It’s a gray and rainy day, and I’m sitting in a room with a group of people who never wanted to gain entry into the retreat we’re hosting. They desperately tried everything in their power to never be here. They formulated plans, they had talks, they paid good money, they supported, they begged, they pleaded, they researched, and they loved with all they had. And, yet, here they are: the folks who have lost a loved one to the disease of addiction.
Part of what I love about my work with family members is that I get to see wonders happen every day. When families who find a common language and path from embarking on their separate, but concurrent, 12 Step recovery journeys, hope is created. By focusing on their own recovery, healing begins in relationships that are broken, and love and respect loom large. The blessings of recovery are countless. Although there is work involved in this new way of living, joy is evident. Looking back at the place they started, most families call their lives after being in recovery “a miracle”.
The most difficult part of my job is watching what happens when addiction wins. This disease can be deadly, and it is too often. When this happens family members question if they’ve done too much, or not enough. They retrace their steps to see what could have gone wrong, and what they “should” have done differently. They wonder how they could have loved longer and harder, and think about ways they could have been more effective. They want their miracle. The fact that they didn’t get it seems cruel and unfair.
In addition to this tremendous loss, many family members feel shame due to how their loved one died. Regardless of the information available about the disease of alcoholism and addiction, our society has a long way to go to remove the stigma that is attached to it. This stigma makes it difficult to reach out for help – whether you’re struggling from addiction yourself, as a family member impacted by someone’s use, or as a person who is grieving. Where do you turn for help when dealing with a situation no one wants to talk about?
Somehow this group has found their way here to this room, with others who have experienced similar loss. The session is led by a couple who has endured this loss, too. They acknowledge this, they tell their story, and they allow others to do the same. The beauty of recovery is alive and well here, in the midst of the hurting. There is something powerful that happens in these rooms where people come together for mutual help. The understanding of another’s experience is instant and deep. The couple shares words that came to them that were said by a teenager, “The pain is mandatory, but the misery is optional.” They talk about what they’ve learned in their recovery journeys to allow them to embrace this notion, which created some movement forward on their long path. Others in the room listen intently, nod, jot down notes, and ever so slightly move toward their own new version of hope.
If you, or someone you know, has lost someone to addiction, there is support available through our monthly meetings “Recovering Hope: Using the 12 Steps for Healing when You’ve Lost a Loved One to Addiction”.