“All of my friends’ kids/spouses are successful, mine is struggling. What do I say to them?”
Sharing the good news of what is happening with one’s kids is something that starts when they start crawling and continues all through life. But what happens when you don’t have news to report? when your child is struggling with drugs or alcohol and sleeping in your basement or is out there somewhere and you haven’t talked to them in days or week? Or even when they are in early sobriety and their success involves keeping their room clean at the rehab or recovery residence? or accruing days of sobriety?
And this isn’t only true for parents. Friends often report to each other on what is new with their spouses. What if yours is just got arrested for selling drugs or is passed out on the couch for days on end drunk?
Dealing with the social embarrassment of having a loved one who is struggling with substance use disorder can sting – and even add to the isolation families experience when a loved one is using.
Take for instance, Dan. He is a 25-year-old Yale drop out. He had earned a merit scholarship to college after working to the point of exhaustion in high school. Once he got to college, he pledged a fraternity and learned how to party down on the weekends and in between exams. He squeaked through his first year, but early in his sophomore year, a ‘brother’ introduced him first to marijuana and not much later to meth. Within a year, he was pursuing his next high more often than his next A and before long, he fell behind. By the end of junior year, he dropped out. Now, he is a permanent fixture in his parents basement. They keep thinking he will grow out of it…And every time one of their friends tell them about their kids’ graduate degrees or new jobs, they feel like falling through the floor.
Then, there is Stuart. He retired last Spring and drank his way through summer and fall. With winter here, his wife keeps hoping he will lose the urge, but so far, not so much. Alcohol is his best friend and companion these days. Everyone keeps asking his wife Martha how retirement is treating them and when they will take all of those trips they had planned. She tells them he’s just resting up after a long work career before they take take their first trip, but from the way things are going, she’s not sure her husband will ever leave the house, let alone the city…
So, what can these folks do to handle the barrage of negative emotion they feel when they see the difference between what their family is facing and what other families are dealing with?
Here are a few pointers to help you and your family:
- If your loved one is caught up in the destructive cycle of drugs and alcohol, your problems go well beyond what to say to others. Yet, it is important to know that you don’t owe anyone any answers. People are interested in what is going on in your life so they can tell you what is going on in theirs (or to keep the attention off of themselves – after all, who knows what challenges their families face!). So, the first tip is to come up with a pat answer that you have ready AND follow it up with a question about their family. Keep your answer brief and don’t worry if it doesn’t tell the whole story. You get to choose who you share that with. Here are a few examples:”You know Dan! Always busy! Tell me about Jeremy.” “Stuart? He’s good. Relaxing and enjoying not having to work anymore. And tell me, how’s Max?”
- Make a decision to have a life that centers around your interests, not their problems. Often, families become so caught up in their struggling loved one’s problems that their own hobbies, interests and activities fall to the wayside. If that has already happened to you, make a commitment to yourself to turn that around NOW! You get to have a life and it isn’t theirs. Then, when people ask what is new, you can keep them occupied learning all about the interesting things YOU are doing!
- Do whatever you can to educate yourself about addiction and recovery and work on your own recovery as a family member. The research shows that when the family gets well, the struggling loved one has a much better chance of getting well too. So, if you are a BALMer, make sure you keep up with the weekly lessons, join the 7 Steps course starting next Sunday, and learn how to communicate in ways that are helpful to your loved one’s ability to wake up from their stupor.Understanding your loved one’s challenges more deeply can also help you ward off that sinking feeling when you feel bad about your situation. Education and coaching can help you and your family move your recovery forward powerfully.
If you are not a BALMer, click here to learn more.
Be A Loving Mirror!
Beverly A. Buncher, MA, PCC, MRLC, CTPC
Family Recovery Coach/CEO
Family Recovery Resources, LLC
786 859 4050