Announcer: Welcome to Addiction and the Family, “Episode 6: Finding Hope as an Adult Child of Addiction.”
Casey Arrillaga: How has addiction affected your family?
Female Speaker: It robbed me of my father.
Female Speaker: Addiction’s affected my family in absolutely every way.
Male Speaker: It has caused a lot of turmoil.
Female Speaker: It goes back to what I understand is at least three generations.
Female Speaker: It robbed my daughter of her mother. It robbed my mother of her daughter.
Female Speaker: Addiction has made our family quite challenging.
Male Speaker: Addiction has affected my family tremendously.
Male Speaker: It’s affected my relationship with my sister where I wouldn’t – I’d go for months without talking to her. It’s a very difficult thing for everybody involved. It doesn’t just affect the one individual. It’s a disease that affects the whole family.
Male Speaker: Addiction is spread not only genetically through some of my relatives and I assume ancestors.
Female Speaker: It’s generational.
Female Speaker: I think of him every day.
Casey Arrillaga: Welcome to Addiction in the Family, a podcast by and for family members of anyone with an addiction. My name is Casey Arrillaga, and I’m a social worker and addiction counselor at both Windmill Wellness Ranch and InMindOut Emotional Wellness Centers in Texas. I’ve led hundreds of family workshops, but I’ve also lived the experience of being family to addiction as both a child and adult. My wife, Kira, and I were in our addictions together for over a decade and now have been in recovery together for almost 20 years. Join us as we offer experience, strength, and realistic hope about how you and your family can find recovery together.
Kira Arrillaga: Today, we continue our spotlight on recovery series. In each of these episodes, we explore issues of addiction in the family through the lens of a particular family’s story. In this episode, we will hear from Lauren, a woman who is finding peace after growing up around addiction and mental illnesses that were never admitted to until she was a teenager. Her story gives a powerful lens to see how children can be affected by these things.
This episode will also look at ways to support those who are growing up with or who have grown up with adults with such issues. While some listeners may think that doesn’t apply to me because it doesn’t look what I’m going through, if you follow along, you will find many of the issues Lauren has faced are the same that anyone faces when one or more family members struggle with addiction and/or mental illness. All this and more after a quick word from one of our sponsors.
Casey Arrillaga: Welcome back. Facing addiction in a family member is difficult at any age, but it’s especially hard for children. This is even more true if the person who has the addiction is their parent. To make things worse, the other parent’s behavior will inevitably be changed as they try to cope, hopefully keeping the children as safe as they can, but possibly falling into codependent patterns or their own addictions, all of which can leave the children searching for answers and whatever coping skills they can improvise on their own.
Too often, the children take on unhealthy roles in the effort to deal with the unpredictability of an impossible situation in which they cannot fully rely on the people entrusted with their care. As these children become adults and then parents themselves, they must grapple with how to make peace with their past and how to find hope for their future. We’ll hear how all of this plays out in Lauren’s story. Okay, to start, if you could just introduce yourself.
Lauren: My name is Lauren.
Casey Arrillaga: Welcome to Addiction and the Family.
Lauren: Thank you for having me.
Casey Arrillaga: What has you on a show called Addiction and the Family?
Lauren: In short, I’m the child of an addict. My family was struggling with addiction most of my life.
Casey Arrillaga: What was that like for you?
Lauren: Chaotic, complicated, lonely. I was shameful. I grew up in a family in a really well-off neighborhood. All my friends growing up, their parents were there, and had steady jobs, and functioned, and family dinners. Behind my closed doors, none of that happened. I felt like a fraud. I carried a lot of shame because I didn’t think I could talk to anybody about it because I didn’t think anybody would understand.
Casey Arrillaga: What were you afraid was going to happen if people found out?
Lauren: I would be shunned. We’d be called the phonies, found out just overall. We’d be marked people I guess in the neighborhood or amongst our peers.
Casey Arrillaga: Who was it in your family? Do you mind talking about that situation?
Lauren: It was my dad, probably my mom in another way, in another frame. Casey Arrillaga: What do you mean by that?
Lauren: Codependency is a bit of an addiction in itself. There was definitely a codependent relationship occurring with my parents and their relationship and marriage, toxic codependency at that.
Casey Arrillaga: Would you mind talking a little bit about what your experience of that was as a child?
