What is Addiction and how would you describe the symptoms to a friend or family member?
I believed I had an understanding of it and could make a judgement call if asked to do so. I was wrong. It is unsettling to realise that, at the age of 73, I have lived my life naively, unaware and badly informed about addiction and its consequences. I am told I shouldn’t feel guilty about that, but it is hard not to.
I have a family member who has been battling addiction for about twenty years, I was unaware of the extent of it or the duration of it. I was also unaware that his addictive behaviour was recognised by my partner and causing her great distress.
It was my partner who persuaded me to attend a Silkworth course about how addiction, or an addictive person in the family, affects other family members. Having completed the course, I very much wished that I had been better informed forty years earlier! Maybe forty years ago addiction was not seen, or understood, as a disease. Do people generally or indeed some medical professionals, see it that way now? I wonder about that.
I now realise that being in, or having an addiction is a terrible place to be. Anything I can or could do to help alleviate such a state in someone I care about, I would do. The problem is that friendly, or parental, good intentions can often make things worse rather than better. The evidence is that good intentions do make things worse by enabling the addict to continue unabated.
I have learnt to be on guard so as not to become an enabler. I have learnt that no matter how much I wish to help an addict; I am powerless to do so unless they are committed to helping themselves.
I have learnt that encouragement is the best and the only thing that I can do. An addict can choose to heal themselves – or not, no one else. They can do that by engaging with NA or AA or with similar group meetings and support.
I have learnt that this can be a long and difficult process for which all I can offer is patience, which may or may not be rewarded.
I have learnt that without receiving professional counselling myself I would have continued to be either ineffective; unaware or made things worse. My own health and well-being could have suffered further.
I have learnt that sharing these often traumatic situations and events with a partner can be very difficult; distressing and traumatic for them. However, the Silkworth course has helped us both to understand each other’s fears and to address them.
I have learnt a great deal, my learning continues. It is a work in progress…I continue to learn how to apply both the practical and insightful guidance I am given and am grateful for it.
~ Father of an Addict newly in Recovery