Most of us who have family members that are addicts also suffer from the same addiction. The difference between our addicts and ourselves is that we are addicted to our addicts. We suffer when they do poorly, we smile when they do well. We ignore other family members to take care of our addict when, in truth, the addict is the one we can’t help. We destroy our marriages, our friendships, our working life, all in the name of our addict. Yes, we, too, are addicts.
Once we are able to accept that this is a family disease and that we suffer from a different type of addiction, it’s much easier to understand that we, like they, need a program of our own if we want to have a life that even comes close to normal. I was lucky. I was found a program that is international and follows most of the same philosophies as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). It is called Families Anonymous (FA). While similar to Alanon in many ways, each meeting is unique, meaning if there are three meetings in your general area, each may be run differently, and of course, each has different members.
You can go from one meeting to another and will be welcome at each one. In my experience, I find the people at FA are generally there for their children’s addictions, whereas the Alanon meetings were more about spouses and significant others. That may not be the situation in all FA and Alanon meetings, but it’s been true in the ones I’ve attended. The objective is to find the meeting that feels right to you, and you don’t give up after just one meeting. Sometimes, it takes six or eight meetings to really get the feeling of what the group is about.
In AA, addicts find support in the experiences and wisdom of each other. They know when to trust words and when not to trust them. They recognize denial and help each other to face reality. In FA, the same thing happens to us. Where else can you open up, in a room of virtual strangers, tell everyone your son got arrested for drug possession, and you aren’t bailing him out, and not be scorned?
We need to gather the tools required to have a life of our own. We never stop loving them; we simply learn how to love ourselves more. When you’ve learned the tools of your program, you will begin to truly help them in the ways you can help them. You will learn how to not enable them. You will learn that NO is a complete sentence. You will learn that you don’t need to prove your love to them because they already know you love them.
You shouldn’t try to do it alone; you will almost certainly fail. You need to hear what experience has taught others and then decide what will work for you. In your own time and in your own way, you will eventually come to accept that what you hear is something you probably should do because it works. Until you have tried your own way and failed, you will not believe it. None of us do at first.