Lauren: My parents either looked like they were fully in love or fighting and screaming and not talking to each other, my dad vanishing at times, my mom looking stressed to the max pretty much my entire life. It was just toxic. You could just feel it as being toxic. It impacted me in everything that I did, and who I was, and how I developed. Now in the long-run, I can say it helped me become the person I was, but as a kid, you can’t see it from that scope.
Casey Arrillaga: I’m guessing you probably thought you had to hide that, too?
Lauren: We were taught that it was this secret, mental illness, addiction. We didn’t really talk about it. I wasn’t even educated on what was going on with my dad until I was almost 13. It just further reinforced that this is that dark thing in the corner you don’t talk about.
Casey Arrillaga: We always explain things to ourselves in some way, shape, or form. Before you found out what was really happening, how did you explain it to yourself?
Lauren: For me, I felt like my dad didn’t care because if he was there, he was really attentive and great, and peewee, and was at all of my sporting events and dance things. When he wasn’t there, he would vanish for months on end. I didn’t know what it was for at the time when I was a child. I just knew he would be gone for three, six, eight months at a time. Now, I know he was usually out on a bender, or in treatment, or my mom kicking him out due to one or the other. For me, I just saw it as not being enough. Some of that was reinforced by the things that my dad would say when he was not clear-headed.
Casey Arrillaga: What would he say?
Lauren: I was usually the brunt of the blame for where he was in his life. It took lots of work and lots of therapy to change that narrative for myself.
Casey Arrillaga: Can you talk about the reveal at 13 was like, okay, this is what’s really happening. How did that come about?
Lauren: It was like a trifecta. I just remember finding out that my dad’s father had died and a few weeks later that my maternal grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. My mom was just scrambling because she did everything for everybody. She was just scrambling and my dad was just going off the deep end.
My mom finally had to sit me down and was like, this is his diagnosis; this is what he’s been struggling with. I just remember being shocked, but not too shocked if that makes sense. Then everything lined up and made sense suddenly. They had diagnosed him with I think depression and ADHD. It became bipolar with psychotic features further down the line.
Obviously, with somebody who’s been so active in addiction for so long, it took a while for them to nail it down. It became bipolar shortly after that with psychotic features, which would definitely fit what my experience was with him. Then, later on down the line, borderline personality disordered was added to that. There was some exploring of narcissistic personality disorder, so he definitely had a lot that he was working through.
Casey Arrillaga: How did this develop for you? You start off fairly young thinking, okay, it’s me. You’re saying there was a big reveal at 13. Did you notice your own thinking around it evolve along the way, though?
Lauren: In some ways. I went to anger. There was anger like, why this? Why now? It was a little bit of that enlightening like it all made sense. The stars aligned and things made sense now.
Then I went into a lot of empathy and pity for my dad. He had a lot of trauma. He had sexual abuse. He was adopted into a family that struggled with mental illness and addiction itself. Then you deal with just the normal aspects of being a child who’s adopted and all the what-ifs and everything that goes along with that.
He struggled. He was a sickhead; he had a lot of illness and had a lot of therapy that had to go around that when he was really young. Then he had a certain idea for what his life was going to look like. Certain things impacted that.
Casey Arrillaga: If you can look back with that same loving eye towards yourself as a child, what do you see?
Lauren: A broken, scared, sad little girl that didn’t fit in anywhere. I had a lot of uncertainty in my life. I didn’t know what my life was going to look like from day to day. I didn’t know if I was going to come home and my dad was going to be aggressive and angry and throwing things into bags and what that was going to look like for me or if he was going to be taking me to the toy store to go for a shopping spree.
I had a lot of uncertainty in my life. It caused me to feel uncertain in everything. I felt uncertain in my friendships with my friends; I felt uncertain in my place in the world; I felt uncertain in everything: in what connection looked like, in what friendships were supposed to look like, what healthy looked like. I didn’t know really what that looked like.
It was chaotic. I was really depressed for a greater part of my childhood. I was robbed from a better part of my childhood because I had to become that second parent. I was the oldest child. I had to step into roles that I wasn’t meant to step into. Being frivolous and sporadic just wasn’t an option for me.
Casey Arrillaga: Yeah, and I contrast that with what you’re saying, watching your dad be frivolous or sporadic. I hear you taking that on like, okay, I can’t do that. How would you say that affects you today?
Lauren: I would say I’m definitely not what you would call a spontaneous person by any stretch of the imagination; I’m a planner. I still definitely have some of that rooted in me. I need contingencies for contingencies just to feel okay.
