When a family member relapses waking moments are not fully your own. Work seems less important. Socializing seems trivial. Food loses its flavor. Affection is harder to feel because sorrow has taken up residence in your breastbone and your heart can no longer radiate. You feel unjustifiably tired. Tears hang out right behind your eyeballs. It takes a lot of effort to keep them there.
This is the time when I lecture myself to “pony up” because the disease is worse for those with SUD than it is for me. At least that is how I have always looked at it. But lately I have begun to second guess myself. When someone is fully in their disease they aren’t experiencing crippling worry (unless it’s how to secure their next fix). And once they get high, they certainly aren’t thinking about you. The only person who can think about you is you.
Someone once reminded me, “as they begin again, so do we.”
But this “beginning” occurs on separate paths. Thinking about this makes me sad. As much as we may want to prop each other up, addiction for families is not a team sport. It may be called a “family disease” but there is little togetherness. Addiction is the opposite of together. Even in the closest of families it does it’s best to destroy connection. The problem with this is that as a parent you believe it is your duty to move everyone forward; like a sheepdog gathering it’s herd. For twelve long years that is what I tried to do. I now know that the only way toward peace and clarity is to strike out on my own.
Last week as I sat on my patio feeling the warm sun on my face, i began to ugly cry. Immediately I tried to shut that pity parade down. As I tried to suppress my feelings I considered how I would council a friend. I knew I would tell them that what they were going through was definitely sad and that crying is a natural response. So I stopped holding my breath and allowed myself to cry. And it felt honest. Which is a small victory because honesty is something addicts, and their loved ones, are terribly afraid of.
I considered what “beginning again” had meant to me in the past. It had meant getting my loved one back on track. Finding beds in detoxes, rehabs and sober homes, double-checking insurances, packing up apartments, handling transitions, medications, cigarette runs, money, clothing deliveries, speaking with counselors, attending family meetings, researching new therapies. For me it’s always meant this laundry list of things. These things are hard and getting through them requires an amnesiac version of auto pilot. But the truth is this time around the amnesia is leaving me. Clarity has finally rung its little bell and left a little dent in my shiny armor.
I know I should be completely satisfied that my loved one is beginning again. I am aware that my despondence over being at the starting point again is not helpful. I know that relapse is part of recovery. I know that I am not qualified to solve this problem. I know that they are doing their very best. I know that love doesn’t solve all things. And I know that where there is life there is hope.
I know all these things. I suspect I need a new path to walk. A road with a new signpost. Maybe it will say “let it be” or “hello me.”