure it." Just knowing that helped alleviate some of the tremendous guilt that was hindering my ability to live and enjoy my life.
Addiction Recovery Month is focused on the individual as well. Next I had to deal with my frustrations and anger. When I stopped enabling, the anger started to subside. For example, when I stopped providing financial help, I was less directly impacted by the poor choices of how they spent their money. Part of my program involves working on my worries and fears. I soon realized that there were some things I could not control when it came to another person's life and their free will. But, I did learn how to set boundaries if their decisions affected me in a negative way or were harmful to me.
Addiction is self-destructive by nature and has a far reaching negative impact. The consequences not only engulf family members but spreads out to neighbors, friends, and the community as a whole. Advocating for recovery, especially during Addiction Recovery Month, helps individuals understand that there is a different path and that it doesn't have to stay that way. Family recovery has given me the freedom to focus on myself and what I want out life and to help others along the way.
Angie Carter, CRADC, SAP is a certified reciprocal alcohol and drug counselor and DOT certified Substance Abuse Professional. She is in private practice at Carter Counseling & Consulting Services. Angie is also available for telephone coaching and/or consultation. Click here to contact Angie with appointment requests, questions, or feedback.