It caused me to have a lot of distrust. I still have a hard time making friendships. I keep my circles very small. I’m better now with going with the flow when I need to and rolling with the punches, but this has been time and work again. Casey Arrillaga: You talked about your mom modeling that idea of it’s my job to make sure everyone else is okay and the scrambling and all of that. What did you do seeing that model?
Lauren: I know as a teenager, I always swore I’m never going to be like this ever in my life. It was like worst fear coming to fruition if it ever happened. As you get into parenthood and having your own family, there’s moments where you have to step into that a little bit, but I’ve made sure to have that boundary and the expectation where I’m not putting out other people’s fires, I’m not fixing other people’s messes. I’ll be supportive in a supportive, healthy manner, but not to that point where I’m just going to clean up behind the tornado you’ve just created and the mess you’ve created behind your tornado. I think I’ve worked pretty hard on maintaining more healthy boundaries and expectations of myself and my relationships.
Casey Arrillaga: That’s really cool.
Lauren: Yeah, it wasn’t easy.
Casey Arrillaga: I’m sure. Did you pick anything up from your dad’s model?
Lauren: There was times in my life where, yeah, I definitely was like, you know what, adulting is too hard, trying to do it the right way is too hard. I’ve just gone with it. I definitely got into a rebellious phase of street racing, and dating drug dealers, and in really unhealthy relationships, partying, and breaking rules. It got bad; it got really bad.
There was other things going on in my life at that time, too. I wasn’t safe at home. I wasn’t safe in school. I was experiencing a lot of things in my school, some very significant bullying. I was getting jumped a lot. It was bad.
I experimented with drugs and drinking, going into nightclubs, sneaking out of girlfriends’ houses and stealing their parent’s car to drive to clubs, and parties, boys. I was wavering between wanting to be completely invisible and wanting somebody to see me and notice me. I was just teetering between behaviors that would mimic that, but it didn’t last for too long, partly because my dad did after a long stretch of sobriety, the wheels fell off hard. He really went into probably one of the worst relapses I had ever seen around that time when I was 17 years old where I just like, all right, parties over, time to get back on it. I had to step back into that role and play that support role for my mom and my brothers. I didn’t have self. I was just a broken little girl.
Casey Arrillaga: If you could go back now and talk to her, what would you say?
Lauren: That it gets better and you’re more than this. It does get better; it does.
Casey Arrillaga: Yeah, that’s a really powerful message. I hope if there’s any kids out there that are listening to this, you can hear that from somebody who’s been there.
Lauren: I hope so.
Casey Arrillaga: Outside of your parents, do you feel like there were any adults who did see you who did recognize something was going on?
Lauren: There were. My mom’s parents, my grandparent – my grandfather and his wife, my step-grandmother. They were like models. They would always go out of their way to model healthy relationships, healthy families.
I would spend a lot of time with them. They were making sure that I was getting involved in what I needed and had what I needed. They were going to my cheerleading competitions and showing up for me. They were making sure we had family sit-down dinners when we were with them.
Casey Arrillaga: How much did that mean to you?
Lauren: Oh, the world. My grandfather’s basically my father. They were my rock. They’re still my rock.
My mom’s my rock, too. That’s finally been another relationship, but my grandparents. Then my grandmother, the one that got diagnosed with cancer, I would go up to see her for months on end over the summers. She would always make sure that I was taken care of and doing that motherly thing, doing – making sure I was getting the girly things done because I never really got that at our home because my mom was so emersed in everything else.
My aunt the same thing. When I would go see my grandmother, my aunt – she’s almost like a sister to me because we’re so close. We did so much together. I had people in my life that definitely knew what was going on and tried to make sure that they were sheltering us, and protecting us, and modeling for us as best they could to counter what was going on. I can’t even begin to imagine where I would have been without that.
Casey Arrillaga: Is there any advice or guidance that you would offer family members, or friends, or teachers, or anyone else who sees this happening from the outside?
Lauren: For me, I think it’s different for different roles. If you see a child who’s struggling, and usually those things show up in different behaviors, isolating, or acting out, inquire, ask, be a support. Sometimes when kids go to school, looking in through the role of a teacher, that only healthy connection they have in their day is with that teacher, so being mindful of that. Just be supportive and step in if you can because sometimes the family is so entrenched in it, they don’t have the strength, or the ability, or the knowledge, or any of it to intersect and stop the cycle. Step in where you can. Help where you can. Be supportive where you can.
