Relapse. That one word can be the scariest for any recovering addict or their family to hear. I can’t say that I know what goes through an addicts mind when all of the hard work of sobriety crumbles around them but I can tell you what went through my mind as I saw my father relapse. This is a hard subject for me to talk about here. Many of my family members read this and I nor my mom have told them about the recent relapse that my father had in an attempt to keep the front that we are okay and the big happy family that we appear. But to not say anything is lying to both our family and ourselves. And in order to heal I need to write, and hopefully help someone else heal.
A few weeks ago I became aware of my father’s relapse in possibly the worst way possible. My dad fell into our front screen door and broke it as he crashed to the ground. I was so scared when I heard the sound of him falling I thought there was something seriously wrong with him. It wasn’t until I tried to help him and he couldn’t move or talk and I could smell the vodka on his breath that I realized what had happened. I eventually got him into a chair, but he still couldn’t talk to me and was very immobile. I was so angry, hurt and disappointed that I went into self preservation mode. I left him. I didn’t know what else to do. I was so blinded by the swell of emotions building up inside of me I couldn’t think of anything else to do.
The next day was an emotional one. My dad had no memory of what had happened but he knew that he had screwed up. He had decided that he wanted to move into a sober living home and attempt to heal himself there. And despite the anger I had felt toward him the night before I couldn’t fathom him not living under the same roof as me. My mom feeling similar to myself decided that we all needed to sit down and talk as a family. Which I can’t remember ever happening in my life. We didn’t hold back our feelings to protect each other and we had to face the issues we held in our hearts. I know it sounds silly but my dad told me that he doesn’t want this for himself. That he wishes he didn’t have the urge to drink and that this wasn’t the disease that he had to deal with. And for the first time I think I saw this disease as just that a disease. My dad doesn’t drink to hurt me, which is exactly what I had felt like for so long. Like every drink was a big F You to me. I realized that this isn’t just something that my dad has to deal with but something that we are going to have to deal with as a family. I needed to hear my dad talk about his addiction, to hear his feelings about it which we’ve never done. And I told him mine and as I told him every ugly sentiment that laid in me I began to feel better about everything and felt like a weight had been lifted from me. Now my feelings about his addiction haven’t suddenly vanished. I wish it were that easy. But my perception of it changed and I know how to better deal with the addiction.
If you have pain, anger or resentment toward the addict in your life I would suggest trying to sit them down and having an honest conversation with them. It can be painful and hurt but you’ll begin to heal yourself doing so. And if you have a situation where they don’t want to listen or want to talk about it, write them a letter. Tell them everything you’re feeling and give it to them. Even if they never read it you know that you’ve given it to them and that the pain you felt is on that paper and not welled up inside you.