Chris Gates (July 30, 2015) Map of Support
I know what I can do to help (insert loved one’s name here) stay sober – I can check their phone, social media accounts and bank statement. I can add up the mileage and subtract it from where they were supposed to go and ask them where they were when they were more than 0.2 miles over! I can text them all day to check up on them. I can call several times a day so I can hear if they are doing well or not. That’s holding them accountable! That’ll keep ‘em sober!While this example may seem exaggerated, it’s not far from the truth for many families. Sometimes the families of addicts and alcoholics think that controlling the person will control the disease. Actually, it’s the farthest thing from the truth. It hurts the person in recovery AND the family. It continues the sickness of addiction. It keeps everyone away from the light of recovery and joy of a sober life.
Here are three things you must do to break the cycle of hyperviligence so that both you and your loved one can begin to recover.
Admit that what you are doing isn’t working.The first step to making a change is to admit that things are not working. Ask yourself:
“Have my attempts to keep track of my loved one’s life ever really helped them stay sober?”
“Have they ever brought me any real peace of mind?”
“Can I keep living this way?”Let’s face it, if things were going well you wouldn’t even be reading this article. If you are willing to admit that what you are doing is not producing the results you want, then you are ready to find a better solution.
Become willing to believe that a better solution exists.It sounds obvious, but you have to be willing to believe that there is a better way to do things before you can actually find one. Even if you are presented with a more effective approach to helping your loved one with their recovery, you will dismiss it as soon as it becomes difficult or painful. And by nature, they are all difficult and painful. The best way to become willing to believe in a different approach is to find someone in whom your problem has been solved. If you believe that their situation is similar to your own, and can see that they are handling things in a much more successful way, you are much more likely to believe that their solution will work for you, too. Al-anon, Nar-anon and therapy groups for the families of addicts and alcoholics exist in virtually every town, and the internet is full of resources as well.
Know that it will be painful, and do it anyway.It’s scary to step back and let your loved one sink or swim on their own. If it wasn’t, we all would have done it a long time ago. In fact, it’s so uncomfortable that it’s very hard to do without some sort of support. Your job is to admit that it is necessary in spite of the fear and discomfort it causes, and do it anyway. In order to reestablish trust with your loved one, you have to leave them the room to show you they can be trusted (or that they can’t). This is not a one-time deal. You have to leave them space over and over again. You have to let them experience the consequences of their actions, both good and bad, in order to let them understand that they are responsible for their own life.
It’s the job of the alcoholic or addict to have integrity, practice honesty and all of the other principles of recovery. YOUR role is to be a parent, significant other, family member, etc. Not a police officer, probation officer or sponsor.
While this can be difficult, there are support groups for families and friends. People to talk to, seek guidance from and find the solution. Hyperviligence does not develop overnight, and it does not go away just because your loved one is trying to stay sober. Remember, it can actually be detrimental to their recovery. Find the support you need to break the cycle of hyperviligence so you can find better, more effective ways to help yourself and your loved one find recovery.