Casey Arrillaga: After a quick break, we’re going to hear how Lauren started to find her own recovery and what she’ll say to her kids if they ever listen to this podcast.
Welcome back. Let’s hear more of Lauren’s interview. That leads us into the idea of you finding your own recovery. What does that look like for you?
Lauren: For me, it’s a lot of self-care, consistent therapy, making sure that I’m keeping myself in check, and that I’m being vocal when I need it. I used to do Al Anon pretty semi-regularly I would say.
Casey Arrillaga: Pretty semi-regular, okay.
Lauren: Pretty semi-regular like.
Casey Arrillaga: What’s pretty semi-regularly look like?
Lauren: I used to toy with it. It was just this very – I knew it was out there. I explored it in my early twenties. I move a lot, so I dip in and out of meeting as necessary, check in on online ones occasionally. I would not call myself consistent in any way, shape, or form.
Casey Arrillaga: What do you find you get from it?
Lauren: It’s given me the tools that I need to be able to manage the impact of what growing up in an addicted home is and what that looks like. It’s given me the strength to be able to put boundaries up with my dad so that I wouldn’t become another enabling person in his life, but rather somebody that can hold that line with him on expectations. It hasn’t been pretty and it hasn’t been the happy ending story, but it’s given me the ability to not personalize his addiction and what I’ve been through in that whole new – with my relationship with him, but to be able to see it as something that even though I was involved in it, it was part of my life. It’s not me.
Casey Arrillaga: What would you say to somebody who is maybe a little newer in the family situation or more stuck in it right now? What would you say about that?
Lauren: Even though it can feel like it’s you sometimes, it’s not. A lot of times, the people in our lives that are struggling with addiction have demons bigger than anything that we can even help them to slay or manage. It might not be comfortable. You might want to fix them, but the best thing you can do is support and have boundaries with them.
Casey Arrillaga: What would you say has been the most important or helpful thing in your own recovery?
Lauren: Boundaries have been the staple of everything for me because I didn’t have them. I didn’t experience them, but having them has made it a lot easier for me to navigate relationships, a lot easier for me to function. Yeah, boundaries, I think that’s my key. The shame, looking at and acknowledging the shame, bringing it out into the open, taking ownership of it.
Casey Arrillaga: What’s that done for you?
Lauren: It’s empowered me. For me to be able to – those things that I used to hide from everybody that I used to mask and just tuck away inside a stainless steel box deep inside of me with – and when I was able to bring those out, and to talk about them, and to discuss them, it took the power away from the shame, that narrative that shame tells us. It made me be able to see myself as a survivor, and as a fighter, and as somebody that was able to overcome some very terrible things in my life, to still be able to meet my goals, to still be able to accomplish things, to be able to have a healthy family and healthy relationships despite everything that was modeled for me.
Working on that shame, it doesn’t have that power over me to tell me that I’m different, or I’m less than, or nobody will understand me, that nasty narrative that it likes to play in our head. Yeah, working on that shame, it gives me the ability to talk about this. I never would have been able to talk about this before because I would have been so shameful about it, but it’s part of my story. It’s part of what I’ve survived, and it’s part of what I’ve overcome, and it’s part of what’s helped me grow and become who I am.
Casey Arrillaga: What do you replace the shame narrative with today?
Lauren: One of hope and self-compassion, which is a hard thing to do when you’ve been told everything else. Self-compassion, I mean being kind to myself. It’s such a foreign thing that took so long and still takes a lot of work to remember to be in that headspace, but being kind to myself.
Casey Arrillaga: What would you say is your favorite thing about yourself today?
Lauren: I would probably say my compassion for others. I just love people. I love everything about them, the good, bad, the indifferent, all those things they hate about themselves. It’s those things that I think that cause us to be such a unique species. That’s what I love. Just be compassionate for everybody. That’s me.
Casey Arrillaga: You mentioned being proud of accomplishments, especially coming out of all of that background. Would you mind saying what are some of those accomplishments that you’re proud of?
Lauren: Despite dropping out of high school at 17, I was able to get my GED. I completed college. I got a master’s degree. My kids, my very strong healthy marriage with an incredible human being, my friendships, my connections, my career. There’s just so many. My relationships with my family even. I have bonds with my brothers that nobody will ever be able to break.
Casey Arrillaga: What would you say is your favorite thing about your recovery today?
