When a loved one suffers from abuse of drugs or alcohol, the family suffers, too. On one hand, addiction is a disease of isolation, but at the same time, it affects families, friends, neighbors and employers. The No. 1 symptom affecting substance abusers and the people who love them is denial. One result of denying the reality of drug and alcohol addiction is learning to sing an “if only” theme song. The lyrics go something like this for the substance abuser:
- “If only I didn’t have such a lousy job, I would be able to quit drinking.”
- “If only my wife hadn’t left me, I wouldn’t have to drown my loneliness in alcohol.”
- “If only my mother hadn’t died of cancer, I would have a chance to show her I could sober up.”
- “If only I had let my designated driver take me home, I wouldn’t be sitting in jail with a DUI.”
The verses go like this for families:
- “If only I had been home when he called, I could have picked him up.”
- “If only we could move to a better neighborhood, she would make different friends.”
- ‘If only my husband didn’t have to work so late, he would be here to see what I see.”
- “If only we had enough money, we could put her through rehab.”
All of these scenarios have elements of denial. They all wish for a different reality.
Acceptance Of Reality Gives Recovery A Chance
In order for substance abusers and their families to recover from addiction, the first step is accepting reality by living in the present. Regrets over the past cannot change the past. The best hopes for the future cannot be created by wishes. The only time for action is the present, and the only control we have is over ourselves. Reality involves facing shame, guilt, anger and a host of other emotions. It is not an easy process. Treatment centers and support programs have experience in helping substance abusers and their families recognize and face the realities of addiction, often through people who have experienced the realities of addiction themselves. Reaching out to companions on the journey of recovery can make all the difference.