How do we help others we love who are struggling with addiction or sobriety without harming our own recovery?
Do you have a family member or friend you love that refuses to get help with their addiction? “Change your playground, change your playmates” is often said in Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovery programs, but sometimes it is easier said than done. What if you are a recovering addict and you have a teenage child or adult child that is struggling with their own demons of addiction? How do you separate when they are a close family member who might even be living with you?
There is an entire chapter in the Big Book about working with others, a chapter to wives, a chapter about the family afterwards. One thing I have learned is that sometimes changing playgrounds and changing playmates only works for a while. You can always move, but guess what, if they want to find the wrong playground and playmates they will seek them out no matter what you do. You can try, try, try and it is so easy for a loved one, especially a parent, to become an enabler. I have heard prayer talked about often. Prayer for another person is truly one of the greatest gifts you can give because it takes you away from selfish thinking and putting yourself first and genuinely caring for another and their strife.
Alanon is a great place to start. There is also Alateen. These programs are geared specifically to the family members and friends of those who are suffering from an addiction or in their recovery. Surrounding yourself with those in similar situations can be helpful and also offer you a support system where one might not exist. When you are so close to someone it is very hard to see and think clearly without allowing emotions to become involved.
Unfortunately for most, sobriety and the desire for recovery takes a traumatic event. I do not wish that upon anyone, but the reality I have seen in my own life proves it to be true. Be careful when involving yourself in the life of someone who just doesn’t want to have a change in their lives. Offer numbers and point them in the right direction, but be aware of how much you expose of yourself and your own fragility. Sometimes we must stay away from certain people during certain times. Do not allow yourself to let another drag you down after you have already sacrificed so much to gain sobriety.
It took a burning desire for recovery and every drink I took to get me inside the walls of the AA meetings that now are the foundation of my sober life. We simply can not force that change upon anyone. I can relate to other families with alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling addiction, etc . . . But, I can not get anybody drunk and I can not get anybody sober. When someone is ready, they are ready, regardless of how much we want it for them. I have known several people in the program and they will all admit they never made anybody sober. Each person chooses addiction or chooses freedom from addiction on their own and in their own time and in their own way.
Sometimes I have to love someone from way over here in order to keep my sobriety and recovery possible in my own life. I know there are some people I love dearly that I just can not involve myself with and be around right now in my recovery. In my addiction, my triggers were my most loved. They were my children, my stress inside the house, my family home, and my husband. I will be in a place one day when my favorite loved ones will not be triggers any longer and I will have enough of a psychic change and a firmly built foundation that I will be able to return to those relationships, but for now, my recovery must come first if I am ever to have any hope.
In closing, I have learned I have to be the best me, the best citizen I can be, giving and caring for others, working the steps and so on, in hope that they will see the change in me and follow along. Do not stress, just stay the course and you will be fine, and they will be fine if it is meant to be.