Lauren: That I’m happy and I have connection. I’m able to help others. It’s given me a story to help guide people and to help people. It’s given me a perspective that I appreciate a lot. Again, something I probably would not have said a few years ago.
Casey Arrillaga: You’ve been able to see some positive and some beauty in your journey?
Lauren: Oh, absolutely. I wouldn’t change my journey over anything, not a thing. It’s who I am. It’s part of my story, part of my strength.
Casey Arrillaga: You are an inspiration.
Lauren: I don’t know about that, but I appreciate that.
Casey Arrillaga: I know. Hearing your story and being able to hear this, you are an inspiration.
Lauren: Thank you.
Casey Arrillaga: What does your relationship with your dad look like today?
Lauren: It doesn’t exist. As I got older and healthier and started forming my own family, I realized the importance of having boundaries with my dad. He couldn’t respect that. I knew the exact day our relationship ended.
It was Christmas in 2009. He was high. I was down visiting my family for the holidays with my nine-month-old son and a deployed husband. My dad tried kicking me out Christmas Eve in the middle of the night with my son while he was in psychosis and not of his right mind.
It was that trip where I told my mom that I would not return home until he was gone. I never spoke to my father again, never answered his calls. It only took him about two months to stop trying.
Casey Arrillaga: What does that say to you?
Lauren: It definitely drove home that narrative a little bit more for me that it’s my fault and I’m not worth it, but knowing more, I know a lot of it has to do with his shame and his discomfort with where he is in his life.
Casey Arrillaga: How long’s it been?
Lauren: Eleven years.
Casey Arrillaga: Do you check on him at all?
Lauren: No, I get little tidbits from my brothers without asking them. I know that he was arrested probably about four years ago for possession. That was his first arrest ever, which is impressive with a 36-year drug habit.
Casey Arrillaga: Do you think about him?
Lauren: I worry about him; I do. He’s my dad. I know he’s a hurting a person. Just from any human to human kind of thing, I do, but it’s not enough for me to reach out because I can’t do that to myself or my family.
Casey Arrillaga: Would you say that you love him?
Lauren: I love parts of him. I love the creative, kind guy that he is when he’s in his right mind, but the other part of him, that other angry, hostile person, I can’t love that person. That’s not my dad; that’s the disease. The thing that drove my decision with cutting my dad off was that I couldn’t allow him to impact another generation.
Casey Arrillaga: Do they ask?
Lauren: They ask about my dad.
Casey Arrillaga: What do you say?
Lauren: He’s not around. They’re young. When it’s time, I’ll explain more, but right now, they just know that he’s not around.
Casey Arrillaga: I guess the last question I’ll have since it’s always possible that your kids might hear this at some point, what would you want to say to them about all this stuff that you’ve shared?
Lauren: That’s a tough one. They probably will hear this story eventually. Sometimes people are hurt. They do things to people that they don’t realize that they’re causing the same hurt to somebody else. It doesn’t make them bad, but sometimes that can’t be fixed.
Casey Arrillaga: If I may be so bold, that sounds like that’s something you’re saying to them about their grandfather. What would you want to say to them about you?
Lauren: Yeah, I guess this is hard for me to focus on that. My journey wasn’t pretty, but it had a lot of amazing, beautiful things along the way. Some families are broken and hurting, but they’re still families.
Casey Arrillaga: You are a personal testament to the fact that you can change those patterns.
Lauren: Yeah, it just takes a little strength and willingness I guess to look at it, big picture and little picture, and look internally because that’s probably the most uncomfortable part. It’s a lot easier to look at everybody else in the picture, but looking at self, it takes a lot of work to do that, a lot.
Casey Arrillaga: You’ve put it in.
Lauren: I continue to. It’s a life-long thing.
Casey Arrillaga: In my book, that says a lot about your character.
Lauren: I appreciate that.
Casey Arrillaga: I cannot thank you enough for coming in and doing this interview.
Lauren: Thank you for having me.
Casey Arrillaga: Kira, what did you think of the interview with Lauren?
Kira Arrillaga: I thought it was great. I related to a lot of the things that she talked about. I certainly learned to make myself invisible growing up.
Casey Arrillaga: Yeah, well, we both grew up with forms of addiction around us.
Kira Arrillaga: Yes.
Casey Arrillaga: We saw some of that stuff modeled. I definitely heard some of myself in the interview as well, which made it a real joy to do. It was very cool.
