Addiction And The Family, The Enabler That Lives Within Me
Today, I finally watched the move Beautiful Boy. For months I’ve been putting it off because a story about a boy battling addiction was a bit to close to home. But I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame, wanting insight and information that would help me help other families. Who am I kidding, help me help myself. I knew I needed to see it, I just didn’t know why. Until now.
The movie was done incredibly well. It showed the roller-coaster of emotions we feel when torn between longing for the “beautiful boy” we once knew and the guilt and wonder about where we had gone wrong. It showed the fight that is waged within the addict and the family. And it did a beautiful job of highlighting how a parent sees the addict as the child they once knew, before drugs or alcohol take hold.
For me, it was more than a story, it delivered a message I didn’t know I needed.
The disease of addiction is a family disease. It marks each of us in a unique way, and I’m not immune. Even now that my beautiful boy has over 6 years of sobriety I find myself fighting the patterns of an enabler. Established back when I was a child, these patterns of passivity, worry, fixing and waiting for the next crisis, I realize have been an integral part of my life. A part of my life that I thought I had left behind.
It took watching this movie to make me see that my recovery, a recovery from the unhealthy coping strategies and enabling, has a long way to go. I realized that my patterns have improved in certain areas, like I no longer enable the drug/alcohol addicts in my life. But I still, even with all the therapy and Al-anon meetings, function as though I need to protect and pacify everyone else above myself.
I still jump to the worst-case scenario if the phone rings at an odd time, and I continue to avoid conflict like the plague. I am passive and I still allow fear to guide my actions to often than I’d like. Sure, not to the extent that I used to but the mindset is there silently weaving through moments in my life and business, affecting my peace in subtle but powerful ways.
You see when a family member enters into recovery, we walk alongside them. We go to meetings, set boundaries, focus on getting healthy so we can distance yourself from the disease. And when the crisis passes, and days turn into years, it’s easy to forget. Forget the mess that used to be. Forget the unhealthy ways that our patterns, not the addicts, OUR patterns sucked the peace right out of our lives.
Here is the thing, the addict isn’t the only one who has to fight the patterns of addiction. Recovery, addiction and the family healing process is likened to peeling the layers of the onion. You can only get to the root cause and identify unhealthy coping strategies and behavior patterns one layer at a time.
And today, the peeling process came in the form of a movie with a story that touched my heart. It surprised me and opened my eyes to the work I still need to do as part of my recovery as an enabler.