At a recent McShin meeting Tim asked to hear from family members affected by the disease of addiction. This caught my ear, perhaps because I didn’t realize that those in recovery at The McShin Foundation were actually interested in what it might be like for us, the family members of an addict. Usually when we attend the Wednesday night meetings, the meeting is centered on the addict. The agenda includes their program, their schedule, their activities and their community involvement. As I considered this request it occurred to me that writing about my experience might be just what I needed to jump-start my own personal recovery. To be truthful, it needs a major overhaul not just a simple jump-start.
I have not been actively working my program for probably seven to eight years although the disease has been in our family for well over a decade. I became complacent, as did the addict in my life. We all thought we had beaten the disease and could move ahead with our lives. But just like any life-long disease, we must remain vigilant and actively manage our lives. Recovery is not a solution to a temporary problem, but a lifetime commitment to those who want the best for themselves and their loved ones.
When I arrived at McShin I was sad, depleted and angry. I had been down this road before, yet here I was again. I was sad for my daughter and what addiction was doing to her. I was angry with myself for ignoring the red flags and the awful feeling that was always in my gut. And, I was exhausted after living in a codependent, unhealthy relationship with my adult child. Addiction was destroying our family and our lives had become unmanageable.
Bob met us in the church parking lot just as he promised he would when I had called him the day before. He was genuine and he was kind and there was no judging. I noticed he had a slight limp, yet he eagerly jumped up to meet us and take us up two flights of stairs to meet Erin. Although she was trying to eat lunch at her desk at 2:30 in the afternoon, she pushed it aside and immediately focused on how she could help us.
I began to feel more at ease as Erin smiled, listened and shared some of her past experience as an addict. She demonstrated what life could be like in active recovery. During our meeting, she effortlessly managed probably a half dozen interruptions by others needing her attention. Her confidence and positive behavior were refreshing to witness. Bob re-joined us later that afternoon and accompanied us on a tour of the women’s housing. There we met Christina, the house leader at Del Rose. She was beaming with pride and showed off her house as if it were her own. She was incredibly supportive and welcoming to us as we learned a little more about the McShin philosophy and the people who lived and worked there. By the end of the day our daughter had decided to take a chance on McShin, and we did as well.
In so far as being a “family member” or a “loved one” there are many of us, just as there are many of you. We love you and we know you love us. Addiction profoundly changed all of our lives, but like you we get to choose how we will live with the disease going forward. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a family disease. Addiction is powerful and it is deadly. It destroys lives and causes us all to do things we never imagined. It is elusive and cunning, and just as it fooled you into believing it was a solution to your pain, it fooled us into believing we could fix you. We were both fooled.
After almost two months of being back in a recovery program I can share my feelings with others. I’ve learned that I need others in recovery to help me on this journey. I cannot do it alone and I cannot ever become comfortable or complacent with this disease again. I imagine the support groups as a big safety net, there to catch me and lift me back up if I am unsteady or feeling unsure in my decisions. If I find myself getting wrapped up in trying to rescue others, I know it is time to step back and ask for help. I have come to accept my powerlessness and I have asked for God’s help. I am not remorseful, nor am I overly hopeful.
The sadness and the anger have subsided and I am beginning to feel a little more sure-footed as I continue to listen and learn more about this disease. I understand that recovery is a lifetime commitment and only I am responsible for my program. I also humbly accept that I can manage only my life, one day at a time and with God’s help. This is my program and I am responsible for getting the most out of it. I am still learning and I grateful.
I choose to no longer see you as a child, but as the adult that you have become. I choose to no longer believe that I can cure your disease or solve your problems. McShin is an opportunity for us. It is a huge opportunity for anyone who has decided to choose living over dying. At The McShin Foundation there are people who have walked in our shoes and found their way out of the darkness. They have more experience; more wisdom, and more joy in their lives because they have chosen a lifestyle of recovery. It is by God’s Grace, we are all still here.