Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
Should I Stop Drinking To Support My Newly Recovering Son?
*Names have been changed
Sharon* is looking for advice on her son Brett* who will soon be completing treatment. Sharon wants Brett to move back home with her and her husband. Sharon says she knows it won’t be easy. Raising Brett has been challenging. She describes her son as mischievous, curious, sensitive, inpatient and at times, a good liar.
Sharon says Brett will drink or use anything he can get his hands on. Before treatment, Brett cleaned out his parent’s medicine cabinet. He finished off his father’s muscle relaxants and took Sharon’s valium. She says Brett tried her menstrual cramp medication, just to see what it felt like. Brett drank an entire bottle of cooking sherry and even tried cough medicine.
Sharon likes to have a glass of wine with dinner and admits that sometimes, she has more than one. Sharon says, “drinking has never been an issue for me.”
Sharon is a moderate drinker. She looks forward to her daily glass of wine and doesn’t want to give it up. However, Sharon worries her drinking might affect her son negatively.
While Brett has made a lot of progress in treatment, he is by no means cured. Brett’s inpatient counselor wants him to move into sober living so he can continue making progress through hard work, recovery meetings and group accountability– but Sharon isn’t convinced that her son needs the extra help. She believes Brett would be better off at home with people who love him.
Sharon feels like many parents do. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the whole picture. Even though Sharon has seen her son at his worst, she doesn’t understand the true nature of his illness. Sharon believes she can control her son and make him well. She has drawn up a daily schedule for Brett, a disciplined regimen similar to the structure he follows in treatment.
While this might look like a great idea, the chances of Brett following through with Sharon’s schedule are slim. Not because Sharon isn’t a good mother or that her schedule is unrealistic, but because Brett will behave the worst with his family, just as many struggling with addiction do.
Brett is used to pushing the envelope in his childhood home. He knows how to manipulate his parents. When Brett messes up, he is used to Sharon making excuses for him. He knows what emotional buttons to push with Mom and Dad and how to play them off against one another.
Over the past few years, the dynamics in Brett’s home have changed. Brett isn’t the only one affected by his disease. Sharon stopped going out with her friends. She spends most of her time alone and worrying about Brett. Sharon and her husband barely speak to one another. They are not on the same page when it comes to setting boundaries with Brett. Their marriage has suffered and they have drifted apart. Sharon says she’s exhausted looking after her son. Getting him up in the morning, making sure he eats, getting him to do his chores and checking to see if he was high has been a full-time job. Sharon admits she feels more like Brett’s parole officer than his Mom.
Brett hears his parent’s arguing and feels terrible for them. He admits that when he feels upset, it might be tempting to sneak into their medicine cabinet or find Sharon’s bottle of wine and seek relief.
Brett knows leaving treatment will be challenging. He wants to please his parents, but he is afraid to return home. Although Brett doesn’t like admitting it, he’s scared. He hasn’t developed a good sense of himself yet. Going forward, the choices he makes will support his recovery and reveal the strong and successful man waiting to emerge from this experience, or he will relapse into old behavior which is familiar, habitual and easy to do.
Sharon has heard mixed messages. Some say the family should give up drinking to support their addicted loved one, while others believe the non-addicts should not have to change their lifestyle.
As a person in long-term recovery who has worked with many families, I have a different take on it. A loved one’s struggle is often an opportunity for families to learn more about their relationship with substance. How important is that drink or that pill to you? If it’s not a problem, then it won’t be hard to abstain from it. But if you feel torn, I invite you to get curious. Unwinding from a stressful day with a glass of wine is fine, but when it affects the people in your home, it might be a problem.
Imagine a lobster who has just shed his shell. In the process of re-growing his new one, he is most vulnerable. It’s like that with newly recovering addicts. Although they may say they’re fine and believe it, addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful. Scarier still, it’s patient. Just being around substance can trigger cravings. Couple that with a difficult day, strained family dynamics and alcohol in the house and it’s a breeding group for relapse.
It’s in Brett’s best interest to be in a safe environment where there are no drugs or alcohol. Brett will need help in all areas of his life. Living clean and sober he will experience many firsts. To get through this difficult and overwhelming transition period Brett will need constant guidance and support from people who have walked in his shoes and know how to stay clean and sober.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 1-888-614-2379.