You are laying awake at 3am waiting for you 24 year old son to get home. You haven't been able to sleep from worry because he borrowed your car at 8:00 pm to give his girlfriend a ride home from work. He swore he would be back by 10:00pm, but here it is five hours past and he hasn't answered your calls or texts. You are SEETHING because you specifically paid his phone bill so he could look for work properly and keep in touch with you on his whereabouts. Where is he?! It's torturous as you picture all the terrible things that could be happening to him. Was he in a terrible wreck? Did one of the dealers he owes money to catch up to him? Was he arrested for possession again? Or worse yet, another theft charge? Is he in the hospital or laying in a ditch dead, or in pain? You think about how you have to work in the morning and how tired you are going to be. But you know you have to go to work, because you used up all of your PTO taking your son to his PO and counseling appointments. Suddenly, you hear a car pull up and loud voices in the driveway, along with laughing and swearing. There's a car door slamming and your son stumbles through the front door and faceplants onto the couch. You jump out of bed to confront him, really angry now because he was out laughing and having fun and where the hell is your car anyways?! You launch into a line of questioning but he just mumbles incoherently. You think you hear him say something about taking a chill pill. He reeks of a blend of cigarettes, booze, and weed.
Does this sound familiar? Is this something you have gone through recently with your son, husband, wife, daughter, or another loved one? If so, let me first say, I am so sorry you are going through this. It's terribly scary, lonely, and maddening. Let me also tell you that there is help out there and that you do not have to live in this craziness. You do have choices and options. There are things that you can do to make your life better. Simple things, but not easy things. And because these are not easy things to do you need support while you do them because they will seem so cruel and so hard. Every fiber of your being will tell you to NOT do these simple things. And your loved one will scream at you to not do them as well. But, here's the thing, they are really not cruel things to do. They are lifesaving techniques that are evidenced based at encouraging sobriety and change in your loved one.
Let's pretend your loved one is climbing a very tall pine tree. There are several branches for them to use as leverage and "steps" to climb. You are watching from below and you are nervous but the climb seems easy enough and you know they can get down because they have all the branches to use. Here and there, they slip and land on the branch directly below them. Thank God those branches are there to save them from plunging straight out of the tree and into the ground below! Some slips and falls from the branches are a bit higher and harder than others, which are just short distances. You wince a bit but your climber gains confidence as they master the branches and their distances. As they climb you begin to notice that some of the branches seem to actually be in their way, making the climb harder to maneuver. As they struggles around them sometimes the branches even scratch , or poke their face, often even drawing blood. They begin to really have a hard time, but they want to continue the climb because they wants to see the view from the treetop, and they are determined. But you hate seeing them get poked and bloody. Suddenly you have a great idea! You remember you have a long handled tree pruner in the garage! You run to get it, and you see that you can prune away some of the branches for your climber, making the climb easier! Now they won't need to get bloody and poked! The climber see's that yes, actually the climbing is so much easier without so many branches! They can see that all those branches were a pain in the butt to maneuver over and asks you to continue to cut, so you gladly do to help. But you start to tire, your arms are getting sore from holding that pruner up! You have to grab a ladder and keep having to climb up higher on the ladder, to reach the branches to cut. You probably shouldn't be up this high, you think, but your climber needs you to make the climb easier, so you suffer through it. As you cut the branches, you get smacked in the face with some of them when they fall. They start to cut your face, and your arms. You get banged up, and you almost get knocked off the ladder. You tell the climber they will have to continue on without the pruner but they say, no! They says you have to keep helping now because they can't do it without your help. Reluctantly you continue, but now you are getting mad. A large branch comes down and hits your ladder and makes it sway quickly to the side and you have a close call with tumbling off. Your climber says not to worry, they are almost high enough. You tell them, forget it, just take the pruner yourself!! The climber thinks that's a great idea and prunes away and continues to climb to the top. You worry too much is being cut away and that the wrong branches are being removed and you tell them to stop pruning, but they won't. Your climber clears away all the small and medium size branches as you beg them to stop! You are afraid there's no way to get back down. You yell to tell them to lower the pruner down and to stop climbing. They just laugh at your worry and insistence. You are angry, sore, and a bit bloody. Your heart is pounding hard as you watch. Suddenly, they lose their step. Your climber falls and flails their arms and legs, reaching for branches to save them. But the two of you have cut away so many branches that there is nothing to break the fall or catch them. They plummet to the ground with a sickening and possibly deadly thud. You scream and cry and curse that you ever brought out the pruner or encouraged them to climb.
You see, we all have to climb. And their are obstacles in the way for good reason. To keep us safe, to keep us from climbing to high to fast, to make us stronger, and to keep us from falling. So, every time you pay a cell phone bill for, borrow the car to, pay for another rehab, call them in sick for work, or make excuses for them, you are pruning away the life saving measures that are in place for them so they have a better chance of not dying.
Please call 262-758-3918 if you need support and education about how not to rescue. Family recovery coaching is so important. When the family learns how not to rescue, the addicts odds of getting sober greatly increase.