Family is one of the most sensitive subjects in recovery for a lot of people. Nobody else in the world has been by our side for our entire lives, and, for addicted people, this means they often bore the brunt of our drinking and using. Our families have stood by us, long after friends, jobs, and acquaintances gave up on us. Unfortunately, this means they suffered the most.
Rather than bowing out when things got tough, our families often stuck around way beyond what could be considered reasonable. These are the people who have seen us at our absolute lowest and suffered the wrath of our worst behavior. How could we ever make things right with them or even look them in the eyes after some of the things we’ve done?
It Starts With Change
The key to a healthy relationship with the family is the work you do in recovery and the changes it allows you to make to your behaviors. We must change who we’ve become before attempting to make any further progress with our family. Remember, these people have likely been profoundly traumatized by our actions over the years. They may have a hard time accepting that we’ve really changed this time, especially if we’re chronic relapsers or have a history of lying to the people we love. Don’t let this deter you, and don’t get offended by their skepticism. Continue to do the work in recovery, and let your actions speak for themselves.
The Inadequacy of “Sorry”
Once we’ve dug in our heels and begun to make some actual changes in our lives, we may get to a place where it’s time to formally acknowledge our past behavior. In Alcoholics Anonymous, this is Step Nine, and is referred to as “making amends.” Other programs have different names and descriptions for this part of recovery, but the goal is the same: to show others how we have changed and to make a commitment to following through with these changes.
No matter what it’s called, the changes we make in recovery are the focus of this phase. How many times have we said “sorry” to our loved ones? After disappearing for days on end, or getting a second DUI, or speaking to them in a way we shouldn’t have, we often feel a terrible sense of guilt and shame once the substances in our bloodstream have worn off. We make a big show of remorse and swear up and down that we will never act like this again. At the time, most of us really mean what we’re saying. Unfortunately, the disease of addiction and alcoholism does not work that way.
Despite our sincere remorse, most of us are unable to avoid repeating these behaviors until we really get into the work of recovery. As such, our loved ones are probably jaded by all the times we’ve apologized without making any changes. That’s why it is absolutely essential that we really, truly make the changes we need before proceeding with any kind of formal amends. Acknowledge your past errors and let your actions show your family how seriously you take responsibility.
A Balancing Act
Finally, one of the most significant challenges in recovery is finding a way to balance sobriety and family life. As always, begin to confront this issue with compassion and empathy for your family. If you start to dive headfirst into recovery, spending hours each day at a meeting hall or with your new sober friends, your family may grow resentful. They may also find themselves confused by your new way of life. Your drinking and using were terrible, but they have become accustomed to it. While you were in your addiction, each member of the family was forced into a role. This new role may not have been good for them, but, over time, they’ve become used to it. Once you get sober, they may find themselves confused about where they fit in the family.
All these emotions and competing conceptions of what your recovery life is supposed to like can make things confusing. Remember, practice empathy first – these people are hurting, and a lot of this pain is directly traced back to our own actions. Talk with people in your support group, call your mentor or sponsor, and find the balance which works in your life. Often, this balance requires sacrifices to be made on your part. Divide your time in a way that works between recovery, your job, and your family – the family will heal if this phase of your recovery is handled correctly.
At Hired Power, we believe that family is the key to sobriety and recovery. We all make great friends on the road to recovery, and discover a home away from home – but nothing can replace our actual family and our real home. That’s why we support you in taking the time to repair these delicate relationships. It can be hard to acknowledge how many people we’ve hurt in the past or how deep this damage goes. Still, there is a way to stay sober and make amends for our past behaviors, and it all starts by asking for help. Hired Power is a team of professionals, ready to help you get and stay sober with monitoring services, sober transport services, and sober coaching.
If you’re prepared to make a change in your life, give us a call today at (800) 910-9299. Your family will thank you!