21 Nov An Al-Anon Couple Recover From Their Son’s Addiction
A lot of time is spent in recovery focusing on the addict and their experience getting sober and the challenges and rewards that are encountered in the process. For young people in recovery though, a lot of the credit goes to the parents for setting things in motion when it comes to actually getting sober.
Parents often have to make hard decisions, set boundaries, and do their own internal work alongside helping their child into recovery. Keith and Julie T. the parents of New Life House alumni Brad T., took the time to share their experience watching their son get sober, leaning on Al-Anon for support and the things that they learned along the way.
Al Anon Supports a Structured Approach
How did you decide a structured sober living was the way to go when it came to helping your son?
Prior to having Brad at New Life House, we became active members in Al-Anon. We heard many stories regarding that fact that, generally speaking, unstructured programs do not work. We also learned that quick fixes fail regularly. We also had a bad personal experience with outpatient treatment programs and knew our son needed a much more disciplined program with strong direction and a high level of accountability.
A woman at our Al Anon meeting crossed the room after hearing Keith’s description of our current situation and told us about New Life House. We made an appointment and came up to witness for ourselves the transformational actions underway. We were totally impressed with the guys and the house and, by faith, trusted that our son would fit in and find sobriety there.
Courage to Draw Firm Boundaries
What were the biggest challenges you faced trying to get your child into recovery? Were there any lessons you learned as a result of this process?
The biggest challenge was developing sufficient courage to present our son with only two options and to accept his decision. Working our own Al Anon program with a group and drawing upon their experience, strength, and hope was essential. This gave us the strength and confidence to present our son with the two options. We were prepared to let him go.
The first option was to be out the door – hit the street, you can’t live here anymore and we won’t provide any support. The second option was to go to New Life House and start recovery. One of the biggest lessons was that incredible learning takes place in attending Al Anon. This is essential for a healthy, happy life when an alcoholic is a family member.
Attendance in Al Anon Heals Feelings of Despair
How did you feel during your child’s early recovery? Were there any fears or particular obstacles you had to overcome?
Every day we worried that he would leave the house. He was dealing with lots of anger and emotions toward us. We had to let go and trust the house management completely. We did not do anything without prior consultation with house management. We had to accept his anger and we felt a huge sense of relief and gratitude to the other parents who would offer weekly support. We were angry with Brad and this took time to subside.
You have mentioned Al-Anon quite a bit – why was it important for you to incorporate a program of recovery into your own life?
Al Anon is a huge part of our life. We needed our own healing and had become sick. ALL of our relationships have improved from our work in Al Anon.
Relationships and Roles Strengthen and Change
What was your relationship with Brad like before he got sober and how did that begin to change as he began working on his recovery?
Before he got sober I was very angry, worried, enabling, always disappointed in his decisions, bailing him out regularly and wondering what was going on. In denial. I had guilty feelings that we did not raise him right. I felt like I had failed as a father.
As he got time sober I began to respect him as an adult. I started to admire what he was going through and the difficulty of the program. We started to hold him in higher esteem. This program is not easy and very emotionally draining as defects are revealed.
What were some of the first changes you started to notice as Brad put together time sober? How did you see yourself starting to change as well as you grew on your own path of recovery?
His face softened and he got light in his eyes. He got his smile back. He was starting to bond with the guys. He told us he was no longer angry. We began to relax and enjoy his company. We accepted that he had a disease and harbored less judgment about what we thought were his past bad choices.
We became less ashamed of our situation. We became grateful and proud that Brad was working on a new life in recovery.
How has your role in your child’s life changed since he graduated from the recovery community? How has his community been important in him staying sober?
We have a totally new relationship. No longer checking on his progress weekly. We don’t give advice unless asked. We treat him as an adult. He is much more independent. Our role has moved into a much more appropriate one for an adult child. No so intertwined.
Strong community is essential for his continued recovery. We know and like his friends. He gets regular support from the house and his roommates. When he feels down our unsure he gets great advice from house management and roommates, he attends meeting with the guys, and is in community. This has been a key component to his sobriety.
The Common Language of Communication
What are some experiences you have gotten to share with your child in his recovery? What are some of the things you have had the opportunity to do now that he is sober?
We have a common language as we are both working a 12-step program. We have a regular open discussion about his and our recovery.
We have a great common understanding. Brad has been able to participate in important family activities. Gone to Lake Tahoe with family on vacation, had him home regularly, came to my 60th birthday party.
He is a new person full of love and gratitude.
If you had any advice for parents and family’s of someone in early recovery or not yet in recovery what would it be?
Commit to at least six (6) Al Anon meetings. Do Al Anon as a married couple. Include other family members as possible.
Thank you for sharing your story with us! We would love to hear from any other families who have had their children get sober and their personal experiences with the process.