We are continuing a series we started in 2020 of Family Interviews. We spoke with the family members of those who struggled to get sober, those who are sober today and those who died as a result of their addiction. 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. Our hope is that as a family member, you can find experience, strength and hope in these stories.
The following is an interview with someone who asked to remain anonymous.
What crisis brought you to recovery? My husband is an alcoholic, he has been in and out of recovery for years. He has been to 3 residential treatment programs, was active in A.A. when he was sober, and I watched it change his life. Eventually, like they say in A.A., I got sick and tired of being sick and tired-and by that, I mean sick and tired of taking care of and worrying about him. My husband’s sponsor suggested that I needed to start setting boundaries, but I didn’t know what that looked like. When he was in treatment, we did a family weekend and the therapist suggested Al-Anon for me, but I never followed through until after his last relapse. Now I am active in my own recovery and the fellowship and sponsorship keeps me sane and serene.
Had you ever heard of Al-anon or Nar-anon before this crisis? No, like I said, the first time I ever heard of Al-Anon was during my husband’s second treatment attempt.
What have you learned about the importance of family members recovery? Most importantly, I have learned the 3 C’s: I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it and I can’t cure it. I have also learned that I was just as sick as he was because I continued to allow the behavior and insanity of his drinking and that my identity was just as wrapped up in his alcoholism as his was. I have gotten a lot of relief and freedom with the knowledge.
Does the recovery program that you are a member of have online meetings during COVID19? Yes, we are in California and have been mostly “shut down” since March so everything is over Zoom. There are dual fellowship meetings too, my home group is a speaker meeting with an alcoholic and an AlAnon and they both share their ESH.
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? Absolutely, I think we all do! But I can also say it’s been the best decision for me. I receive so much support and care from fellow Alanon’s and not just in regard to my husband’s alcoholism. We also have the steps and have a “spiritual experience” as a result of the steps too.
What would you tell family members who are considering their own recovery? To face the fear and accept that you have most likely had a part in your loved one’s disease- whether it’s enabling, trying to save them etc. It’s magic when the whole family recovers together.
Have you experienced any stigma surrounding addiction and recovery? Not with recovery, everyone has been nothing but positive and encouraging. But I think there is a still some stigma in society, yes. I believe that people still think of alcoholics and addicts as the person on the street of in the ghettos which makes it harder as a society to create programs etc. My husband is a successful attorney and from the outside you would never guess how bad his addiction became, how much money it cost us, and how close he was to losing everything. But he is no different than the person on the street, we just had more access to resources.
Is there anything else that you would like to add? Just that there is always hope for the alcoholic/addict and everyone one involved in the disease. It is truly a family disease and the family unit can recover together if everyone’s “side of the street” is clean.