As a child growing up with two parents who struggled with substance and alcohol abuse disorders, it was a very exhausting experience. There were times when, as a child I would cry out for them to “just stop doing it” or to “fix themselves”, not knowing that it is not an easy thing to do. It is a fight inside themselves every minute of every day. I had to learn to love them where they were and not to exclude them from my life just because of their disorder. It was not an easy thing to do, but even while living in their disorders I have beautiful memories of them being present for my important milestones. Yes, there were many things that they missed out on. There have been lots of bad days but, they kept fighting. It was important that they stayed active in the lives of family, so they could be encouraged.
My father was able to beat his disorder. After an 8 year prison sentence he remained clean. When my mother decided that it was time to take control of her life back, I watched her fight so hard and go through 5 in-patient treatment programs, and 1 out-patient treatment program, before conquering it all. After the 4th program she was able to stay clean for 5 years before relapse. Soon after, she decided to try again to beat her disorder and she has now been clean for 5 years and 7 months! My mother said she did it because she wanted to be present and healthy in the lives of her grandchildren, so she would not miss life with them what she missed with her 3 kids. I am so proud of her for that. She is present and healthy in our lives. I’m not sure if I've ever told her how grateful I am or, how proud of her I actually am. She even went a step further and got her degree in addiction counseling so she can help others overcome their disorders.
Now, there are times when I have seen my mother’s stress level rise from life’s issues. I’m proud to say she continues to stand strong. She will go to meetings and reach out to family and friends to get help. She also has found other things she loves to do to keep her mind and hands busy so she will not succumb to her disorder. She fights it with all she has, and for me that makes her a champion!
We, as family and friends of those fighting with substance and alcohol disorders must remember this is not an easy thing for them. It’s not that they are choosing “it” over us. They are sick. They want to overcome it as much we want them to. If not more for us, than for them. There is a fight in their bodies and minds every moment of every day because of it. We must remember to encourage them, support and be there for them. It’s our job to help them through it. Celebrate the mini milestones as well as the big ones right along with them. Let them know you think they are doing great, and you are proud of them. Also, make sure if possible to keep their triggers away from them. For example, in my family we make a conscious effort not to have any alcohol at family gatherings; yes, we are all adults, but it makes things easier for them. I have many family members who struggle with both of these disorders. So, doing it this way gives them a safe environment to relax and not be tempted.
Remember, to love on them. Love them with a pure, judgement free, love to help them fight through their disorders. I hope it helps!!!