I have been reading stories of recovery from addiction and eating disorders for a very long time. When I joined the staff at Turning Point of Tampa, part of my job was to find people who wanted to share their story with us. In turn, we share those stories on our website and social media platforms so that others can find the experience, strength and hope they are searching for. There is a certain kind of kinship that people seeking recovery feel with those who have found recovery. I cannot explain it any better than to say that we all just “get” each other. We have walked the same long, treacherous roads and we know the paths lead to nowhere good.
The family members of the people who struggle with addictions are also affected. Family members are often in pain after years of doing everything in their power to help their loved one. Living with the effects of someone else’s addiction is devastating and for most people it is impossible to bear without outside help.
For this series, I interviewed the family members of people who struggled to get sober, people who are sober today, as well as people who have died as a result of their addiction. My hope is that as a family member, you can find that same experience, strength and hope that you are so desperately seeking.
Family Interview with Karen M.
AN: What crisis brought you to recovery?
KM.: It wasn’t so much a crisis as it was an awareness. I was in my second alcoholic marriage and I had married a totally different man. My second husband was nothing like my first husband. He had a good job, he was educated, he was kind, loving, and we had a similar upbringing. I felt just the same as I did in my first marriage. I realized I was the common denominator in those two relationships. I really wanted to be happy, and I was not, so I decided to attend Al-anon. It changed my life and continues to change my life for the better one day at a time.
AN: Had you ever heard of a Family Recovery Program before this crisis?
KM: Yes, I grew up in a family with an alcoholic father. I attended a family group when he was in treatment and it was mentioned then.
AN: What have you learned about the importance of family member’s recovery, meaning the family member of the person who is addicted.
KM: For me it has been very important. I like the person I am today. I am blessed. Al-anon has taught me to keep the focus on myself and my own behaviors. It has helped me let go of my obsession with my alcoholic loved ones. I have learned to live in peace, to be responsible for myself and my choices. I have found a safe haven in Al-anon. No matter what I go through I can always find someone who has been through the same situation and is willing to share their experience, strength and hope with me.
AN: Did you have any reluctance in accepting your need for your personal recovery? Meaning, did you ever have thoughts of “I don’t have a problem so why do I am I the one who needs help?
KM: No, I grew up seeing absurd behavior in my mother. I remember saying to my father “something is wrong with Mom. Why is she acting that way?” My father was an alcoholic, he drank, so I understood why he acted strangely. I was confused as to why my mom was acting crazy, she didn’t have a drinking problem. Because of this, as I got older, I realized I had become her, I was able to recognize my own absurd behavior and knew Al-anon was a place where I could heal.
AN: What would you tell family members who are considering their own recovery?
KM: Please give it try. It has helped me more than words can say. I feel so much better living inside my own skin. I no longer live in the land of distorted thinking. I have learned that I can be happy whether the alcoholic is drinking or not.
AN: Have you experienced any stigma surrounding addiction and recovery?
KM: Not from other people, but I did have a bit of reluctance to tell people that my husband was in treatment. My husband was in treatment around the holidays and I feared having to answer questions about where my husband was. No one ever actually asked me that, by the way. Most of my fears were in my head and never came to fruition. I turned to my support network in Al-anon and asked “what will I do for the holidays” and they responded “you’re going to spend time with us.” I did, and their love and support meant the world to me.
AN: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
KM: Al-anon has helped me tremendously. I have become the person I always wanted to be by attending meetings, working the steps, working with my sponsor and my sponsees, and embracing the family of friends I have come to know and love in Al-anon. I now have a large support network to help me with whatever comes up in my life. Al-anon is the greatest gift I have ever given myself.