16 Mar What If Your Loved Ones Cannot Forgive Your Addiction
Coming back from the cycle of addiction is a long and tough road. Not only does it take a lot of courage and determination, but it’s physically and mentally taxing as well. When you’ve finished your treatment and are in recovery, you really need the love, support and encouragement of your loved ones to help you maintain your sobriety. So what happens if your loved ones cannot forgive your addiction? What if there’s so much weight in your baggage that they can’t look beyond the past?
Don’t worry. You can get past this. Here are some things to keep in mind.
First Things First
It’s important to recognize yourself first for the incredible achievement you’ve attained. At this stage of the game, you’ve completed your treatment – however personally challenging that may have been – and are now in recovery. This accomplishment alone is reason to celebrate. Sure, it would be great if your loved ones stood up and gave you credit for this, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that you did it. So, before you think about anything else, give yourself high marks for reaching this milestone.
Count Your Blessings
Now, while you are still giving yourself kudos for reaching the recovery stage, count your blessings for all the positive things that you have in your life. Loved ones notwithstanding, you do have them. Here are some that should rate high on your list. You now have a healthier physical condition, due to the fact that your body is no longer full of the harmful substances you previously ingested, or the addictive lifestyle you once maintained. You’ve made a lot of progress in understanding the roots and underlying causes for your addiction, learned how to identify triggers and how to avoid giving in to them. You worked hard on your self-esteem and self-confidence, learning that you have contributions that you can make to society. Even if you never felt that you made much of a difference before, you now know that each person can impact the lives of many around them, and that you have a tremendous opportunity to not only benefit your own future, but those of others as well.
These are all terrific blessings – and they don’t cost you a penny. While you’re at it, you can probably rattle off a few more. Include the fact that you now sleep better, are less depressed and anxious, look forward to each day rather than dreading what it will bring, and others.
How Bad is the Relationship?
Still, you need the love and support of those closest to you. Whether this is your spouse or partner, children, siblings or parents, the relationships mean a lot and are definitely worth preserving or repairing. Before you attempt to make any amends, however, you should first look at how bad the situation is with your loved ones. What do you see is the biggest obstacle to being whole again in their eyes? In other words, what will it take for them to forgive you – if you know? Maybe you think it is one thing, when, in fact, it may be something else altogether. Don’t just assume. Sit down and really try to figure it out.
Let’s say you’re the husband of a working wife who’s been struggling to keep the family together while you were in treatment. If there are children involved, magnify that struggle by increments depending on what shape (financially, emotionally, socially, etc.) the family was in prior to your entering treatment. Chances are, the inability of your loved ones to forgive you have a lot to do with heavy-duty emotional turmoil. Your spouse, for example, shouldered the burdens while you were away. She had to make many decisions on her own, not being able to get your input, or the situation demanded immediate attention. For a wife used to sharing decisions with her husband, this can take a tremendous toll.
Perhaps she had to scrimp to help pay for your treatment, since your insurance coverage either only covered part of it or you didn’t have any coverage. Having to sacrifice comforts the family has come to rely on or even pare necessities to the bone will build up resentment in the strongest and most caring person. Add that to the list of perceived grievances.
Being the sole parent also meant she shouldered dual roles in your absence. It’s tough to show love, dole out discipline when necessary, keep up appearances and try to ensure the children still have fun when you’ve got so much riding on the situation. She may have begun to wonder if the family would be better off without you. This thought, which is certainly understandable, would likely be instantly quashed as out of the question or a sign of betrayal (although it could still lurk beneath the surface). As you know from your own treatment, when you bury your emotions, they come back to haunt you or, at the very least, make growth more difficult.
While the above is just one example, the point is that you should make a list of the things that you believe stand in the way of your loved one forgiving you for your addiction. Once you have the list, you can go on to the next step.
Figure Out What to Do About It
Work down your list and try to come up with solutions to the problems. Again, this is something you do on your own even before having any conversation with your loved ones. Taking financial concerns into consideration, perhaps you can address how and when you will be able to alleviate this concern. Can you go back to your previous job? What are your employment prospects?
Did you get training in a new vocation or skill while you were in treatment? How willing are you to take any kind of job to
immediately start contributing to the family’s well being?
Recognize that you may have to start from scratch. You may have burned your job bridge behind you if you were fired for your addictive behavior. Or, your prospects upon your return may be limited for some time to come. In either case, start where you are and work your way back up. It’s really the only option you have, since you do have obligations and need to resume your role within society.
If you need training, look into how you can get it. Take any job and go to school at night, or learn a new trade or skill in an apprenticeship. Another advantage to tackling the financial concerns that may stand in the way of your loved ones’ forgiveness is that you will be doing something positive for yourself as well. Now could be the opportunity to ditch the old job you found boring or distasteful, or not reflective of your true talents or desires. Figure out what it will take for you to get where you really want to be – and then draft a plan to make it happen.
