What I Learned in Family Week
By Maggie Herndon, Social Media Manager
In my personal life I have had limited experience with addiction, so as a new Cumberland Heights employee, I was glad to have an opportunity to participate in our Family Program. To be specific, I attended family week, one component of our Family Program. This four-day workshop is an eye-opening and educational experience offered to each patient’s family members and loved ones.
On the first day, I entered the group room hesitantly. The seats were placed in a large circle in one of our group rooms. I sat in an empty seat among several anxious family members. It was in this seat, among these people, where I began my real education on the disease of addiction.
I learned the ways addiction affects each individual family member and loved one. I experienced a roller coaster of emotions as I participated in various educational exercises. I empathized with the families as they acknowledged their anxiety and fear at the thought of their loved one returning home. Everyone asked the same question: “What do we do when they come home?” The answer is not simple.
Spouses, parents, siblings and children enter family week hoping they will learn how to fix their loved ones, but, in reality, family week is designed to introduce each family member to his or her own recovery.
Co-dependency is a big topic during family week. Families enable the addicts in their lives and become co-dependent on them for their own happiness and self-worth. This reality hit me hard. As the parent of a son with autism, I could relate.
I often allow my son’s attitude and behavior to dictate my personal happiness. If my son wakes irritable and temperamental, I immediately shut down. My patience is thin. I too become ill-tempered and short. My faith goes out the window, and the weight of the world falls on my shoulders. Communication shuts down. I internalize my feelings and take out my frustration on everyone else, especially my husband. However, this does not give my son his best chance. I must take care of myself mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually to be an appropriate source of support for him much like the family of an addict.
Recovery is not an individual journey, it’s a family journey. There was a saying I learned during family week, “You can’t cure it. You didn’t cause it. You can’t control it.”
What we can do for our loved ones is educate ourselves and work toward rebuilding our relationships through healthy boundaries and safe, clear communication so we are able to properly support our loved one.