How were the holidays at your home the past week plus? Were they filled with happiness, good will, and peace?
Or was your family one of the unfortunate ones where addictions took center stage and destroyed quickly any hope for tranquility as some friends and family members engaged in destructive antics?
· Aunt Brenda got tipsy and decided the gathering was just the right time to tear into her teen daughter who, according to Brenda, “Just don’t show no respect, so worthless and unappreciative.”
· Or perhaps Jim was so out of it that he mumbled, “Oh, s—-“ before his face crashed into the ham gravy and mashed potatoes on his plate.
· And there was Dylan slumped over on the sofa, living in some other world with dilated eyes and obviously under the influence of something.
· Uncle Ryan apologized for Aunt Brenda’s behavior as his family and he left the dinner before dessert was served, but few missed the screaming as the family started to their vehicle.
· And Grandmother Sue was crying as she shuffled off to her bedroom. She had hoped for a different scenario this year.
If you have stories even more disconcerting than the samples I’ve just given, you are aware of the pain of addictions. I’d suggest that you consider joining a program in your area for family and friends who love addicts.
In said programs, you will learn that you are powerless to coerce, beg, bribe these persons into getting clean and sober and that you have your own work to do. And one of the first lessons you’ll learn is that addictions are baffling, powerful, cunning, complex. Recovery does not involve a “one size fits all” approach. There are a variety of treatment modes from attending AA or NA meetings and getting a sponsor to enrolling as an out-patient or as an in-house patient at a treatment facility to embracing a religion to meeting regularly with a chemical abuse counselor, etc. And you will learn that addicts are never free from the disease, but recovery is the goal.
But back to alcoholics and addicts. My research in the past few months has involved my interviewing female addicts in recovery, and I want to share some of their stories with you.
They told me of violent childhoods where they were beaten and sexually abused. Many had parents and relatives who were addicts, who taught them how to also become addicts, and used them to feed their own addictions. Some were lured into relationships with men when they were young teens. Depression, high anxiety, self-destructive behaviors, feelings of never being good enough. The list is long and complex.
They have stories of getting clean and sober only to relapse again and again and again.
Telling their stories to me is a positive decision in that it helps them articulate the why and the how. I’m sharing the advice of a few in recovery, realizing that their words may help other addicts:
· “I know God has me covered. I’m kind to people, treat others as God would treat them. God gave me self-esteem. I can break the cycle with my children, and I don’t dwell on the death of Mom and Dad. I can’t dwell on my past, but I don’t want to forget my desperation points. I’ve taken the time out to learn myself and want to start loving myself. I can ask for help.”
· “I’ve given myself to God and have been baptized. I have good and bad days with cravings, but more good days than bad. I’ve learned the following: I’m not my mother’s keeper and must stay away from her toxic influence; self-pity isn’t pretty; my best is good enough; some of my fears are realistic, others are not.”
· “I am going through the 12-step inventory of AA. I have found God. I am building relationships as I trust and am trustworthy. I look forward to tomorrow. I don’t hate myself and am happy.”
Some indicate recovery is only possible when addicts hit their bottom, but the bottom is different for each person. One interviewee told me, “I wanted to die. I prayed to God to let me die. Then I learned I wanted to live: to have a life, a family a job. I wanted to be a good person. At one time I asked, ‘Why me?’ I’ve learned that nothing happens by mistake. I can be something to help others. God saved my life. I now have a God conscience and I pray, whatever is on my heart.”
If you are an addict and are reading the words of any of these women in recovery, perhaps you will find a message that resonates with you. If so, write it down and keep it close to you. Read it until it becomes a part of you. And ask for help from those who understand addiction. Today. If not today, when?
Note: The best advice to addicts always comes from those in recovery, those who’ve been there and understand the disease. If you are in recovery, please email or call me so that I can give voice to your advice and perhaps help those active in their addictions. Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation. In my next column, I will share some of the horrific stories of these women as well as their advice and advice from readers in recovery.