No, this goal won’t be realized overnight. It may take years for you to complete your degree, build up your own business, or become profitable, for example, but it is a positive first step toward eventually achieving the goal.
Speaking of time, it may be that you’ll need to prove yourself to your loved ones by being on your own for a while. It may be too painful for them to have you home on a full-time basis for now. You will need to accept that and really work at making the kinds of changes that can turn that around.
As for the emotional barrier that undoubtedly puts a strain on your relationship moving forward, this, too, requires time. Your loved ones may miss the financial security and feeling of self worth that came from having things in control – prior to your problems with addiction. A drastic drop in self confidence and self worth inevitably follows in the path of addiction, affecting everyone in the family. In fact, emotional turmoil is difficult for loved ones to overcome without some form of family treatment or counseling. They often are not able to see past barriers without professional help. Fortunately, such counseling is relatively easy to access – either as part of your aftercare treatment program, or through community services or self-help groups such as Al-Anon/Alateen, Nar-Anon, and others.
Remain Positive and Upbeat About the Future
Although it seems hard to look at a future without your loved ones in it, for now just keep as upbeat and positive as you can. Reach out to your support network of 12-step members and step up your meeting attendance. This is especially important at time in your life when your family environment may be severely constrained or restricted.
Your 12-step allies also include your sponsor. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your sponsor, since he or she is ready, willing and able to give you the kind of encouragement and support you need, 24/7. You already have a pretty good familiarity with the 12-step process through contacts during your treatment program – if you went through a formal treatment program. If not, you do have a ready-made support network available to you through 12-step fellowships. There are 12-step groups for every kind of addiction. They are free to attend and have no memberships or dues. All they ask is for voluntary donations if you are able.
While the philosophies are similar and all are based on the 12-step principles, each has its own original focus and personality, if you will.
Here are some of the 12-step groups:
• Alcoholics Anonymous
• Cocaine Anonymous
• Crystal Meth Anonymous
• Debtors Anonymous
• Gamblers Anonymous
• Marijuana Anonymous
• Narcotics Anonymous
• Sexaholics Anonymous
• Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous
• Sex Addicts Anonymous
• Sexual Compulsives Anonymous
• Workaholics Anonymous
Besides in-person meetings, 12-step groups often offer online and phone meetings, blogs, and chats. Each group has its own website which provides access to articles, news, books, CDs, DVDs, and other resources, as well as helpful links for additional help. When you’re feeling down or lonely in the middle of the night, go online and check out some literature that may help – or get in touch with your sponsor or other 12-step group member with whom you have established a connection.
Make a Plan – and Stick To It
Besides continuing counseling, keeping an upbeat attitude and seeking the support and encouragement from your 12-step groups, what else can you do? The best advice is to make a plan, and stick to it. What do we mean by that? What kind of a plan are we talking about? It doesn’t matter what your plan is, or how simple or detailed. The point is that you will be doing yourself a great service by sitting down and designing a plan for your future.
Note the emphasis on your future. Here we are talking about what it is that you want for yourself one year, 5 to 10 years, or longer down the road. Make a list of your short-term (1 to 2 years), intermediate term (3 to 5 years), and long-term (5 to 10 years and beyond) goals. In the next column, jot down what you may need to do in order to reach the particular goal. This may include going to school, getting training, learning a new language, becoming proficient at a sport, joining a recreational or travel group, or something else. In the next column, write down everything you can think of in the way of resources available to help you get started. Include websites, organizations, advice or recommendations from friends, scholarships, grants, community, state or federal programs, etc.
Once you have your list, get started on the short-term goals, things you can tackle right away. Keep in mind that you should strive to make some progress each day or week toward your intermediate and long-term goals as well. This can take the form of gathering information, checking out websites, filling out applications, taking a class, and so on. Remember that your list of goals is only a guideline. Nothing is written in stone. Keep it flexible and always consider it a work in progress. Once you achieve a goal, take time to acknowledge your achievement. Give yourself the credit you deserve.
While you are pursuing your goals, and especially when you reach milestones in your sobriety (first year of sobriety, for example), take a moment to reflect how much differently you feel now than at the beginning of your recovery. Each small step you take toward the future means that much more progress that you have made. Your overall outlook will change as well. You will look forward to each day as a new opportunity to make a difference.
During this time, if not before, you may have been able to repair your relationship with your loved ones. If they have not forgiven you, they may have at least accepted your sincere expression of wanting to make amends. You will find that you will be able to move on. To do this most effectively, you need to be able to forgive yourself. Forgiveness from others, including your loved ones, has more of a chance.
There is an old expression, When one door closes, another opens. This is true in recovery from addiction as well. Open your heart to be able to receive love, as well as give it.
Find relief in recovery. Life gets better with addiction treatment.
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