Editor’s note: Audacious Ideas is featuring a special month-long series in conjunction with National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. We’ve asked several individuals to share their ideas about addiction issues and the failed war on drugs.
When we sent our son to an in-patient addiction treatment program, we were spinning with doubt about the choice we had made, whether he would get better, and how would we deal with him when he came home. The program encouraged parents/spouses to attend educational sessions, so we went with the hope that we would learn how to care for our post-rehab son. We were surprised to learn that our priority while our son was away was to start the process of getting ourselves well.
So, we wondered, if we are not addicts, why did we need to be in recovery, too? Quickly we learned that we needed to heal the insanity that had taken hold of our lives. We needed to stop trying to manage our son’s addiction. We learned that many addicts feel tremendous guilt, shame and regret that are hurting people they love and that sometimes the reactions of family members adds to that burden and prevents them from getting well. Our first steps in the path to our own recovery entailed radical changes in our interactions with our son and our understanding that he has a serious illness. It is called a path because recovery does not happen overnight—either for us or for our son. It takes time and requires a lifetime commitment to ending our own enabling and judgmental behaviors.
One of the best recommendations we received was to attend Al-Anon, a 12 –step program that is comparable to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, but helps the loved ones who are dealing with addiction in their families or friends take charge of their own recovery. We started, stopped, started again, and went off and on to Al-Anon. Finally after a few months, we realized that we needed to be a regular part of a fellowship of people who want to repair the damage to their lives and the relationships with people they love who are addicted. We are much better, he is much better, and we know that our son appreciates the changes we have made. Now, when we meet people whose lives are in crisis like ours was, we try to share what others shared with us and hope it helps them too.