Finding our own recovery from substance use is such an extraordinary feat. It takes everything we have, plus therapists and others to help guide the way for us. Ideally, we will also have a support system of family and friends who are prepared to offer us continued support, too.
However, in our own process, sometimes we fail to notice that others around us need to heal, as well. This is especially true of partners, parents, and other family members. They have watched us go through our own personal Armageddon. In fact, some of them may have been hit by friendly fire in our own battle with substance use. Like us, they are wounded and hurting. Like us, they need to heal, too.
Casualties of Substance Use
Most of the time, substance use gives us tunnel vision. Our focus is on our substance, and when and how to get our next drink or fix. What that tunnel vision prevents us from seeing is the pain in the eyes of those we love, who just want us to be healthy.
We might remember some of the pain inflicted, especially if we were verbally or physically abusive in any way with someone we love. We may have lied, stolen, or otherwise harmed the people in our families. Chances are very good that we disappointed or hurt our friends, too.
When we enter treatment, our focus is on our own healing. We may have remorse for things we have done, and reach out to apologize or make amends to those we love. As we do that, we are still focused on our own treatment, so we may not notice the depth of pain others are experiencing because of our substance use.
Recovery for Family
Some facilities encourage family members to be involved in the treatment process, although that is certainly more difficult in the age of social distancing. Some members may choose not to be involved in this process at all. That is their right and their choice. Just because we are prepared for recovery now does not mean that everyone in our lives is.
Family and friends will need to begin their own recovery. For some, talking it out may help. Most will likely benefit from some therapy. Others may need more support, such as meetings from organizations like Al-Anon or other similar programs for those who love someone with an addiction. Though not as well known, there are many resources to help families recover from living with our addiction.
Just like no one could tell us when, where, and how to get help, we cannot tell our loved ones those things, either. When they are ready, they will take their first step. It can be frustrating to us, especially as we progress so quickly in our own program and we are eager for everyone to be healthy. But healing ourselves is a personal choice, and we need to afford that opportunity to all the people that we care about in our lives.
One of the most difficult aspects of the recovery process is the attempt to heal our relationships. We must give others their opportunity to heal and to forgive us, and we have to wait for them on their own time table. After waiting, there is always a chance that they could decide not to mend the relationship, which is very painful.
Not only does everyone else have their agency within relationships, but we also need to realize that we have changed. Many of us have made a 180° life change. The other people in our life may not like who we are now, even if we are a better person. In addition to addiction, there is the opposite person who is the enabler. If we no longer need to be enabled, that person may feel empty and unfulfilled. Healing does not always mean that we achieve the desired outcome. Healing means that we focus on our own healing, and we can only hope that our loved ones follow the same path and still want us around.
Demonstrating Our Transformation
One of the most powerful ways that we can help family and friends to trust in our new transformation is to live our recovery. We learned to be authentic in treatment, now it’s time to truly be authentic. This is the recovery equivalent of showing up and wearing our hearts on our sleeves. We offer ourselves, our new selves, to allow them the opportunity to build new and trusting and loving relationships with our authentic selves.
Sometimes, after years of substance use, it is difficult for others to trust us. They may see improvement, but they are just waiting for us to “mess up” again. The power of recovery is that we get the chance to show them our healing and our desire to be healthy every single day. Above all, we can show them our commitment to ourselves as we repeatedly show our commitment to them as well. It may take time for them to trust us and to heal, but as we patiently wait and allow them to heal on their own time, we can have hope of repairing relationships with those we love.
Having patience with those we love as they heal in their own recovery shows our love for them. Contact AToN Center today at (888) 535-1516 to start our own recovery so our loved ones can begin their healing, too.