If you are reading this program, your loved one is possibly fresh home from his stay here at SCHC, and there is still much work to do to heal hurts and move forward from the aftermath of their struggles in addiction. Usually, the guys arrive here in treatment because there has been some kind of breaking point. Maybe their wife has threatened divorce, they nearly lost their job, they lost their licence or all of the above. Whatever it was that prompted them to come to get help, they deemed it a crisis point. These crisis points are an opportunity for personal growth; to be a better husband, employee, citizen. We utilize this silver lining here at SCHC and most of the guys leaving here after their program are pumped and ready to seize their personal opportunity for growth. With a clearer mind, they have been able to identify what is important to them and what they want to fight for, and they have put plans in place to best help them accomplish their goals.
But… nothing much has changed at home, they still have to contend with everything as they left it, which is usually quite a mess. So in this series, I would like to talk about:
- How to create a clean slate
- Untangling the issues
- How to trust moving forward
- Healing resentments
How to Create a Clean Slate
Your loved ones often wish they could “leave the past in the past”; they don’t want to look back on all the things they did that hurt other people. Almost unanimously, they have a huge amount of shame and guilt, and when they first arrive many of them are very angry with themselves. Families, on the other hand, are looking for resolution, which is difficult without having some closure to whatever the issues are. To create a clean slate, there must be a willingness from all parties and an earnest attempt at taking ownership of each person’s part in the problem. This is not to re-live the hurts or to point fingers, but simply to define the current state of affairs and commit to moving forward. This is a process, like forgiveness, it is not automatic or neat and tidy. It takes an ongoing willingness, and often it is helpful to have a counsellor facilitate. Next episode I will talk more about untangling the issues.
Untangling the Issues
Part of healing and moving forward is untangling the issues. We began to talk about this last episode: that each person needs to take ownership for their part of the problem without shaming and blaming. To do this, each person needs to acknowledge that they are the author of their own life, and that they cannot control the other. As I have addressed in the previous series, it is very common for people in addiction to hand over the reins of their life to loved ones, and loved ones to take this role in fear for the person struggling in addiction. It is integral to everyone’s healing and ability to move forward that your loved ones get back in the driver’s seat of their life.
Taking personal responsibility (authorship) is the only way to have a meaningful life, which is the best way to stave off a relapse to addiction. Taking personal responsibility does not mean taking responsibility for everything, it means taking responsibility for ourselves fully and under any circumstance.
If we accept reality as it is and are unrelentingly honest with ourselves, we can see what part of any issue we can have an effect on, and therefore what we are responsible to do. Doing right by ourselves and others in this way makes us feel good about ourselves as a person, it builds our self-worth and confidence. When we are not ‘doing our part’ we feel bad about ourselves, so don’t do someone else’s part: it doesn’t give them this gift and ability to grow.
How to Trust Moving Forward
As a family member of someone who struggled in addiction and is now in early recovery, it is likely that trust in the relationship has been broken. How can you learn to trust them again? Do you even want to? If you are reading this program it is probably safe to say that you at least have some willingness to try and heal your relationship. And this is really what it takes, a willingness to let go, work on forgiving, and build back trust. It takes goodwill on your part, just as all trust does.
Your loved one who is trying to gain back your trust is best to take personal responsibility, as we talked about the last episode, and to show and do rather than tell. Trust is re-built in seeing action, doing the right thing over and over, and being reliable. This takes time and effort.
What you can do that is supportive is to be encouraging, and acknowledge improvements and that even in recovery he is still human and prone to error. Holding someone to 100% perfection is unrealistic, disappointing for you and discouraging for him.
If you find that you are unable to let go of the past, seek counselling. Individual, family, and/or couples counselling can be helpful depending on your situation. Tune in for our next episode on healing resentments.
Healing from Resentments
Last episode I talked about some of what it takes to build back trust in a relationship where it has been broken. The process takes a willingness on your part to let go of past hurts. This can be very difficult sometimes and we may find that although we are trying to move forward, we are emotionally stuck in the past… this is a sure sign you are holding resentments.
It is worth mentioning that in 12-Step and AA circles they have a saying that “resentments lead to relapses”. While I do not take that approach, I agree with the sentiment that resentments eat away at you and need to be dealt with.
So, how do you deal with resentments? Well, usually a person holds resentment because they do not have closure around an issue. Somehow, they still do not feel their experience has been heard or understood by the offending person. Between two people this would look like hearing and validating each person’s experience and the impact it has had on them. You do not have to agree with one another to listen and acknowledge the other’s perspective. It is important this conversation is reciprocal to be able to heal and move forward. If things are still heated and one or both people str struggling to really listen to the other it is helpful to have an objective third party to moderate the conversation, such as a counsellor.
If you are still having a hard time moving forward after doing all this in earnest, definitely seek counselling support. We tell the guys that it is important to acknowledge what they have done and take responsibility for themselves and change what they need to. We also explain that it takes time to build back trust. But we temper all this by explaining how they also need to stand up for themselves and not perpetuate power differentials in their relationships.