There’s a saying in recovery that you are only as sick as your secrets.
In families affected by addiction, secrets are often the rule rather than the exception, as in,
– “Shhhh, don’t tell the kids that daddy drinks!”
– “Let’s keep it from the relatives (neighbors, friends).”
– “If we keep our house perfect and our grooming perfect, no one will know what’s really going on in our family!”
– “My work doesn’t know and I want to keep it that way.”
Yet, perhaps the dirtiest little secret is that EVERYONE already knows.
True, they may not know exactly what your struggling loved one is doing – and maybe you don’t either (is it drugs? alcohol? gambling? sex?).
But, chances are, they know that something is very very very wrong. And no amount of pretending that everything is just great is going to make the reality of what is happening go away or keep everyone in the dark about the fact that something is troubling your family.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying “Tell the world!”
What I am saying is, before your loved one gets sober or clean, it is important to examine your motives – Ask yourself who you are keeping your secrets from and why. And do your best to be honest about this.
If you aren’t telling the kids because you want to protect them, consider that pretending that things are okay may be hurting them more than honestly discussing that dad or mom is sick and needs help. It can show them that it is okay to not be perfect, and that they too can be open and honest about what is going on with them, and get help too.
When we take personal responsibility for our own well being, it allows our family members to do the same.
Maybe we, as family members, are in denial or in the Pre-Contemplation stage (Stages of Change) about our loved one’s behaviors or even our own.
Do you say things like:
-“It’s not my problem”
-“I don’t see anything wrong with me”
-“Why should I make changes in my behavior?”
-“If you had this going on, you would be crazy too”
Prochaska outlines the process in his book Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Forward. The above statements could mean we are in the “Resistance to Change” Stage or the Pre-Contemplation/Denial Stage. At this stage, you may not even be thinking about whether or not you have a problem. You are just living your life, full throttle, enjoying (or not) and doing what you do. The people around you are most likely aware that something is amiss through little hints like the smokey room due to your chain smoking, the empty fridge due to your binges or the diminishing liquor in the cabinet when there hasn’t been a party in months. Or maybe you had an injury a year ago and are still ordering (and somehow getting) your prescriptions filled, though most people with that exact injury stopped the pills months before. At any rate, you do NOT see a problem. In Patti Denning’s book Over the Influence: The Harm Reduction Guide For Managing Drugs and Alcohol, she and her co-authors call this the “Who Me?” stage.
If you want to change a behavior in your life, and according to Prochaska, each one of us is in the process of changing 3-4 things in our lives at any given time, you will want to become familiar with this model as its stages and how you go through them could determine the difference between your success or failure this time around. Most changes take 3-4 spins through the stages to take hold Prochaska says.
But becoming familiar with the stages, a self-changer can improve their ability to handle each of the stages more effectively and perhaps reduce the number of retreads they will need to succeed.
When we look at our own little secrets and become aware, we can start making changes, and Be A Loving Mirror (BALM®) for our struggling loved ones!
Join us tomorrow night on the Daily BALM®, Wednesday at 8:00 pm ET, when Michael DeForbes will talk about Principle 2: Change Happens in Stages.
(Open to all BALM® Community Members. If you are not yet part of our BALM® Community, you can learn more by CLICKING HERE.
Be A Loving Mirror