Some of us have grown up in a context of alcoholism where things were a tiny bit crazy — or a lot. Some of us have married an alcoholic or raised one. At any rate, we love an addict or are under their jurisdiction in one form or another, and it affects us. We can shrivel up and die from the affects of someone else’s addiction literally or figuratively. It can suck the life right out of us if we let it. Thank God, there’s a solution for us too. It doesn’t have to be that way.
It’s easy to say how they “need to” do this or that. “They need to go to meetings, they need to ask for help, they need to look at their life and wake up …” Meanwhile we have completely lost ourselves in what they are doing — or not doing. We monitor, we obsess and in my case as a parent, we wrack our brains for the key to unlock their depression, despair and self-destruction. “God!,” I’d beg with snotty sobs and red-faced exasperation, “Show me the one thing I don’t know which will turn Ted around. What IS IT that I can do to FIX this?” I prayed, I fasted, I powered through plan A to Q. Finally God lead me to plan R. R is for recovery — my own. I need to go to my meetings, I need to ask for help, I need to look at my life and wake up.
When Ted was in treatment his counselor (strongly) suggested I go to my own 12-Step meetings for people who love someone in addiction. I wanted to do the right thing and for her to think I was a good mom, so I went. When I got there they said to keep coming back and go to at least six meetings before making a judgement. I’m a rule-follower so I kept coming back and reserved judgement until after six meetings. That was seven and a half years ago. It actually isn’t about rules. It’s about tools.
I listened to the Twelve Steps and thought, “Oh good. God is mentioned here. I’ve got the spiritual thing down. In fact, I can probably help the people here with my vast wisdom of all things spiritual. I listened some more and heard gut-level honesty that floored me. I also heard how people were working on themselves and asking God to make them the people He wants them to be. I heard about prayer as a lifeline, not a leash. There was talk of victories, personal progress and teachable moments that involved moving two steps forward one step back. It all humbled me — still does.
The key to stopping addiction wasn’t presented to me because I learned, it does not belong to us. (Want to hear something freaky though? Addicts have a 38% chance of getting into recovery but when their loved ones work their own recovery in Al Anon that rate goes up over 75%.) We affected family members work together (also an anomily — there’s typically a whole lot of isolation) under God’s care, to recover from the effects of alcoholism and drug addiction on our lives. It’s for us. The keys I uncovered to that? Willingness, honesty and … yeah, willingness and honesty. God takes it from there.