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Posts Tagged ‘recovery’


My cousin’s favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, and we shared the holiday with her and her husband for many years. This year, she was in the midst of packing to move and I wasn’t travelling, so we endeavored to have Thanksgiving at our house, even though I wouldn’t be able to assist in preparations. Our family, cousins and sister’s family chipped in on the cooking and cleanup to make a beautiful Thanksgiving feast. And to my utter delight, I was able to take my first bites of food beginning that week. Thanksgiving was particularly poignant as we all were so grateful for my survival and beginning recovery. Recovery began and proceeded, marked by small advances through December and January. One drain out; then another. First shower. First food after months of IV feeding. Weight gain (I had lost 15 lbs.) Walking further. Driving. Pain lessening. I scheduled the prophylactic mastectomy for June, sure I would be well enough to have the next surgery in seven months.

To be continued . . . . . .

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We associate this word with recovery from alcoholism. Because it is a lifelong endeavor to stay sober, we call those struggling with it, “recovering alcoholics.” This acknowledges that they will always be tempted to engage in destructive habits and that they work every day to stay on a healthy path. Some make it, some don’t. There are no clear, well-controlled studies on the success of these programs, but we do know that the rate of recidivism (return to the behavior) is high. There are those who argue that addiction is a disease. This philosophy has the downside of providing the addict with an excuse for why they cannot break the habit. Rather than empowering them to make positive changes, it allows them to blame outside circumstances for their situations.

I have come to know a lot about this unfortunately, through the actions and behaviors of two family members. One seems to be emerging a stronger person and is doing all the right things to ensure his recovery. The other however continues to do the same thing, expecting different results.

The striking difference between the two is that the successful one has taken responsibility for his actions. He has acknowledged his role in the mess his life has become and is working really hard, struggling both physically and emotionally. He has asked for and received forgiveness from those he has hurt. The other continues to blame his bad luck, his ex-wife, his children and siblings for his predicament. He is angry at those who have given him so much help, for being unable to sustain it indefinitely. He has not wanted advice or counseling – only money, which he has proven to manage very poorly. He seems unable to acknowledge that only he can change his life through the choices he makes and is unwilling or unable to face the truth that would set him free to heal himself.

The recovering family member is making great strides and we are very proud of him. Because of that we continue to support him in every way that we can. But note, support is not the same as enabling. We insist and allow him to do everything that he possibly can do for himself. We help only with those things that he really cannot do. We help him find resources and information, but he has to run with it. We are encouraging him to learn how to use the computer so he can do even more on his own. He is appreciative of all that we do and understands that ultimately this will empower him and make him stronger.

This brings me to the subject of enabling. Families begin to enable before they even realize what they’re doing. They fall prey to the anguish of the family member and do everything they can to extinguish it. Even when they begin to see that it is ineffective, they continue to do it, rather than face the truth. Only when it becomes entirely impossible to ignore, does the family act or abandon the troubled family member.

It is difficult to face our darkest selves. It is very painful. But the only true way to break the power it holds over us is to do just that. The only way to be free of it is to face it, stare it down, feel its pain, then finally let it go. The struggle itself is the way to build strength and fortitude against future challenges.

My struggle personally with all of this has been that I was not the decision-maker. This was my husband’s family and he was acting in what he thought was their best interests. He was afraid to face the truth as well and allowed the situations to escalate to untenable levels before acting. It was only when my cries got louder than theirs, that he was forced to allow me to intervene.

Addiction affects everyone in the family and the enabling dynamic is part of the problem. We have all learned a lot and grown through the situation. If there is one lesson to be learned, it is that the truth must faced. No amount of denial is going to make a problem go away. In fact it usually escalates it. We won’t always be able to solve the problem, especially when it isn’t our problem to solve. And that’s a difficult thing to acknowledge. Sometimes, we just have to walk away.

There are no final words of wisdom in this situation. Every family has its own level of tolerance and its own ability to confront it or not. All I can share is that our family went through hell and back, and I believe acting sooner might have made it less painful for all of us.

One family member is entirely unreachable and we have had to accept that and let it go. While it is sad, it is not our responsibility to try and change the situation. Only he can do it himself. All we can do is face the truth, acknowledge our role, and recognize when we need to step back because there is nothing we can do.

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