THE MIRACLE OF CHANGE... HOPE and HEALING FOR FAMILIES BATTLING ADDICTION... ONE STEP AT A TIME
Hi, my name is Christine. It seems almost every person I talk to has someone in their immediate or extended family who is struggling with addiction. Addiction today can include the use of substances such as tobacco, alcohol, drugs (both prescription and illegal), and behaviors such as gambling, codependency, pornography, disorders associated with eating, video gaming, etc…
I feel an anxious concern to publicly share in detail the recovery tools and principles that helped save not only the lives of my two oldest sons through their battles with addiction, but also helped to save my marriage and keep my family of seven intact. I will forever be deeply grateful for the counsel that many individuals in addiction recovery shared with me. I was taught to treat our sons’ addiction as though they had cancer. What treatment and expense would we go to if they had cancer? Today we know the scientific facts that addiction is indeed a literal brain disease, and those who suffer from addiction are not bad people who need to be good, but rather sick people who need help to become well.
When my husband and I learned about how the disease of addiction has the capacity to completely disconnect a person from their will and that addiction literally has the power to take away one’s free agency, we wept! We had been falsely judging our sons and realized with stark clarity that they were not purposely trying to destroy our family or themselves but literally couldn’t stop their addicted behaviors. This new information changed everything in our home! Our anger, misunderstanding, resentments, judgments, and blame softened to understanding, compassion, and an increase in love. Our sons needed help to learn the tools to MANAGE their disease just as a diabetic needs to learn the tools to manage their insulin. Even though in the beginning of their addiction my son’s made poor choices, they didn’t choose to have an addiction any more than a person who eats too much sugar chooses to have diabetes.
My husband and I have been serving in Salt Lake County for the past six years in an addiction recovery 12 step program that provides over 150 meetings weekly for those in jail, prison, local churches, and the community who desire to recover from addiction. Because of this unique and intimate connection with hundreds of addicts, we have learned that those who struggle with the cycles of addiction who find LONG TERM SOBRIETY (defined as over one year) have one common thread… they have discovered hope, healing, and support by attending 12 step meetings. In fact, 12 step meetings are so impactful and successful that millions around the world have been able to learn to manage their addictions, and even find long term sobriety! You can hear live testimonials from addicts who have found long- term sobriety on the “music and testimonials” tab of this website.
Over the past six years as we have served to facilitate 12 step meetings, we have noticed that there is a remarkable success rate for the addicted when their parents, spouse, or loved one gets involved in the recovery process. Believe it or not, just as my sons needed to learn to manage their disease of addiction, my husband and I needed to learn how to recognize and then manage our negative behaviors of codependency (or destructive dependency).
I have learned that often there is a hidden, missing piece of the recovery puzzle that eludes most families, and this is the codependent (destructive) behaviors within the family. Usually with every person that struggles with addiction, there is a codependent attached. You can think of it as the “heads” and “tails” of a quarter: where there is a head, there is always a tail. Codependent behaviors can be very harmful and fuel emotional shame and guilt, which is said to be the core center of addiction. When my sons were fighting for their lives with their heroin addiction, I felt like I was also drowning emotionally and had no idea that I was suffering from the heavy chains of codependent thoughts and behaviors. The sad part about codependency is that many family members are often taught they didn’t cause, can’t control or cure their addict and so they wash their hands of any responsibility and often shun their addicted family member. Once at a 12 step meeting in the county jail, I met a young man who had been in and out of jail multiple times because of his addiction. He shared with us that his father lived only two blocks from the jail and had not visited him once in over seven years. Yes, codependents may not have initially caused the addiction, but I know as a codependent that my fear, enabling, judgment, rescuing, emotional dishonesty, etc… did CONTRIBUTE to the addiction and discord in our family. Over seventy years ago, Alcoholics Anonymous recognized the need for family members to get treatment as well as their addicted loved one and initiated “AL- Anon” 12 step meetings for families and friends. Today there are family support meetings available for spouses, parents, grown adults who grew up with addicted parents, and teens whose parents or siblings struggle with addiction.
While it is true that changes cannot be made without an individual’s will to change, the idea that our loved ones need to hit “rock bottom” before they will want to change is a MYTH. Because addiction is chronic, progressive, and fatal, rock bottom with addiction in far too many cases is DEATH! Addiction is like any other disease: the sooner it is addressed and diagnosed, the sooner recovery can begin. Over the past eight years, because of the consequences of addiction, our family has repeatedly been saddened to hear of the untimely death of over 16 of my sons’ friends and associates. This fuels our family’s efforts to urge and inspire all we meet who have a loved one struggling with addiction to GET INVOLVED IN RECOVERY by attending 12 STEP MEETINGS to gather knowledge, resources, and experience from others who have found long term sobriety and/or experienced the pain of destructive codependency.
I’m so thankful I learned the TRUTH about the disease of addiction and sought help for not only my sons but also for myself. Miracles began to happen fast in our family as we began attending 12 step meetings and learned to talk about the elephant in the room that previously no one had the vocabulary, skills, or understanding to address. We began to heal as a family one glorious step at a time!
Today my sons are still active in 12 step meetings giving back and helping others. They are four and five years sober today and both married to wonderful, supporting wives. Our family has greater love, understanding and unity. We have learned to hate the addiction but love the addicted. Yes, people CAN change, and we have truly seen miracles in our family as well as other families. We are passionate about helping families suffering with addiction discover the miracle of change…one step at a time.