I recently sat down with Corey Beaver in our free Facebook community to discuss the top 3 things we wish our families knew when we were active in our addictions. Corey is one of Tipping Point’s interventionists and case managers, and he’s also the Director of Family Services at Mayflower Recovery and Topsail Addiction Treatment.
Now, when we say things we wish our families knew, these are things that we now as people in recovery wish our families had known. At the time, our addictions absolutely did not want our families to know these things. It was the tiny parts of us that wanted to get better that did.
1: Just how bad it was
After my first time getting sober, I told my whole family I was an alcoholic. Which made it a lot harder for me to lie to them about my drinking once I returned to drinking. My need to protect the drinking just got more calculated.
I once told my son that it was okay I was drinking because my sponsor told me I wasn’t an alcoholic anymore. (This story warrants a whole blog/training because there’s been a lot to unpack for us both.)
I lied because I didn’t want my family to know how bad my addiction had gotten. I wanted to protect my #1 resource. I didn’t know how to live without it, and if my family knew, they would expect me to try.
For Corey, it was similar. “I didn’t want my family to know the extent of my usage, because they would try to dictate and micromanage what I was doing in my recovery or lack thereof every single day. And it would drive me absolutely nuts.”
PRO TIP: If you’re questioning how bad of a problem your loved one’s substance use is, don’t look at the substance use itself. Look at their life. Is their life starting to unravel? Are you managing their life for them in some way, holding it together? If you stepped back and stopped doing those things for them, would their life be unmanageable?
2: I couldn’t help what I was doing
One thing that is common for those of us with SUD to hear from our families is this sense of, “Why can’t you just stop?” As much as we wish it did, addiction doesn’t work that way.
I could not stop. I was no longer at choice. I drank against my own permission. I drove drunk against my own permission. And nothing I did to try and manage my drinking or stop on my own worked.
I told myself I would never drink in the morning (then I did). I tried changing the types of alcohol I drank, thinking one would be better than another (it wasn’t). I tried changing the days I drank and the bars I drank at. I even once made a book cover out of a brown paper bag for the Big Book of AA and brought it to the bar with me and tried to read it while I drank.
“I did all sorts of things to try to stop on my own,” Corey shared. “I would try to mix and match over the counter medications to ease my withdrawal symptoms. I would do more of one drug than the other to try to taper off and ease the pain. I had my drug dealer meet me in the parking lot of an AA meeting.”
These are all actions of someone trying to stop drinking but who is physically unable to. Not on our own. That is why treatment is so important.
PRO TIP: The Big Book has a whole section that shares all the ways alcoholics try to manage our drinking. If you haven’t read the Big Book yet, I highly recommend you grab a copy and read it, at least up to page 164.
3: How they could have helped
There were things both our families could have done to help us get better that they had no knowledge of.
“I was active for roughly 10 years,” said Corey. “And that probably would have been at least cut in half if they knew how to not enable and not accommodate or how to hold a boundary.”
Just telling a family member to stop enabling is like telling an alcoholic to just stop drinking. Enabling is how you love. But there are steps you can take to start loving in a healthier way that will benefit both you and your loved one.
PRO TIP: A great way to start assessing if the thing you are doing might be enabling is to stop and ask yourself these two questions: 1) Is this thing I’m about to do for them something they are more than capable of doing for themselves? 2) Would doing this for them potentially benefit their addiction?
BONUS TIP: Stop immediately answering your loved one, allowing for a pause. Give yourself the time and space to make this assessment by stepping away and telling them, “Great question. Let me think about it and get back to you.” Or, “Great question. I have a meeting I have to get to right now, so let me call you back after and let you know.”
Why it’s important
These things we mentioned are just three of a hundred reasons why we advocate for family recovery so strongly. Because there is so much families don’t know about what their loved one is going through and all the ways to offer real help, and learning it alone is a huge, huge undertaking.
Having support from professionals who have been where your loved one is and are experts at navigating the recovery journey from all sides takes the weight off your shoulders of having to do it all by yourself. And having a community of other families making the same changes for support makes a world of difference too.
If you’re ready for support in navigating your own situation with your loved one, there are a couple ways to get started:
- Book a 1-hour breakthrough session with me to come up with an action plan for you to take moving forward. Book a Breakthrough Session here.
- Grab a 4-session coaching package with me or Corey so we can answer your questions, help you create change in your interactions, and provide continued guidance and custom support. Grab a coaching package here.
- Register for our 12-week program Recover My Family. Learn more here or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
And watch the full replay of my talk with Corey inside our Facebook Community, Friends of Tipping Point. I go live on a different topic each week, so make sure to join us if you haven’t already.