Kira Arrillaga: Yeah.
Casey Arrillaga: Something that also stood out for though after the fact was that you and I are both in recovery. Our daughter also grew up, at least for the first two years of her life, I was still in my active addiction. I had to reckon with that a little bit. It was funny; one time, she told me that she remembered my addiction. What I realized in talking to her is that she remembered my early recovery, which at times, was rough as well. In full disclosure to my audience, we actually invited her to come and comment on this on the show if she wanted, but she said she didn’t want to.
Kira Arrillaga: She didn’t want to.
Casey Arrillaga: Didn’t want to. I think her exact quote is, “Well, I will if I have to, but I don’t want anything to do with it,” which is totally fine.
Kira Arrillaga: Yeah, so she won’t be here today on this podcast.
Casey Arrillaga: No, and that’s okay. Being part of my work as a guy in recovery has been to allow her to just really be herself as much as I possibly can. Really hearing in Lauren’s story that she didn’t often feel like she could just be herself and I grew up not really feeling that I could just be myself.
Kira Arrillaga: So did I.
Casey Arrillaga: That’s something we’ve done actually pretty well.
Kira Arrillaga: Yeah.
Casey Arrillaga: What else stood out to you from the interview?
Kira Arrillaga: When Lauren said she wouldn’t change her journey for anything, I was very impressed by that. I know a lot of people in recovery, they’ll say, I’m right where I need to be. Everything happens for a reason. What happened to me got me to where I am, so I regret nothing. I’m not one of those people. I’ll take what happened and I’ll make the very best of it, but I would not be willing to go through it again no matter what.
Casey Arrillaga: I wouldn’t willingly choose a lot of those experiences, things that I’ve done where I believe I’ve caused harm to others, things like that.
Kira Arrillaga: Right, yeah, that’s a big one.
Casey Arrillaga: Yeah, and especially around my daughter. I feel really proud of where we’ve changed intergenerational patterns and just plant the flag saying the buck stops here, but of course, I didn’t do that anywhere near as perfectly as I had hoped, nowhere near as well as I told myself I was going to do, but I can say that genuinely we’ve made a difference in both of our families in that way. I’m really proud of that. I appreciated that Lauren could talk pretty openly about where it’s not all fantastic now and it’s not all easy now.
Kira Arrillaga: It’s a lot of hard work now, which I really respect.
Casey Arrillaga: It’s one of things in recovery that I share that I’m not really fond of where people go, oh, how are you doing? It’s like, oh man, living the dream. I’m like, which dream are we talking about here?
Kira Arrillaga: Was it a good dream or a bad dream?
Casey Arrillaga: Some days, it’s the dream where there’s a French test and I forgot. I’m back in high school and I’m only in my underwear. It’s like, that’s the dream I’m living today right here, folks.
Kira Arrillaga: I can’t find my car.
Casey Arrillaga: Again.
Kira Arrillaga: I have to pee.
Casey Arrillaga: Yeah, it’s the weirdest thing. Yeah, some days in recovery is that dream. I like that we don’t have to pretend like it’s always great. It’s nice to know that recovery doesn’t have to be done perfectly. It doesn’t have to be done the same way anyone else has done it. We know recovery fellowships will double your odds of getting and staying sober if that’s your goal.
There’s no reason to think that for family members that it won’t also have a really significant impact on how your recovery goes, and how good you feel, and how much peace you have in your day to day life. That’s doesn’t make it necessary. People get to choose their own path in recovery, which is important for family members to remember since a lot of us as family members would like to dictate someone else’s course. We get nervous if they’re not doing it all the way we think they should be doing it. Lauren also talked about the importance of other people, especially in her case, her grandparents, and her aunt, and people that had really seen what was going on for them, tried to intercede.
Kira Arrillaga: Right, that was beautiful. I’m so glad she had that.
Casey Arrillaga: I want to reinforce some of those points that as family members, or friends, or just loved ones, if we see someone going through this, we want to do what we can, but also recognize our limitations just like Lauren recognized her limitation with helping her dad. Realized at a certain point, she needed to set the boundary. That became more important really in the name of her kids than trying to fix or save her dad. That’s a pretty important thing for any family member to hear.
Also, I want to reiterate that there’s a lot of recovery options available for family members. There’s a lot that you can do as a family member for yourself. I tell family members this all the time in the workshops, which is the most helpful thing you can do for anybody else is to work on yourself.
Kira Arrillaga: Amen to that.
