Thursday, September 22, 2011

First of a series of information from a parent who has worked many years with families of addicts

Good afternoon,
I have been working with families of addicts for 22 full years. Over that time I have met thousands of families and hundreds of addicts in good recovery. I have learned a great deal over that  time frame and I believe I know what absolutely does not work for families of addicts. I do not have a precise formula for what does work,but I know that families can recapture their lives despite what the addict does or does not do. This involves looking for the truth about what addiction is and becoming willing to change based on our understanding of that truth.I have learned that most addicts have many features in common ,and most parents or enablers make the same mistakes repeatedly. There is very little that differentiates your addict from mine. The level of destructive behavior varies as does the level of recovery of addicts. The process of recovery for us is lengthy and is best accomplished in the company of other families working on the same issues.It is very hard for anyone(us or the addict) to do this alone. Therefore find a group of people who are serious about improving their lives and restoring destroyed family relationships; with persistence and the right group,  you will succeed-as I did. There are many such groups (Alanon,,Naranon,and Families Anonymous). Each meeting even within the same umbrella group  is different. All have websites with listings of meetings. Be prepared to work hard-this is a lifelong process of  Personal Change  and the issues can be very painful and hard to get your hands around. What is discussed in meetings  is usually the  opposite of what we all thought normal parenting was about. That is why this is so hard to understand in the beginning. In essence we have a recovery process to work through and our addict has his or her own recovery process. They are hopefully parallel but that may not be the case. And we recover separately. Our recoveries do not mix together! This cannot be overstated.. Usually the family has to begin the recovery process. I cannot emphasize this too strongly. Change must begin in the family specifically with the enablers. The enablers are usually the parents,but not always. The enablers are the people who cannot stop trying to fix the addict's problems.That is the easiest  way to understand  the players in this lifelong  drama. We all know who the addict is,and remarkably siblings and friends do not sacrifice their lives for the addicts. However the enablers will sacrifice themselves and everyone else in the family to fix the one person who cannot be fixed by them. I know this to be  the absolute truth. Enabling fixes nothing;conversely it destroys all hope of anyone recovering and often makes the addiction progressively worse and  often ultimately fatal. Enablers do not create the disease. The disease  belongs to the addict and is probably due to a genetic error in the chemistry of the brain. But those who enable are part of the reason the disease goes on,possibly forever. I have seen 85 year old parents taking care of 65 year old addicts. No one ever changed and as we say"when nothing changes,nothing changes" It is  actually that  simple.

I know there is a lot of information on this page and if you are interested in what I have learned over 22 years,keep reading. I will try to cover one issue at a time,but so much is intertwined that is not always possible. I will try to answer or respond to whoever writes back.

I hope what I have learned can ultimately help you. Hearing what I have to say is not easy. It takes time to process ideas that are not intutive to what we all thought parenting was about. Enabling in most households may not be the best idea,but rarely leads to problems. With an addict in the family , it always worsens  problems.
 Sometimes my comments seem  harsh. They are not meant to be. I go back to the issue of each of us finding  the truth which is incredibly obscured by our  thinking. If we are to get better ,we need to  disentangle most of our lifelong beliefs to find the truth about ourselves . And I know that is never easy to explain  or to accomplish.