Family Recovery: Being a parent of someone who is struggling with problems related to drinking or using substances can be a very hard and painful road. Each day brings ample servings of worry, anger, fear and in some cases - shame. Addiction is merciless.
Not only does it creep its way into the life of the user, but addiction also begins to wrap its tentacles around parents and love ones to pull them in a downward spiral of misery and hopelessness. It demands center stage and will consume all available resources of time, energy and money. It is the great thief of peace and serenity. Fortunately, there is a way to fight back and regain our lives – it is called family recovery.
I don’t know why it took me so long to get into family recovery – I guess I am stubborn by nature. I suspect pride and determination to ‘handle this problem myself’ played a big part in my unwillingness to seek help. But the destruction caused by addiction will have its way and eventually I was beaten down into a state of willingness to reach out for a family recovery solution.
I had spent several years attempting to fix, control, or reason with my son about the decisions he was making concerning drugs and alcohol. I could not understand how this could happen, especially since I am in recovery from alcoholism myself. Couldn’t he see where this path was going to lead him? All of the talking, educating, fighting and eventually begging left me tired and unsuccessful. Nothing changed.
I redoubled my efforts - still no results. I began to have a hard time focusing at work and frequently broke down crying. My employer insisted I take a family medical leave until I was stabilize and able to focus on my job. Me take off work?? I wasn’t the one with the problem! Or was I? I did not realize how bad it had gotten. I finally surrendered and admitted defeat.
It was 14 years ago next month that I first walked into a family recovery support group that helped me deal with the effects of someone else’s drinking and the negative impact it had on me. I had been resisting that first meeting for a number of years, but now I was at the end of my rope and no longer able to hang on.
What I found was a group of people who shared their stories and I was able to identify with them. They knew about the anger and the fear. They understood my desperate need to try and stop the madness that bombarded my home and the defeat of not being able to do so. In those first few meetings I didn’t talk much, but the tears flowed freely. One lady told me, “Come to six meetings before you make a decision about attending, six consecutive meetings.” So I took her advice and did just that. A life saver.
The freedom I discovered in family recovery is much like the freedom I found from my own alcoholism. It stupefied me how the disease not only controlled me through my own drinking, but after I got sober it also took over my life through someone else’s drinking. Insanity and fear ruled the day along with all the chaos and turmoil that addiction fosters.
Fortunately for me today, the quality of my life does not hinge on whether someone else is drinking or not. I have learned how to use the recovery tools for family members that are necessary in order to take care of myself and live my life to the fullest regardless of the actions of others. These are some of the gifts of family recovery.
I spoke with a young man a while back who was sharing about the struggles he was having in trying to not drink. In light of all the problems he has experienced his family doesn’t understand why he just doesn’t stop and change his lifestyle. He said, “If this was a matter of lifestyle I would have walked away from it a long time ago. I continue to drink because I want to drink like normal people, even though in my mind I know I am alcoholic.”
Like him, I really believed that someday I would be able to drink without it causing any problems. Until I realized that I am never going to able to drink normally just as I am never going to be able to fix anyone else’s drinking I am going to remain unhappy, angry and full of fear. I am grateful today for ‘both’ of my recovery programs. I am blessed in being able to experience the joys of a full and happy life.
If you are interested in receiving support to help you with deal with issues related to a child’s or loved one’s drinking or using drugs please visit Families Anonymous on the Web. If there is no family recovery group in your city, check with a local treatment provider or counselor to help you get on started. The Families Anonymous Website offers materials and instructions on how to do so.
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 sees local clients in office and is also available for telephone coaching and/or consultation. Click here to contact Angie with appointment requests, questions, or feedback.