Editor’s Note: The personal experiences of those close to addicts are often cloaked in secrecy and characterized by frustration. By making these experiences more available, particularly when they have been successful, it can help increase understanding and reduce pessimism among clinicians as well as family and friends who are struggling personally with the problem. Toward this end, Modern Addiction Recovery is featuring this week a first person account that highlights the importance persistence as well as the benefit of following paths that have been blazed by others. The latter sometimes requires a willingness to tolerate feelings of shame and adopt counterintuitive approaches – easier said than done when it comes to recovery help for family and friends.
By Steve R.
“It’s not my problem. Why am I here?” That was my question the first night I came to the Family Group at Kolmac almost 11 years ago. My wife had recently enrolled in the Intensive Outpatient Program to get help with her alcohol use. Neither of us stayed very long the first time or the second time for that matter, but we did make it back eventually and what we learned here at Kolmac and the various other treatment programs we visited and in AA and Al-Anon has changed our lives.
My hope when I came that first night was to get some answers to my questions about how to make someone stop drinking. I was desperate to learn these well kept secrets – nothing I had been doing for the past several months had worked. Instead I was introduced to the term “enabler” and handed a schedule of Al Anon meetings. Granted, I did get to air my grievances about “my alcoholic” to several other attendees that really seemed to understand how I felt.
I admit that I was uncertain how this could be helpful to the patient. After all, that was the only reason I felt compelled to attend – to help my wife. As I said, we didn’t stay very long the first couple of times through, but after several months more “research,” an inpatient stay at NIH got us on the right track, and we both came back to Kolmac for support. We’ve been a family in recovery ever since.
My reasons for coming to the Family Group had changed. By this time, I had begun going to Al Anon, and I was clear that, while I wasn’t the cause of the drinking or able to control it, I sure could do plenty to help myself. Accepting the fact that alcoholism is a disease and not the willful misconduct I characterized it as was a huge step forward. I came to understand that I could be part of the solution by working on my anger and resentment over past events, giving me new freedom to begin setting them aside.
Discovering that I was not alone and there were plenty of folks that had walked this path before us gave me hope. I got an Al Anon sponsor and made a commitment to attend meetings regularly both there and at Kolmac. I started feeling relief, and the language of recovery worked its way into my everyday life. Gradually I began rebuilding my relationship with my wife. The disease had taken its toll, but we were both working hard to learn how to navigate this new sober lifestyle.
It has been over 10 years, and I can say that our lives have been transformed. We still attend plenty of meetings, have sponsors in our programs and sponsor others as well. I’m clear that I will never “be done” or “graduate” from this personal work. Coming face to face with the demon that is alcoholism is a traumatic experience for the alcoholic and those that love them. Thank goodness, there is help for us all.
Contact us to learn more about recovery help for family and friends.