Early Sobriety – The Roller Coaster Ride for Families
It’s a great day for the family when a struggling loved one chooses sobriety. The AA Big Book calls the alcoholic a “hurricane running through the lives” of everything and everything in its path. And, it’s true.
Active addiction wreaks havoc on friendships, work relationships, and mostly on the family. The on again off again reliability of someone using substances or involved in addictive behaviors is the stuff legends are made of. The children may become an after thought as one parent drinks and the other runs after them to stop them from drinking. The spouse becomes a shadow of his /her former self. The addict him/herself a mere caricature of someone to be counted on as a loving, honest, member of the family. If the addict is a son or daughter, parents of the teen go from looking forward to prom night being over to looking forward to every night being over as they wait up for their teen to come home night after night. And parents of addicted adult children may spend their golden years in a haze of dark expectation just waiting for the phone to ring to tell them their beloved adult child is in jail or dead somewhere. Families go to great extremes to avoid such outcomes, believing they can stave off the hand of the law or even the grim reaper. This behavior, rooted in denial, becomes extreme enabling. Ultimately, “helping” one’s loved one in this way can lead to the death of the addict even more than making them face their own consequences.
Certain precious values, previously cherished, may go out the door or become so twisted as to be unrecognizabled. Honesty, compassion, personal responsibility lie on the side of the road of active addiction, mangled as family members lie for the addict, supposedly “protecting” him from bosses, lenders, even the police.
Indeed, this Hell is the reality of active addiction for the family.
So then the addict gets sober. Now what?
If the family isn’t completely exhausted and depleted, there is a sense of jubilation! “Things” are going to be different now! “We will have our son/husband/father/brother back!”
“All” will be well!
Then reality sets in.
Early sobriety is no more a panacea than addiction was.
Sure, the using is gone. That alone brings great relief and allows family members a rest, especially if the addict spends some time in treatment.
But, then, there are all those old ways of relating to the addict that remain. There may be no trust and the family members may simply be waiting for the other shoe to drop. And of course, there is that awful scepter called “Expectation”. Now that the addict isn’t using, there are all of these hopes and dreams of a happy family life that the family may be pouring on him or her – many of which are so far from what the newly sober loved one is capable of fulfilling or even wants to fulfill…
So, what’s a family to do?
This Wednesday, I’ll be giving a free webinar on five tips for family members facing a loved one’s early sobriety. I like to think of it as Early Sobriety 101 for Family Members. If you have a loved one with anywhere from 1 minute to five years of sobriety, this teleseminar will help you get a broader and at the same time practical perspective on how to help them and help yourself at the same time! And if you’re hoping for sobriety, it’ll will give you insights on how to contribute to the recovery of your loved one as well!
I hope you will join me! It is sponsored by Crossroads Recovery Coaching School, at which I am a faculty member and during the weeks following my webinar, two other Advanced Recovery Coaches will present enlightening webinars as well.