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Alcoholism Acceptance or Not

TooManyStepsBetween's picture

SDIL is an alcoholic and has been for a few years. She was driving drunk with SGD and doing several other disgusting and awful things before she was admitted for treatment. Now everyone treats her as if she's a saint for wanting to get better  and I'm not buying it or appreciating it. I think she's fake, self centered and all about the attention but I seem to be the only Debbie Downer in the situation.
There are times I'm so angry at her for what she's done to the entire family and don't want anything to do with her and then I see everyone else doting over her and feel like a monster. I just need some advice from both sides to help me understand.

I think what it comes down to is I don't understand addiction and so many of us can function without addiction and nobody gives us a nod, but addicts can destroy lives and usually not even remember the damage they've caused and people want to celebrate them. I'm not a heartless person just trying to wrap my mind around it and understand from others who may have dealt or are dealing with similar things. It's just really eating away at me. I'd like to make peace with it I just don't know how. 

I appreciate any feedback.


Merry's picture

Addiction is a terrible disease, and it leaves behind all sorts of trauma and emotion. Being angry at the addict is pretty normal. I'm still angry at my SS, although DH has forgiven him long ago. I'm proud of him for staying clean for so long, but anger is still sometimes there. You are definitely not a monster for being angry for the stupid things she's done. We all move through this at our own pace.

You say SDIL received in-patient treatment. Is she doing anything to maintain her sobriety? AA meetings? Addiction counseling? Something else? There are lots of treatment options, and the important thing is that she engage in one or more of them.

The BEST thing people can do for an addict is to hold them accountable. Coddling, fawning, etc. is not helpful. But it's hard to walk that line between encouragement and cheerleading. It takes a lot of strength and energy to stay clean and relapse is pretty normal. So people are right to offer praise for staying sober. But they're wrong for turning her into a saint.

If you can think of addiction as a disease and not a moral failing, it is easier to accept. Brain chemistry in addicts is, or becomes, altered. Some people are prone, perhaps genetically, to addiction while others are not. 

I wish your SDIL much success in her recovery journey.

ESMOD's picture

This is tough..I know it may be tough to drum up sympathy for someone who you percieve was an active participant in making poor decisions.. drinking to excess.. driving with kids in the car etc...

And.. if she were not making positive steps to get herself out of addiction, I could see resentment building.

But, people need support to do hard things.  Admitting you have a problem and doing the right thing to fix yourself is a hard thing.. especially when you pull in the weight of addiction and how in some ways.. once that ball is rolling.. the momentum of addiction makes it even harder for someone to stop.  Sure.. she got the ball rolling.. but she likely didn't anticipate the hold it would have on her.

If you don't feel her committment to recovery is genuine, I would not be very sympathetic.. but I'm sure her family and friends want her to be better so badly that they are cheering her efforts so that she will be doubly determined.

It's kind of like hate the sin not the sinner.  They see the addiction as something she in some ways couldn't help.  For someone who has never felt compelled and helpless to stop drinking.. not do drugs.. or whatever, it can be hard to not judge.. you see it as a choice.. and at one point it was a choice.. but it became more than that to her.  She likely didn't intend that.. but that is the result and where she ended up.

Sometimes we need to believe in the power of redemption... there is some hope.

TooManyStepsBetween's picture

It gave me perspectives that I can be too stubborn to see through my anger. It's not going to be easy for me to trust again knowing now how much of our relationship was based on lies, but I can make baby steps and appreciate that she's at least taken a step away from the problem. She's not done with treatment yet but hopefully she will join groups and attend meetings once she is. 

tog redux's picture

You should never trust an addict until they have LOTS of time of sobriety, and their words match their actions. It's fine to be angry at her for all that she's done.  Addiction does have some element of choice, they aren't "helpless" to stop themselves as people would have you believe.  They just end up with distorted thinking and denial and all kinds of defenses to keep the addiction going. 

You might benefit from some Al-Anon meetings. 

Gimlet's picture

I can relate, OP.  I like what everyone has written above. 

Anger is completely normal.  Addicts do super shitty things to themselves and others, so that is an understandable reaction.  My siblings and father are addicts and I spent years being angry with them.

Is this her first time in rehab?  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is a good chance she will relapse at least once.  You are smart to hold back until you see months of sobriety and a real desire to change, including addressing personal issues.  

Although I do think there is a predisposition to addiction, I don't think it's without choice in the matter and I do think boundaries are critical when dealing with an addict.   The best advice I can give you is to set boundaries and enforce them at all turns.   Addicts can only destroy what they are allowed to destroy.  I feel for her children.

Al Anon can help with perspective, it's just a matter of finding the right meeting.  The journey to sobriety is hers, and the journey to dealing with it is yours.

Best of luck.

TooManyStepsBetween's picture

And I'm not only afraid of relapse but the opposite. If she does succeed will she take on a holier than thou attitude about DH and I because we still enjoy our wine and cocktails? What if she turns into a completely different person that doesn't fit in with our family anymore? What if she decides to leave SS and SGD and never return because she doesn't want to change or she's changed too much to be their wife and mother? It's all of these thoughts that have me concerned for the future mostly in the case of a relapse but also the opposite. I'm afraid of the domino effect of all of the possibilities. 

