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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Recovery for all...

September is National Recovery Month. When I hear about recovery, my mind is always drawn to the alcoholic or addict that has entered a rehab center. It is a step in the direction of sanity and the most difficult for them to take. But, recovery isn’t just for the one imbibing on substance or alcohol abuse. The entire family needs recovery as well.

Many end-stage caretakers get here by accident. We don’t get married and say… “I’m so happy eventually I’ll be able clean up the vomit and poop left by my alcoholic soul mate.”  No new mother says… “Oh my baby is beautiful! And someday his skin will be florescent yellow and you won’t be able to see the whites of his eyes! What a joy that will be!” Or what about the child who writes a school essay with a title of “When I Grew Up I Want to be a Drunk Like My Mom!”

Most of us don’t even know that alcoholism will be a part of our lives at all. Many of us deny it’s a factor even when it begins to show its face. We go along living our happy lives. We make detours along the way – we revise, reinvent, regroup, redirect and then it hits us that our direction is leading to a place we did not intend to go. It all happens so slowly that we don’t see it until it may be too late.

OK. The question isn’t HOW we got here but rather what we do now. This thing called addiction is a tough thing to understand and many people spend years in institutions of higher learning to get a grasp on understanding. We family members don’t have time for that. We must use other resources. Fortunately, those OTHER resources do exist.

If your alcoholic goes into rehab, ask the center about their family program. If they have one, take advantage of it. Attend with an open mind. Take in every bit of knowledge they offer. Most family programs are simply an extension of Al-Anon and that is unfortunate because there is so much more the family needs to know. But, whatever is offered should not be refused. It is a starting place and just that – a place to start adding to your knowledge database. Education and knowledge is the key to surviving alcoholic insanity. Let it begin here.

If you alcoholic isn’t going into rehab, do some research by calling around to different rehab centers. Ask if they offer a family program if the alcoholic is not a patient at their center. Many centers offer these programs and are usually covered under most insurance plans. Ask what is covered in their program. Do they include medical facts, how the disease progresses, or details of the family dynamics? They should always include an introduction to the Al-Anon experience. Find the center that offers the most information.

Now that you’ve got the basics out of the way start going to Al-Anon. The Al-Anon doctrine doesn’t always fit for the caretakers of end-stage alcoholics, but it provides an excellent platform for anyone dealing with alcoholism on any level. You will find within those meetings other people who may have similar difficulties and others who have yet to face what you’ve encountered. There is a support system in those meetings that you won’t find anywhere else. They all know the depth of your despair. They all keep the same secrets as you. There is strength in numbers and this is where family members can begin building their support systems. Families of alcoholics cannot depend solely on each other for support because other family members are subjective in their points of view. The objectivity of outsiders can often bring things into focus and provide alternatives to seemingly hopeless situations. If you can’t get to a real live meeting, there are meetings on-line.

This is the information age and we are fortunate enough to have computers. Research every aspect of alcoholism. Learn every thing you can about what alcohol does to the body, how it progresses and how it affects every member of the family. Google the names of diseases and complications such as cirrhosis and hepatic encephalopathy. Become your own walking reference section. The more you know, the less shocked you will be by the changes in the active alcoholic’s mind and body. Knowledge is the key to survival.

Below are just a few of the excellent sources of factual medical information:

There are lots of resources out there. Search by the bodily organ or name of the complication. If you simply enter “end-stage alcoholism” you will not end up with very many relevant leads. If you just search “alcoholism” you will be overwhelmed with an endless possibility of websites.

Connect with others. This blog offers support and information to end-stage caretakers, but there are other blogs. I use my personal experiences to show others that they are not alone in this insanity. Different blogs offer different points of view and different means of getting their point across. Visit them often and discover your favorites. Add yourself to the list of “Followers” to show your support for the efforts of the blog author. My favorites are listed on the left side of my blog page, but I do read others that are not listed here.

I have a FACEBOOK page where there is often a lively running “conversation” on a variety of subjects. This is where you can develop relationships with other readers who may be walking in your shoes. Ask questions and everyone will give you their own opinion and suggestion. It’s an open discussion on any topic.

Interaction can also be found on other sites such as www.about.alcoholism.com, www.recoverymonth.gov, and/or www.soberrecovery.com. These sites offer forums that allow readers to connect and offer various points of view.

Twitter also offers support. This service allows you to follow others who may share your difficulties. I have a Twitter account (which is FREE) and have found it be a helpful resource. There are many rehab centers, counselors, groups, etc. that connect using this site. For anyone interested I am ImrtlAlkysWife on Twitter.

My point here is simple. No one is an island. No one is immune. Anyone involved with an alcoholic on any level is subject to distorted thinking, unrealistic expectations and a whole host of difficult situations which can even lead to our own physical ailments. We need to become sane again. We need help to get back on the path to a healthy lifestyle. We need recovery just as much – or maybe even more – than the alcoholic no matter what the stage.


jo said...

imho. we need to educate society. and ourselves. i liken this to what cancer used to be 60 yrs ago..the "unmentioned" disease. now its addiction. very few drs have a clue. very few "counselors". hunt and keep hunting until you find a place you feel you fit in. i have had to do this. finally i am getting a small support group in place. we should not feel so alone, and if you look to society in general, you will find little help out there. dig, speak out, educate others and post. i have found few places that are even reasonable in their "advice". with your help, we all can change this.

Anonymous said...

If I knew in 2001, what I now know about alcoholism, rehab and recovery...things might have turned out different for me and my alcoholic husband. Unfortunately, addicts don't come with an instruction manual and you learn as you go. I often asked myself 'how did we get here'? It's easy to thinks things are 'OK', or 'not that bad', or 'could be worse'....

Syd said...

Thanks for posting this information, Linda. It was good to know that I was not alone. One lady in a group I attend lived with her end stage alcoholic. She found peace in Al-Anon. Her husband died when he fell and hit his head in a black out.

jo said...

i agree with anonymous. every day is a new thing to learn, or how to cope with. it is exhausting.

im sorry for the lady, but the guilt and relief combined with sadness is gonna be a tough one for all of us some day. i cant imagine it yet. i just wonder if they even shut up after death..sometimes. see how crazy i can get with reality?