I recently ran across a piece of writing that made me really sad. There was talk of repeated relapses and “doing things differently,” but never a mention of a support group.
I’ve been around recovery for a long time, and I have never seen anyone recover successfully without some kind of support outside their immediate family. (I’m not saying that such folks don’t exist, but merely that I haven’t known any.)
Isolation and secrecy are part and parcel of addiction in all its forms.
We hide our behavior, how much we use, if we use, when we use or act out, the results of our addictive activities, what we’re thinking and our true selves — from others and from us. We can’t invite anyone into our addiction, and after we’ve spent enough time in it, we don’t know how to reach out and bring others into our lives.
Our friends, family, significant others and children don’t get that. Not understanding the nature of the real problem — Dick or Jane hiding from themselves — they do whatever they need to do to accommodate to our strange lifestyle. Eventually they become warped themselves. It isn’t natural to build your life around someone who is suffering from chemical insanity, and it’s impossible to do so and remain untouched.
So… Our families and friends are not the people we require as supports when we decide to start being real and unburdening ourselves of our secret lives. By the time we reach that point, they are pretty-much incapable of functioning “normally” themselves. Our transformation may even be so uncomfortable for them — so strange — that they resist our changes in ways big and small. Even when family members are relatively healthy — successfully recovering themselves, for example — they are in no position to be supports because shared history and expectations will always get in the way.
Alcoholics and other addicts need the support of people who have been there, understand what we’re going through, have successfully made the passage into sobriety themselves, and have no previous issues with us. How can I honestly discuss my feelings about my spouse with a family member, or talk about early abuse, or the myriad things that I’ve sworn never to tell anyone but that must be taken out and exposed to the light in order that my sickness may die?
There are church groups, 12-Step groups (my suggestion), certified addiction professionals, and plenty of non-denominational support systems out there. We tried to do it on our own, and our best efforts brought us relapse after relapse. Some of us thought ourselves to death.
A burden shared is a burden halved. Successful recovery is one of the most difficult tasks we will ever face. It’s not for sissies, and it’s not for people who think they can write their own programs.
Our best thinking got us here. How’s it working for you?