As a father who was addicted to an addicted son, my process of recovery, and perhaps yours, took a parallel road through the ups and downs of denial, anger and resentment, shame and guilt, depression and helplessness, and finally acceptance and resolve. Each of these emotional experiences was unavoidable, but absolutely necessary, in order to arrive at a place of healing and to find the ability to move forward.
Denial: In response to the gravity of addiction, we struggle to grasp what has actually happened or what is still happening. Since despair and utter shock is usually more than we can handle, we often default to denying such a negative reality. Our first round of defense is a coping mechanism against feeling the pain of trauma. The road to recovery will inevitably require getting in touch with these suppressed emotions.
Anger and Resentment: The suppressed pain of hurt and fear will eventually surface causing anger and resentment towards the addict for what they have put us through. We bark, “Why would you do this to ME, after all I have done for you?” We briefly feel a sense of relief when we bite back, but inevitably we feel guilty for being angry, which only makes us angry with ourselves and then angrier with the addict.
Shame and Guilt: Even though we’re not to blame for a loved one’s drug addiction, we can easily feel guilty and believe that we are responsible for ruining their life. We feel ashamed of who we are as a parent or sibling for not being good enough to ‘save’ our loved one from their addiction. This deep-rooted shame and guilt keeps us from realizing that there is NO such thing as being the perfect parent, and that the care and shelter and love we did provide was more than good enough.
Depression and helplessness: Depression is feeling sadness and regret when facing the reality that we have no more power to change what has already happened than we have over what our addicted loved one may chose to do today. That feeling of helplessness is the dreadful truth when we come to realize we have no control over the situation and that we must trust the process of recovery. This includes the fearful reality that relapses can be a part of the struggle of recovery.
Acceptance and Resolve: There does come a time when we can accept reality without undue sadness or fear and be resolved to move forward with healing our family and ourselves. We then allow the recovery program to take its course and hope our loved one will discover a life worth living – clean and sober. Meanwhile, we must refocus our love, time and energy to our other loved ones who need our attention in order to feel equally important. This is an opportunity to heal and move forward.
If you have just read this article, chances are that you have a loved one struggling with addiction and you are travelling on this same journey. Being aware and working through each of these points is very important for the well-being of you and your family. We will delve deeper into each of these stages in an upcoming newsletter to give you useful tools and insight on your road to recovery.
Written by: John Foulkes
Professional Relationship Coach