The Big Book from Alcoholics Anonymous, which guides most other 12-step systems, has an entire chapter dedicated to families after recovery. But, what about before recovery? AA often preaches that those closest to an addict may have to end communication with someone who is causing harm to the sober people around them. For example, many would suggest that a spouse leave their addicted partner in an effort to keep their children safe and create a safe environment for themselves as well. If your family has given up, where does that leave you while struggling with addiction?
It’s very common for addicts to feel loneliness and experience abandonment through adulthood as their addiction and the behaviors with it push others away. The struggle here is that in any other situation, the adult would be held entirely responsible for their actions. That is how adults interact with each other and how they create healthy boundaries. A straight forward “You’re not healthy for me, so I won’t be around anymore,” approach to life is common between people. For addicts, however, it’s difficult to experience these losses on top of other mounting losses, and function with an impaired world view or sense of logic.
Get Familiar With the Ideal Situation
It’s difficult for many people suffering from addiction to come to terms with, but if you sit down and imagine the ideal situation, the addiction must be gone. Take a moment to yourself and imagine all of your relationships repaired with your friends and family. Your spouse will happily go out with you, enjoy time with the kids as a family, and host family events. Your parents respond to your texts and calls and comment on your recent successes.
During this ideal visualization, it’s okay to be selfish and think of how well you can do and what success you can achieve to impress those around you. But, here’s the thing, these situations aren’t possible if you’re missing key moments to get high in the car or bathroom or sleeping off last night’s crusade on the couch.
Read “The Family Afterward” chapter of the Big Book, even if alcohol isn’t your drug of choice. It can help you understand what is possible and very realistic in your future for your family if you take the first steps to recover those bonds.
Know You’re Not Alone
The American Society of Addiction Medicine has found that 20.5 million Americans have a substance abuse disorder. That was found in 2015 as the opioid epidemic was still growing. But for each of those people suffering from addiction, they also experience distanced or broken relationships that may be beyond repair.
If your family has given up on you because of addiction, know that you’re not the only one. Talk candidly about this experience in group therapy or 12-step meetings, and you will likely hear a resounding agreement of this shared experience in life. It’s difficult for you, but it was also a difficult choice for your family members. Identifying this can help you understand the expectations you may need to meet if you plan or have the opportunity to rekindle these relationships.
Take It Slow
One of the factors that often lead to relapse is the failure to reconnect. The scenario goes something like this. You get home from treatment and rush to your parent’s house. When you burst in the door, there’s no welcome hugs or questions about how you’re feeling. Instead, the family looks scared, and your parents don’t want you there. It’s heartbreaking, and it causes many people to head right out and use it.
Don’t rush back into relationships that need time to heal. Whether it’s parents, spouses, children, siblings, or friends, these are all people who have faith, but not trust. They’re worried that anything they do will lead to relapse or further hurt. Take it slow, talk to people one-on-one, and ask people to attend therapy or meetings with you so they can understand and see what you’re doing to stay sober.
If Your Family Has Given up on You, Stay in Treatment
Many people believe that the end of their 30-day treatment stay is the sign that they’ll have long-term success. But, nothing is better for success than a habit. You are the collection of things you do every day, and continuing therapy or treatment can lead to a long and relatively painless sober lifestyle.
Contact Rehab Carolinas to talk about ongoing therapy options, outpatient programs, and resources available within your community. We provide group therapy, family therapy, and meetings that family members can attend.