Casey Arrillaga: To round out this episode of addiction in the family, we asked a few other people in recovery what helped them the most when they were dealing with a family member who was struggling with addiction.
Male Speaker: Understanding the disease, that’s helped me the most to understand that it doesn’t happen overnight, but yet it does. Before I recovered, I believed that my family prayed a lot for me and got me to where I need to be. I do our prayer and I just hope they come in.
Female Speaker: Without the groups, I wouldn’t have been able to have the compassion and grace for my family members and to have an understanding. I could sit in my frustration and just like, why is he doing this? Why would he miss out or why is he X, Y, and Z? When I got into Al Anon, it was like I knew that he was suffering. Rather than coming in with judgment about it, that I had that compassion.
Now, I know that his recovery is not promised tomorrow or today. I think he knows that I’m a safe person now, or whether he doesn’t, that’s okay. It’s just accepting where he’s at. I think what’s helped me is just again the sanity of it that I can keep my inner peace regardless of what my family members are doing.
Female Speaker: I feel like I’ve had struggles in the past with enabling behavior. When does it become more harmful to them than helping? At this point, I try to offer the help. They either take it or they don’t. I know that for my recovery, I have to surround myself with people that are living the lifestyle that supports my goals, and my dreams, and my – and ultimately, I’m able to see if that’s healthy for me. They’re either going to accept the help or they’re not. I can only offer it to them.
Female Speaker: In a perfect world, I would be completely serene and just not let it bother me, but most times, what it does is I have to step away. I distance myself not completely but just to a healthy boundary reminding them or acknowledging that this is something that is not okay. They don’t always receive it. Sometimes I just have to step away. Most times, I end up talking to my sponsor, talking to some close people in the program, or a therapist.
I think a lot of it has been difficult to maneuver. I wish there was just a straight path that was like, oh, well, when this happens, this is exactly what you do. I think it’s a personal journey of finding that relationship and that balance with you, and for me, and each person who had to deal with it hasn’t quite grown as I’ve gotten sober. I think a lot has helped me with – I had to set boundaries. I’ve had to find an even balance of being able to be open and willing to be helpful but without overextending myself while and also making sure that I’m taking care of myself because I have personal experience with how manipulative and difficult I was when I was using and drinking.
It’s a fine line, but boundaries are one of my strongest ones is that I will go this far, but once you get here, once you cross it, I can’t go any further. I won’t allow you to treat me this way, act this way, or speak to me this way. That’s probably the Number One thing that I’ve had to work on when dealing with a family member that struggles.
Female Speaker: I wanted answers. Once I identified all my codependency traits, I’m like, wait, there’s solution to this. I wanted something to change. At this point, I didn’t have any specific expectations of what that change would look like.
I just wanted some sort of happiness, accepting where my brother is at and where my dad is at regardless if they’ve changed or not. When they have changed, it’s like this positive experience I get to grasp onto and celebrate in the victory with them. Then when they haven’t, it’s like, it’s okay. I didn’t change for the longest time either, so I can have that compassion towards them.
Male Speaker: I’m dealing with a father figure in my life right now who’s addicted to heroin who’s got the opportunity to do like what I've done. I’m not mad at him; I’m not. Right now, he’s on the street homeless. There’s nothing I can do about it, but I pray for him because I know where he’s at.
Right now, he’s saying he’s unlucky and that it’s everybody else and everything that runs against him. Now, before I had been to this point, I would talk mad stuff about the family members that are – who I had seen the influence of substances. Now, I just pray for him.
I don’t let him inside my house. Don’t get me wrong. They need a sandwich, I give him a sandwich. They need a ride somewhere, I’ll give him a ride, but I don’t give me – I don’t let him inside the home.
I pray for him, man. I let them know that I can take you wherever they want to go if they want to go to a sober halfway house, a sober house, they want to find a treatment for free. I’ve had several lists. I have a list of treatments in the state of Texas that they can go with no insurance, but they never want to do that.
Casey Arrillaga: As we conclude another episode, we have a special treat. Kira is going to take us out with a song that she wrote. We dedicate this to all the countless children around the world who, like Lauren, have grown up around addiction and who we hope are now moving towards finding their own peace.
Thanks for being with us through another episode of Addiction and the Family. As they say in many recovery meetings, take what you like and leave the rest. Go out and explore the possibilities for recovery in your life and give your loved ones the space and dignity to make their own choices.
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