A few days ago I discovered that a childhood friend of mine is an “alcoholic”. His family have been a part of my life forever and as a child I had been envious of the love in their house. My memories of our families together were always “those were the days!” I had been oblivious to the destruction that went on around me and as I tick into my 40’s I find myself being less and less tolerant of “the good old days” and start to recognise that there was very little good about any of it.
So here I am looking back at all my friends families that helped define who I am today and I realise that those comfy old rooms aren’t quite as comfy as I recall – the wallpaper is definitely peeling off! It strikes me that there is no such thing as a functioning family. Addiction captures every household in some shape or form. For some it is nothing more than an eccentricity, a foible but for others it is entirely consuming. We all approach it from a different angle, some of us will choose to ignore what’s happening – perhaps they’ll grow out of it, or they might need to just “get a grip or get out!” Some of us will want to skirt around the issue and others will want to attack it head on.
But we all have one thing in common – we want change but without change! We look at the person we love and the addiction we hate, we want to keep the person we love and lose the addiction we hate. We are united in the terror that in losing the addiction we are also going to lose the person. And so as they head off toward the first step of change we find ourselves siding with addiction. We become overwhelmingly fearful of change. We’re so busy looking at who our loved one is going to become in the ensuing weeks, months or even years that we lose sight of who they are in the here and now. We’re terrified that this person who we love and know is going to become a happy-clappy-daisy-chasing-Moonie! Perhaps the drinking isn’t that bad, maybe this relationship will turn them around, possibly a little more time – after all doesn’t time heal? And let’s not hide from the financial aspects of curing addiction, that’s definitely on the list!
Several years ago my younger sister came to me to talk, I had long suspected that her world was spiralling out of control and so was relieved when she told me that she needed my help. We sat at our kitchen table and she told me that she had regularly been using drugs, she had a serious eating disorder and that she could no longer hide the scars of her self-harming. Over the next hour or so my relief that she was finally sharing gave way to horror (which I tried desperately to conceal from her). When she was done telling me her life at that moment she asked “Can you help me?” I panicked, I had suspected that she might have food issues and I thought she occasionally cut herself but I had always envisaged that when this day came I’d be able to help her out with a cup of tea, a little chat and maybe a visit to the doctor. This was unbelievably out of my league! I said the only thing that I could – “No, but I have a good friend who can!”
So in answer to all of the above – yes, my sister changed. She became an incredible, amazing and beautiful being. She is still vulnerable yet stronger with it, she still relies on friends and family yet she is independent, she’s accepted what she needs to change in herself and what she can’t change in others. And she can still party without becoming someone she doesn’t like!
And as ugly as it is, I’m closing with the financial aspect. The phrase “it never rains but it pours” comes to mind, if any of the above is relevant then let me tell you – right now it’s chucking it down and this is the rainy day you’ve been saving for, so get your feet wet!