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[ Personal Narratives ]

Addicted to Saving Another: Addiction In The Family Unit

Whether it is you or a loved one in addiction it affects everyone involved. 

As a mother of an addict myself, it took me what seemed like an eternity, to figure out how this life of addiction for my daughter happened, and more importantly how to “fix” it. 

Through the years of our walk through addiction I learned that even though I didn’t CAP (Contribute, Approve, or Participate) in the addiction phase of my daughter’s life, I had to learn how to cope through it. Everyone tells you to go to Al-Anon meeting’s and it will help greatly. Well I didn’t, and it did take me much longer to get out of the “well of depression” that ensued. I threw myself into learning everything I could on my own; by reading books and other life stories, researching online, and prayer. I thought I could do it myself.

Only during the course of my daughters recovery program and family dynamics groups did I feel that camaraderie of knowing I was not alone. Believe me that was so very liberating! While my daughter made strides in her life of sobriety, I realized I too had work to do in order to assure her Relapse Prevention would work for her where family was involved. I was also able to discuss feelings and how to begin a true “self-care” strategy in my life and in our family life.

In this blog I will be sharing the first step I had to take in my own recovery from this terrible disease that infiltrated my family, to FORGIVE MYSELF.

Realizing that as a parent, relative, or sibling we possess a personal responsibility on some level that directly relates to our personal core values and behavior in the family unit. As a parent what that meant to me is that I was responsible for my children, no matter how old they were. In reality, what our children do, reflects in some way on the family as a unit. However, that level of responsibility does shift as the child grows and develops their own free will. 

There was one example of that transference of responsibility that I was told awhile back that goes as follows: birth to age 6 the parent is totally responsible for child, age 7-12 the child begins to translate core values on a limited scale and is challenged by peer and social views, age 13-18 the child is beginning to apply learned and perceived core values and behaviors but is held accountable by parents and community as they progress to independence and adulthood responsibilities. It is in this phase that we have our last real shot as curbing willful behavior and lack of coping before they are “released” into society. This helped me realize and affirm to myself that while there may have been things that I missed during her growth and development I never condoned anything that I thought would lead her to her addiction

Parenting has never been easy, and in today’s society it’s almost impossible. In today’s society parents must be vigilant as the negative influences are everywhere.  Society’s core values can be seen on TV, billboards, newspapers, friends, family, and if applicable Church and community, and it is with the family unit that personal decisions and choices are flushed through, to what is to be believed and supported. So for us as parents to assume total responsibility is unrealistic. At best we can form our family nucleus bond and educate ourselves on how to better identify and help support through any life-challenge. In order to successfully do this we must learn to let go as appropriate, and forgive ourselves for our ignorance if you will, and learn whenever possible.

Having never been in addiction myself it was very difficult for me to comprehend the lengths and changes in behavior that one in addiction goes to in order to continue in that downward spiral of life. I was ignorant or blind to the signs and symptoms of addiction that were manifesting in my own family. Frankly, on some level, I probably just didn’t want to know, as I see looking back. 

I also didn’t have a support system, I didn’t know any other parents that had “been there” to help me see what was transpiring. You see if I knew what was really going on at that time, then it most definitely would have been my fault (at least in in my head at the time). 

When I finally put it all together I was overcome with the knowledge that I had allowed it. This is the first thing I had to forgive myself for. In no way had I actually allowed it to happen. But I still had to figure out how to forgive myself for not being enough- smart enough, strong enough, resourceful enough, etc. The fact of the matter was I was clueless and my daughter needed me to learn and grow with her.

I don’t know if you have God in your life, but I know I couldn’t have come through without my Faith. I am not one to judge anyone’s belief structure- Jewish, Christian, Buddhism, Muslim- all I know is what I believe and that is that God is my source of power. However you can connect to your God is what is important here. I just happen to be a Christian, my walk in life is with the Faith and knowledge that everything happens for a reason, season, or lifetime. The challenging things in life are what make our testimony to others, otherwise they would be for nothing. We have the free will to take advantage of the experiences from other’s walk. Most importantly that my daughter has her own walk in this life and I am not totally responsible, my responsibility is to be her support and love her through her challenges in her adult life.

It was nice to know that a testimony that would become useful to others was being built in my daughter and it was up to her to choose what to do with it. It helped me forgive myself for not being that “all knowing” entity in her life as I had once thought I should be, after all I was not God. I had to forgive myself and release for His work to be done. “Let Go and Let God” became my life code. Another scripture that I found useful was “The Lord helps those who help themselves” so I began to learn and take purposeful steps toward being an active supporter of an addict, not enabling.

The best way to help us gain that ground needed in a healthy family is through support groups, whether through your Church or community group the step method and peer support is unparalleled regarding success.

If there isn’t one maybe you should start one, or let me help you start one in your area or ours! I would be glad to help coach you in the right direction, or maybe you can begin one within your church. I guarantee you that you are not alone! This disease is woven into the fabric of every level of society.

Choose today to begin to forgive and release yourself to allow yourself to begin your “self-care” strategy. You will be so glad you did!