The Impact of Addiction on my Family
I was at a 12-step meeting the other night and the topic was “consequences.” I heard some pretty intense stuff in regard to the consequences of active addiction. After 25 years of active recovery, I’ve had time to reflect on my own consequences. I was able to resolve some pretty serious legal issues and a “conspiracy to distribute” criminal charge, as well as overcoming serious health issues. I am a hepatitis C survivor and there is not a trace of the virus left in my body. Phew! Grateful! Big stuff.
But the consequences of my addiction that still haunt me today come from the relational damage connected to active addiction.
Impact of addiction on family
My daughter is 33 years old. She was seven when I got clean. We are close. She comes home for Thanksgiving and other holidays and visits. We treat each other as two adults with respect for one another. We hug. We love each other. And still … after 25 years, she is triggered anytime I am not 100 percent attentive and tuned in to her. If I attempt to multi-task or I allow my mind to wander when we’re together, it reminds her at a sub-conscious level of the addicted father who was sometimes emotionally absent from our relationship when she was younger.
My son just turned 35. He was nine when I entered recovery. He now has a beautiful family and I have two wonderful grandchildren. We love each other and there was never a period where either of us doubted that. However, the self-righteousness and anger that went along with my active addiction still takes a toll. I can see it in his responses to me. It hurts me when he emotionally “flinches” in my presence. I have watched him allow his maturation process over the years to be slowed by self-doubt.
There were challenging times during their childhood. I was not happy in my marriage and at 10 years clean I left their mother. My children were taken out of the only neighborhood they ever knew to move to Minnesota for Daddy’s recovery. They became teenagers and I handled it poorly. It wasn’t that they were turning into me, it’s that I was turning into my father! Ouch!
It hasn’t been easy
We have all been in years of therapy. Today, my son is five-plus years into his own recovery after taking the better part of a decade attempting to prove he wasn’t me. My daughter has suffered from what I have learned to identify and accept as her trauma that I was a part of. She has done much of her own work and we have, after many years “met in the middle.” It’s not perfect for any of us relationally, but it’s really good most of the time.
My experience in recovery with relationships, especially the relationships in my family—both the good and the not so good experiences—have led me to a passion for family recovery. Not just learning about unintentional enabling, although that’s a very important piece to understand. Not just learning good boundaries, both for protection and containment—although both are essential for healthy relationships. My heart really beats around the deeper dive into family roles: adaptations to adverse experience as well as negative beliefs and values clarification. These are some of the elements of personal growth and family recovery that can lead to extraordinarily close relationships.
Living the solution
This is the why behind FRrē. This is why I am so proud, and feel so blessed to have the staff that we have here at Family Recovery Resource Experts. That is why we have developed intensive family workshops as our flagship service.