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Monday, 27 January 2014

Family in Recovery

An addict is afflicted with a disease called addiction. A disease that there is no medication for and comes in many different forms. There are various theories as to what causes the disease and the cause maybe different for different individuals.

The reality is that it is a disease that affects those around as well. It is not a contagious disease like some but it is unique that it will affect those closely attached to the individual suffering from the disease. Those people will develop their own sickness of second hand addiction, leading to enabling, guilt, dysfunctional relationships, co dependency and often depression.

Reading the symptoms outlined in this following article, I think most of us who have been in any dysfunctional relationship, can agree that we have felt these feelings at one time or another.

  • Low Self Esteem
  • People Pleasing
  • Poor Boundaries
  • Reactivity
  • Caretaking
  • Control
  • Dysfunctional Communication
  • Obsessions
  • Dependency
  • Denial
  • Problems with Intimacy
  • Painful Emotions
This is not an easy list of "symptoms" to be living with and unfortunately development of co dependency is often a long process, but trying to move out of co dependency is even longer for some. It is a draining and challenges process.

I think a common misconception of those who have not been  personally affected by a loved one being an addict, believes that if that addict seeks or accepts help and enters some form of rehabilitation which may lead to recovery, than the problem is solved. Conversely, families or spouses who have finally made the extremely difficult decision to cut ties with  the addict they love because that addict is not ready for positive change, still get a similar reaction from "outsiders" that they can now live a "normal" life again.

What is often neglected when we speak of addicts and their recovery, or their continued addict lifestyle, is that in either cases, the family/loved ones they affected are in recovery. Obviously there are support groups such as Al-Anon, however, that is still a minority when you look at society and the people we all still need to be in contact on a regular basis. They just don't get it. Life does not magically change when the addict you love leaves or goes into rehab!

My daughters and I are still unsure what the future hold. We do not know how things will pan out with my son. We undoubtedly, feel less stressed and on edge at home; however, we struggle with normality and making any positive changes. Sometimes we feel the need to lash out because we feel angry or frustrated but don't really understand why. We avoid all mention of "him", and when I speak on the phone with him or mention him then my older daughter becomes visibly distressed. There is still a sense of fear but now the fear is less actual and more ambiguous. There is still a sense of dread and depression lingering about and it is hard to see a different life ahead, but not for the lack of trying. We are only in the very early stages of recovery and we will need to not only restructure our daily routines but our thought process and removes some triggers at home, such as the broken banister and doors with huge holes in them as well as redecorating "his" room...all reminders of more volatile days.

Before we take on any big DIY projects in the home (which I can not afford presently), we have started small. We are trying to remind ourselves that despite having overcome so many hardships, stressful and scary times, we have things to be grateful for. We now each have a "Grateful Diary". Every night before going to bed, we write down 3 things that we were grateful for today. My youngest started first and then I joined in a few days later. Much to the dismay of my less than enthusiastic 14 year old daughter, she has now started two nights ago. My youngest, without prompting was dutifully writing in her book for a good few days, had expressed how helpful she thinks it is because "it makes you think about the good stuff, and you feel happier"

We are a family in recovery. We love an addict and who continues to use and live in denial. Nevertheless, we are a family in recovery and I can only hope that my son will also enter his own recovery one day, but at this point in time I need to focus on our own recovery along with my daughters and start to slowly rebuild our lives.