The road to recovery from drugs and alcohol is a family matter. The disease of addiction puts incredible strains on family dynamics and sometimes it can pull the family in opposite directions. Addiction is not a singular disease, it is a family disease. There are ways to pull together and find a solution . The following five tips can help with surviving and thriving in recovery!
1. Educate yourself about the disease
Addiction thrives in an environment of ignorance and denial . When you understand addiction you are then better equipped to respond to its common manifestations. There is a wealth of information and resources for families and friends of people who struggle with addiction and multiple means of support. My suggestion is to first understand that you are not alone and there are people who feel scared, confused and perhaps hopeless. Learn about the tell tale signs of addiction, the patterns of behavior that accompany addiction , and most importantly find your own recovery.
Learn to Cope is a great organization that focuses on education, prevention and has guests speakers who have had personal and professional experience in knowing how to cope with addicts and addiction.
2. Seek support for yourself
The addicts/alcoholics in your life have their own disease and family members have their own disease. They are addicted to drugs and alcohol and we are addicted to them. I was addicted to my alcoholic and my every thought and decision was based on where they were, how they looked, and what I could do to help them. Others also try to manage their friends, try to access their phones and text messages so they can gauge how they are doing and who they are spending time with, get access to bank accounts to see where their money is going and the list goes on. At one point in time, I believed my motives and intentions to be pure and completely selfless. However, after time, I realized this wasn’t completely truthful. Sure, we all want them to be okay, but I wanted to be okay too. If they weren’t okay, then I wasn’t okay. Addiction is a family disease and the best thing we can do is to get into recovery ourselves. When I stopped obsessing about what may or may not be going on for him/her or what they may be feeling or what may be triggering them; it gave me time to focus on where I was at and what I needed. I needed my own recovery, which I found through the twelve steps. I had to come to the understanding that I am powerless over other peoples choices and whether I detach lovingly or if I hover over them, the results are out of my control. I can’t manage a desire that resides deep within somebody else. My only job is to love them and accept that I can’t live their lives for them. We all have consequences to our choices and we are the only ones that can live them out. Letting go is the most difficult part of addiction, yet it is in letting go that they may find help and a solution! I don’t have to be anybody’s solution, nor can I be.
Some resources for getting into recovery are:
There are also some other meetings in Massachusetts in the Franklin, Westborough and Milford areas that use the twelve steps for family members and friends of addicts and alcoholics that focus on the solution! They use the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous as their basic text. The meeting are held at:
Chapel of the Cross
161 Flanders Road
Milford Regional Medical Center -The Women’s Pavilion Hill Building
14 Prospect Street-4th Floor
New England Chapel
40 Kenwood Circle
Thursdays 7:30pm-8:30 pm
3. Know that addiction is a disease
People don’t choose to be addicts or alcoholics. There is a world of misunderstanding in the world around this disease and some folks believe that they are just weak and ask why don’t they just quit. To quote a few” Don’t they see how they are hurting themselves and their families”, “they have no control” , ” what’s wrong with them or “what did I do wrong as their Mom”. The disease is a baffling and cunning one and unless you walk in those same shoes, it is hard to explain it to somebody and to be understood. It is not they they don’t love their families, friends or children. It is the fact that their drugs or alcohol is their solution to living. Things seem to simmer down and life seems more manageable when they don’t have to feel or can numb. It’s just a survival tool. They don’t grow up with aspirations of being an addict or alcoholic and going to detox’s, residential treatment programs and long term sober living. At the end of the day it is about filling an internal void; drugs and alcohol are the solution. We as family members see it as a problem. In the Big Book it suggests that they have an allergy to alcohol/drugs and once the allergy has been triggered, it sets off a phenomenon of craving. ‘These allergic types can never safely use alcohol in any form at all; and once having formed the habit and found they cannot break it, once having lost their self confidence, their reliance upon things human, their problems pile up on them and become astonishingly difficult to solve” Big Book XXVI.
4. How to be helpful and what that means
This concept is one that is a challenge for all parents, families and friends. Given the fact that I also have a disease indicates I need a better perspective when it come to my addict/alcoholic. I think some resistance to families finding their own program of recovery is the fear that they are going to be told to kick them out, let them figure their own lives out and to have minimal contact. Personally, I don’t think living in extremes in beneficial. We can be helpful and be supportive without robbing our loved ones of their dignity. I believe that we can be helpful by allowing them to make their own choices, give suggestions when asked and letting them fall when they need to. When it comes to addiction, we all need to hit our bottom because it is only at the bottom that we begin to ask for help and begin to seek a solution. The answers don’t come overnight and there is a process through all of it, but it is each one of our rights to find that bottom and go through it. The question we have to ask ourselves is put perfectly in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous; “You may be aiding in his destruction, rather than his recovery”(page 97) I needed to step away in a reasonable, loving and kind way. Each individual figures out their own way in their own time.
5. Never lose hope
Watching our loved ones lose themselves to drugs or alcohol is heart breaking and frightening. I have seen some of the worst situations turn around completely and some other situations that did not end well. The only way that I could maintain any degree of hope and sanity was to find hope and belief in something bigger than myself. If we live by sight, it can be discouraging and frustrating; particularly if we look at the number of repeated visits to detox’s or rehabs. Relapse happens. However,every time our loved ones are faced with detox or rehab; it may be the time they hear something that sets off a light bulb that allows them to surrender and ask for help. It takes time and patience and faith in something greater than our human selves. For me, it was finding strength in a Higher Power that gave me answers to a better way of living and thinking which allowed me to have faith that things were happening as they were and I needed to figure out a way to gain acceptance of my circumstances and to never give up and remain hopeful.