Your phone rings, you see your caller ID, and your stomach churns. You hear sirens and your blood runs cold. You wonder if your son or daughter, your loved one, is in trouble. Will you have to bail him out? Will you have to visit her in the hospital? Or worse? Or it might be other concerns, such as requests for money, help with childcare, or letting him move back in to your home.
These questions, fears, and situations are often daily experiences for family members and friends of addicts. Those who love addicts may constantly live in “fight or flight” mode. While it’s exhausting, it’s also addictive in its own way. Oddly enough, it can become necessary to have a daily crisis. If a day goes by without a crisis, you don’t feel alive. If you don’t have something to report to your friends, you feel like you have nothing to contribute to a conversation.
Ironically, even if your addict finds sobriety, learning to live without always being in crisis mode can be difficult. Learning to live with calm and peace can be a challenge. When I began attending Al-Anon meetings, I found a group of like-minded people who provided support. Reading Al-Anon’s Courage To Change, a daily reader, helped me gain a new perspective on my life. I began learning to focus on myself and to let my addicted loved one “have his own experience,” as they say at BRC Recovery.
Through reading the AA Big Book and listening to hours and hours of AA talks, including those by Mark Houston and those in the speakers archive posted on the BRC Recovery website, I began to understand that the addiction had taken over my loved ones. They (and I) were powerless over their addiction. Regardless of how much they loved me, or even how much they wanted to stop, they couldn’t. I wondered if my life would always be filled with worry and fear of what might happen. It seemed impossible to think that things could ever change.
But there is hope. To misquote Shakespeare, one of the best ways to find help is to “get thee to an Al-Anon meeting!” You can find an Al-Anon meeting by going to the Al-Anon Family Groups website. Meetings often end with the encouragement to “Keep coming back, it works if you work it, and you’re worth it!” and it’s solid advice.
After several months of attending Al-Anon meetings, meditating, and seeing a therapist who understands addiction, enmeshment, and dysfunctional families, I felt the knot of constant fear and tension slowly, gradually beginning to release. But feeling calm and peace in my day was so unusual that at first, it felt like there was something wrong—then it occurred to me that this was what I sought. It sounds crazy, but learning to live with calm and peace was difficult at first. But as more calm days passed, I was able to ratchet down the worry and fear that accompanied my crisis-mode life. Now I’m learning to embrace my newfound peace, and I don’t ever want to return to living in the maelstrom of enabling and all that goes with it.
After living with the addiction of two sons and the death of one of them, I finally understand that I cannot prevent my loved one from using, or even from dying, but regardless of what happens, I can find peace and calm. By letting them have their own experiences, they have a greater chance of experiencing what they need to in order to begin the growth that will bring them full circle in their addiction, so they understand they need help and can seek it. And ultimately, one son did seek help and go through the BRC Recovery program. Now I know that I have done all I can to help him without enabling him, and he has all the tools he needs to maintain sobriety.
As I experience more peace and calm, I’m beginning to understand that this is serenity. At first, I missed having drama and crises in my life, because they were my identity. When people introduced themselves and asked how I was, I used to respond by filling them in on the crisis du jour. Without crises and drama, who would I be? What would I focus on?
I found an answer in Courage To Change, an Al-Anon daily reader. The entry for February 3 reads, “Nothing can compare to the drama of exploring my full potential as a human being. Once I had a taste of the rich life that could be mine with the help of Al-Anon and my Higher Power, I discovered that serenity was a great treasure.”
Thanks to Al-Anon and the help I have sought, I am finding the great treasure of serenity. I am learning to focus on myself and let others live their own lives, and we are all happier for it!
Talks by Don Pritchett: Go to this website and search for “Don P”; you can also search for “Mark H”. The site has thousands of talks available to listen to for free.