SABOTAGE OR SUCCESS?
What Role Do You Play in the Family Recovery Process?
WAYS TO SABOTAGE:
1. Deny they have a problem – “You’re not really an alcoholic, addict, etc.” This is all the addict
needs to hear to be off and running back to the drug of choice. It’s also debilitating for someone who is trying to be a better person to hear these comments. Also, keep in mind that you may not be aware how serious the problem is because addicts are ashamed of their usage so they hide it from others.
2. Drink or drug in front of the person – Imagine that you haven’t eaten for a week and someone walks in front of you with a big cheesy pizza, chocolate chips cookies, or your favorite food, and you can’t have any. No further explanation is needed for the cruelty of this scenario.
3. Discourage the person from going to meetings or therapy – “You don’t have to go to those meetings again, do you? Not again!” “How long do you have to keep going to AA, it’s been over a year!” “You spend more time at those meetings that you do with me, I’m tired of this.” These types of comments are de-motivating to that person’s recovery.
4. Agree to the treatment plans and then undermine them – How can therapy succeed if one of the participants refuses to follow the recommendations? This creates a clog in the wheel of successful therapy. If your family member had cancer, would you refuse to read about it, prepare the right diet, take the meds, go to support groups, etc.? The addict also has a deadly disease and needs the same support.
5. Refuse to participate in therapy, go to Al-Anon or receive other beneficial help – The best chances of an individual recovery occur in the family that heals together. Usually, the family members are more disturbed than the substance abuser because the substance abuser has been disconnected and numbed out, while the rest of the family has watched the horror show feeling powerless to do anything. Each member of the family has the choice to get help or stay stuck.
6. Hold on to the Past – Recovery is about healing and forgiveness of the past. It serves no purpose to remind the recovering person of all of their past wrongdoing or mistakes other than to want them to feel bad. Even though it may not appear to be the case, addicts repeatedly use because they are overcome with guilt and shame. Therapy and Al-Anon teach people how to forgive and to see the past as part of a process that leads us to better things.
WAYS TO ACHIEVE SUCCESS:
1. Support the person’s recovery and attendance at meetings – Be affirmative, “I’m glad you’re getting help, it takes a lot of courage to make such a life change.” “I may not understand, but I’m willing to learn about it.” “How can I participate in your recovery, how can I help?”
2. Abstain from using alcohol, pills or drugs in front of the recovering person.
3. Be supportive of attendance at meetings – Many people feel neglected by the addict’s new lifestyle. The 12-step meetings, sponsorship, and therapy are the life-lines for the addict. If you have extra time on your hands, go to your own Al-Anon meetings, educate yourself, and attempt to
be a part of —rather than separate from the recovery process—growing together as a family is exhilarating and enjoyable.
4. Follow the treatment recommendations – Treat this illness like any other illness by following
through with the suggestions and treatment offered. This can not be stressed enough. Lack of a good support system or one that undermines the addict’s recovery is the main cause of relapse. In therapy, be a part of the team and offer any input and suggestions that you may have. You may have valuable input that no one else knows about. Therapy works like a team, all members need to be on the same team with the same agendas—a good outcome depends on this.
5. Participate in Therapy, 12-Step Meetings – As uncomfortable as it may be; it is important to learn about the disease of addiction, the tools of recovery, and how to best help yourself and other family members. This is the place to work through emotions, not the family—especially children. No matter how wrong parents are, each child is a part of each parent. If one of the parents hates the other, the child is conflicted with feelings of love and self-hatred because he/she is made up of both parents. No child should ever be in the place of choosing between parents. Al-Ateen helps kids to understand they didn’t cause, can’t control, and can’t cure their parent’s addiction.
6. Stay in the Present Moment – It’s very difficult to be in the present when the disease of addiction has ravaged an entire family, but recovery depends on focusing on the here and now. This does not mean that you are supposed to magically forget the trauma you have been through, but it does mean that that pain should be worked out with a sponsor or therapist so that it can be healed. It is critical that the children (regardless of age) are excluded from parental emotional discharge so that everyone is focused on healing rather than blaming.
7. Trust the Process – If you are engaged in the family recovery process, things will get better regardless of what everyone else is doing. They will either be committed to healing together or they won’t, but it does not need to effect your personal outcome as long as you have a good support system. It may be scary to let go of the role as a caretaker, or someone who’s carried more than your share, and now it’s time to take care of yourself in a healthier way.
Donna Marks, 1989 Co-Dependency Workshop