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Here Comes The Sun? Weathering the Storm of Life with An Addict

Addiction Recovery for Families, Early Sobriety, Family Recovery | May 4, 2013

It stormed here over the past few days. Strong winds blew as wide buckets of water poured down for hours at a time. It started with darkness in the mid morning and then turned into a drenching that soaked the ground and filled the parking lots for hours. I stayed in and watched the thunder, lightening and water show from a balcony behind a glass door.

This morning it lifted and my dog and I walked through it as the sun rose and the flowers perked up.I felt more alive, like we were given a new beginning. After two days of darkness and rain that kept me indoors, I felt free. Like I’d been released from captivity. But, the sky was still grayish and I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a prelude to a sunny day or just a break between showers.

Living through breaks in addictive behavior or through early recovery with an addicted loved one can feel like I felt this morning: Refreshing yet confusing. Is this the end of the lying and pain or only a brief break between struggles? Should I be rejoicing or keeping up my guard just in case?

The beauty of a rainstorm is  that you know it is, eventually, going to end. But not so with a loved one’s addiction. It’s either going to end or not. And you can feel at the mercy of forces way beyond yourself or even beyond your loved one as you go through its stops and starts again and again.

This understanding, that there is no guarantee, leads a family member to wonder: is there anything I can do to stem the tide? to help my loved one wake up from the deep addictive sleep they are in?

Of course, the answer is yes. There are things you can do, for yourself, for your loved one, for your family.

Here are a few:

  1. Stay awake and out of denial! Realize that unless and until your loved one has made a commitment to change and begun to take actions that show you the truth of that commitment, they are probably still under the spell of their addictive malaise. That means they are probably continuing to live deceptively. So, let go of your attachment to believing them. Believe your eyes and ears and don’t be convinced by their accusations that you are imagining things.
  2. Stay focused on YOU. Your life matters. Regardless of what your loved one chooses to do or not do, you still have responsibilities to fulfill and a life to live. Live it.
  3. Get support and USE it. There are so many ways to get help. Read everything you can get your hands on, go to support group meetings, hire a coach, get a therapist. Don’t feel you have to go it alone. You don’t and life will be a lot easier if you face the demon of addiction with support.
  4. Learn how to Be A Loving Mirror. This is about developing a calm frame of mind and speaking truth to your loved one. Tell them what you see and how it is affecting the people in the family. Don’t judge and don’t flinch. Simply share, honestly and objectively. “Just the facts, ma’am,” as the Dragnet stars of TV yesteryear used to say. You can get a free guide on the right side of this page to help you and then you can take the Daily BALM Telecourse, coming up soon, to help you practice and perfect your skills!

Set boundaries that keep your life as close to sane as possible and stick to them. This one can be one of the most difficult tips to follow. But you CAN do it. The Stand Strong Book gives you guidelines on how to set boundaries and stick to them in chapter three.

These tips work when your loved one is still using as well as in early recovery – Regardless of what they are doing in their life, your behavior is your responsibility. The main thing is to know that you are not the problem in this scenario unless you make yourself the problem. Ways families make themselves the problem are by:

  • screaming
  • yelling
  • threatening
  • not following through on threats
  • enabling
  • name-calling
  • nagging
  • crying
  • begging

These behaviors only serve to give your struggling loved one another excuse to use, another reason to leave the house and have that drink that turns into a binge that turns into a nightmare.

Instead, learn new tricks, new ways of being.

Choose recovery and let go of the need to be in control of something you have no control over. Instead, blow with the wind, let the rain fall, and BE the calm before, during, and after the storm.