These are my people.
When I worked as a drug and alcohol counselor for over 5 years I ran the family program once a week while also doing group therapy for the addicts/alcoholics in the program. Many family members came to our family nights hungry for information, understanding, compassion, validation, and to just have a place to vent their frustration at the devastation brought on by the addict or alcoholic in their life.
Then-when the person finished treatment-the family was left with no where to turn. They often thought things would get back to “normal.” They put a lot of stress and pressure on the newly sober person to get a job, make amends and put this whole addiction thing behind them.
When the addict finishes treatment successfully, I call that a good start. This can be pretty bad news to a family member who has endured years of various kinds of abuse by their loved one. And the idea that the wife or brother needs some help of their own-well, the addiction isn’t THEIR problem, so why do they need help?
I describe it this way: It’s as if your son, wife, husband or whoever the addict is in your life, they ran you over with a truck. And they got out, came over to you, and asked what they could do, and you said “I need you to fix my leg!” That’s not realisitic-the driver of the truck isn’t a doctor, and doesn’t have the tools to repair the damage they did. They express remorse, they want to help, but they’re not qualified to fix your leg, even though they broke it.
Family members of addicts and alcoholics often expect the addict to fix their broken leg.
That’s where I come in. I meet with family members who still have an active person in their lives, and help them to find out what is their comfort level of support and commitment to the addict. I do not tell people to do or not do something that they’re not comfortable with. I also work with family members of people who have recently returned from an inpatient stay, or are beginning their recovery. These family members are sometimes confused about what to say and do with their “new”, sober family member. They also sometimes want to know, need to know, how the family member is doing, without the support any longer of the drug counselor now that they’ve returned from treatment.
I help family members educate themselves on the ongoing process of recovery, enable them to access recovery for themselves, and help them make the decisions necessary for their lives to return to them.