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.
AN: What crisis brought you to recovery?
DC: It wasn’t one crisis it was many. I kept trying to do things to make my husband happy. He never was. I went into debt, spending thousands of dollars trying to buy him things to make him happy. I agreed to do things to make him happy. Then I would start screaming at him hoping for change. The arguing got even louder and more volatile. I didn’t how to change it. I was screaming and crying in my car one day, wanting to run it into a tree. The only thing that kept me alive that day was my little white dog in the backseat and I didn’t want to kill him.
AN: Had you ever heard of a Family Recovery Program before this crisis?
DC: I was constantly complaining to my friends about my husband, and at that time I had a friend that kept telling me I should go to Al-Anon. I didn’t know why she was saying that, but she kept saying it over and over again. I finally decided to go to therapy and my therapist said the same thing: that I should go to Al-anon. The last straw was when I was complaining to my friend about my husband and I actually saw her roll her eyes. Right then I made a decision to go.
AN: What have you learned about the importance of family member’s recovery, meaning the family member of the person who is addicted.
DC: There are so many things that I’ve learned, it’s hard to say just a few. Most important for me is that I learned it’s not about them, it’s about me. It’s about my reactions to their actions. I love my husband and I’m not going to leave him, but I can walk away from the insanity of his actions anytime I wish. I don’t have to participate. I always thought if he would just act the way I want him to, then I would be happy. I’ve learned in family recovery that I can be happy even if my family member is not acting the way I want them to.
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?
DC: Lol. Absolutely. I just kept saying why do I have to work so hard.
AN: What would you tell family members who are considering their own recovery?
DC: Please, just do it. I have been happier in the last 25 years than I have ever been. My husband had stopped using before I went to Al-Anon, so it really wasn’t about the alcohol at that time. It was about the misery that I was living in. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is for me if he’s in a bad mood that I don’t take it on. I don’t think it’s my fault and it’s not my job to fix it. I have so much freedom now.
AN: Have you experienced any stigma surrounding addiction and recovery?
DC: Personally, no. It seems as though addiction is pretty well excepted as a disease. Generally, if I do tell my story to someone, I get the “oh I’m so sorry,” comment, which at this point in my recovery, I just smile. I smile because I know I would not be the happy person I am without the recovery this disease forced me into.
AN: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
DC: Do you or someone you know have a desire to be happier, joyful, kind and guilt free? If so, a family recovery program might be for you. Just go to a meeting and try it out. I promise it helps.