As I prepare to teach a 60 Minute Seminar at the end of July on Alcoholism and Addiction, I find myself knee deep in research, resources, experience, and reflection in order to provide the most helpful information possible. Addiction has touched every aspect of my life, and as I continue to work with men and women who are active in an addiction or in recovery, I am constantly reminded of the far reaching affects and the damage it causes.
One of the most disturbing and profound statements I have come across is this: “Outside of residence in a concentration camp, there are very few sustained human experiences that make one the recipient of as much sadism as does being a close family member of an alcoholic (addict).” – Dr. George E. Vaillant, Harvard Medical School, author of The Natural History of Alcoholism
Can being raised by, married to, or in relationship with an addict or alcoholic really be that big of a deal?
Even if I put my own life experience aside, nearly 2,000 hours with ACOAs (Adult Children of Alcoholics/Addicts) gives me a resounding answer of YES. If you are an addict, your actions, words, beliefs, and behaviors impact every aspect of the world around you. If you are in close relationship with an addict, you cannot avoid the mass destruction.
Right now I am working with current and recovering heroine, meth, cocaine, and alcohol addicts who are trying to undo the damage that the storm of their addiction has caused. I am working with the children, parents, spouses, and relatives of other addicts who are trying to pick up the pieces of their lives. There is no easy way for me tell people that we are in this process of healing and recovery for the long haul. You don’t get a vacation from sobriety and health. I have thrown out the “One day at a time” mantra and adopted the “One minute at a time” truth because we makes hundreds of decisions every minute and those decisions have consequences.
Addiction is a true beast of burden. It is a huge, loud, growling, monster with an insatiable hunger for destruction. It attacks when it is angry and never seems to rest. It weighs more than any of use can carry yet it skulks around and creeps into every aspect of our lives. And unlike the Rolling Stones song, this beast only promises to be a burden.
So is that it? Do we just give up on therapy and recovery and hope? NO! I have a front row seat to some of the most miraculous moments of change. With every therapeutic hour, I get to see people make different choices and CHOOSE to do life differently. I didn’t choose to be the daughter of an alcoholic. My clients didn’t choose to be addicts. But we can all choose what to do with the precious days we have left on this earth. And while it takes enormous amounts of trust, and pain, and love, and fear, the healing process is a minute by minute choice that adds up to days and months and years of a life lived differently. I am grateful for another moment of hope.