Merry's picture

Oh, dear. You're worrying about things you can't control, and most of which will never happen.

I do think Al-Anon and other resources would be beneficial so that you can learn more about how to deal with an addict and how to support her recovery.

When DH's son was actively using, he refused to attend any meetings. Made me crazy--all he could do was worry (and enable). He did finally seek out some friends who had been through the recovery process (it never really ends), and they are successful, responsible professionals. It's entirely possible this experience of recovery will help SDIL to become a BETTER person.


Merry's picture

I'm super proud of him, I really am. He's working a full time job that seems to be going well, and is self sufficient. He rarely asks for anything. He's about to marry a young lady with a child. I like his fiance, and I like her child, but ya gotta love the karma bus. Beep beep!

Recovery is a tough business, and I give SS all the credit in the world for working his way through it.


Gimlet's picture

And what if she does?  It's no more predictable than any other scenario.

You cannot control any of this.  Take it one day at a time. You have reasonable expectations of behavior with everyone in your life, don't you?  This is the same thing.  

Agree with Merry on Al Anon.  It's immensely helpful for learning how to let go when it's needed.

You'll drive yourself nuts with this train of thought.  I hope the best for her and for you, OP.

notarelative's picture

Al-anon is a group for those affected by the alcoholism of another. You could try attending a few meetings and see if it could help you find answers to your questions, some perspective.

Exjuliemccoy's picture

I feel for you. As an "outsider" you don't have that biological bond that all too often handicaps closer family. 

I married into a dysfunctional family that has several addicts. When one of them broke a rule that contributed to a fatal tragedy, I was angry with her for quite a while. I think all of the years of her f@ckery finally got to me, because I didn't have that bio connection or any unconditional love for her. The anger did burn itself out, but my in-laws couldn't understand it. They very much enabled her.

It helps to accept that we are more removed from these people and see them through a different lens. Not your drunk monkey, not your circus.

Rags's picture

You can be hesitant in celebrating what at this point is just naive hope that she will stay the course.  As a semi detached long time observer of SDIL and her lies, manipulations, and endangerment of the GSkid you have clarity devoid of the emotion based rose colored glasses that others have regarding her being a recovering alcoholic.

Only time will show if SDIL is legitimate in her recovery. For an alcoholic recovery is for the rest of their life. It can never end, or .... they are not in recovery.

As the AA phrase says, One Day At A Time.  You will have to take her recovery one day at a time as will she and everyone else.  

But no one should hold their breath.

IMHO of course.

still learning's picture

Been down this road in my own family with an addict brother.  My mother enabled him and unfortunately contributed to his behavior.  He's been in and out of jail and prison so many times I stopped counting.  He's out now and it's the same situation as yours, everyone is over the moon and I'm just like, "meh". Good luck to him.  I've had to step back and disengage from him and redirect the conversation when my mom turns it to my newly sainted little brother.  I do love him but have to support him from a long distance away.  At the urging of my social worker, I went to ala-teen when I was younger and have been to a few AA meetings. Unfortunately they aren't my thing.  

In steplife I've found disengagemnt to be the only remedy for my husbands dramatic mother, sisters, and sons. One ss has an addictive/assanine personality which has contributed to him losing several jobs, not passing drug tests and so on.  In the end I only became a target when I tried to help.  DH is on his own with that bunch. 


sandye21's picture

i had an older adopted child who found drugs in her teens.  Her standard MO throughout life was she would get on drugs and alcohol,, then 'attempt' suicide so everyone would feel sorry for her, then get 'saved' (in countless ways including re-hab) so people would applaud her, then use these people for money, then get on drugs again - and the whole scenario was repeated - over and over. 

She used me several times before I told her I knew she could make it on her own.  She has had all of her children taken away from her, being incarcerated several times.  She will be 51 this month.  Haven't heard from her in years.  I've had people (including relatives) tell me or suggest I am an unfit Mother because I didn't display enough emotion when she was either up or down.  Several of these same people have approached me later after being used or abused but for some strange reason never apologized or acknowledged what I went through.

Your SD is at the cusp of straightening her life out.  Between 40 and 60 % of addicts relapse.  At this stage, it is too early to tell if she is really serious about healing herself for life.  

The best thing to do is disengage yourself from the 'Hurrah' wagon, smile, calmly say, "congratulations", and opt out of any further conversations about her recovery until some time has passed - even if it means removing yourself from the room.  The same as you would with any Skid who you are disengaging with.

advice.only2's picture

Honestly if she fails or succeeds who cares? It's her life, one you don't have to participate in. Should she ever ask you why you don't congratulate her on her new found sobritety, you can tell her you will congratulate her when she hits 25 years sober. Addicts only care about themselves so I don't really see her worrying if you are her biggest fan or not.