Loving someone who has a problem with drugs or alcohol is life changing for the entire family. Those of us who have been down this road know that we have spent huge chunks of time and energy trying to help and/or fix our loved one. We can become obsessive. In fact, our loved one can become OUR addiction. We feel a wide range of emotions – mostly fear and anxiety, but sometimes also anger at what the disease is doing to our loved one and in fact, to the whole family. We worry ourselves to the point of becoming physically ill. In many cases, we make little or no time to take care of ourselves.
At some point most of us figure out that without help, nothing will change in the family. There are no guarantees that our loved ones will find recovery. They might go in and out of sobriety through many attempts at rehab, 12 step recovery programs, medically assisted treatment or other recovery self-help groups. But as one old timer once said to me, “As long as there is breath, there is hope.” And while we can’t control our loved one’s disease, we can be their best chance at recovery.
Whether or not our loved one finds recovery, there is no reason to not get help for ourselves. There are many programs that can help the family. It doesn’t matter if the loved one is a partner, child, parent or an extended family member. The important thing is that we have allowed our lives to run on a constant spin cycle and we need to recover. If we recover, there is a better chance for our loved one.
Most of us have heard of Al-Anon and Nar-Anon, which are 12 step recovery programs for those who have friends or family members that are suffering from Alcohol or Substance Use Disorder (AUD or SUD). I talk about use disorder rather than alcoholism or addiction as this is the terminology used by medical and therapeutic community and it includes those that have not yet hit “rock bottom” with the idea that recovery is possible if we address the issues earlier in the process.
I would like to share my experience with another life-changing program that taught me I can be my loved one’s best chance at recovery and I can also be their best chance at relapse: the choice is mine. The program is called Be A Loving Mirror or BALM© and it is a truly transformative program. I like to refer to the BALM as “Al-Anon or Nar-Anon on steroids”. It is a deeper, more expansive program to not only help your loved one but also help yourself.
The 12 step programs have as part of their foundation what we call the “3 C’s” — we didn’t cause our loved one’s addiction; we can’t control our loved one’s addiction; and we can’t cure our loved one’s addiction. Many don’t know that there is actually a fourth C in Al-Anon and Nar-Anon which is that we don’t have to contribute to our loved one’s addiction.
BALM starts with the same first 3 C’s, but takes a different direction on the fourth C and adds three more. In the BALM we learn that:
- You did not cause your loved one’s SUD
- You cannot control your loved one’s SUD
- You cannot cure your loved one’s SUD
- You can contribute to your loved one’s recovery
- You are connected to your loved one on a level deeper than their SUD
- You can learn to communicate effectively with your loved one and others.
- You are always at choice.
So you see that the first three C’s are the same. We have flipped the fourth C to make it a positive statement. Instead of saying that you don’t have to contribute to their addiction, we say you CAN contribute to your loved one’s RECOVERY. Just the change to the positive can be transformational.
The fifth C recognizes that we have a connection to our loved one that existed before the disorder and we remember that no matter what their disorder, there is an underlying love that permeates all. We try to not lose track of that connection, whether or not we continue to live with or work with our loved one and whether or not our loved one finds recovery.
The sixth C is about learning a new way to communicate with our loved one. Communication is at the core of all of our relationships, including our communication with ourselves. In the BALM, we learn how best to communicate with our loved one in a manner that they can hear and that can encourage a healing process.
And the seventh C is clear. We always have a choice. I have heard some say that if your loved one cannot find recovery, you should cut ties and save yourself. When we talk about choice, it doesn’t have to mean all or nothing. Certainly, you can say “Should I stay or should I go?” and either answer is appropriate so long as it is true for you. But it is also possible to remove yourself from the situation and still interact with your loved one from a place of love and respect for the person that is still living with that use disorder. What we teach is that there is no right or wrong answer. Staying or leaving or something in between is always our choice and no one should be stigmatized for whatever choice they make.
The BALM program is far more than just the 7 C’s. There is a depth to the program that is both educational and transformative. I personally found the BALM program almost 3 years ago, while dealing with the AUD of a loved one. The change in our communication has been incredible. I no longer nag, plead or scream. I no longer throw things or feel like my life has to be controlled by what he does. And while he has not yet achieved the long term recovery that he truly desires, he can hear me now because of the change in the way we communicate. And while my choice was that we no longer live together, we still love and respect each other and I can still help without enabling and truly be a loving mirror.
This program so transformed my life, that I decided to study to become a BALM family recovery life coach and now work with families like my own, helping them to be the peace they wish to see in the world.
If you would be interested in more information about the BALM program for families or if you think you would like to explore becoming a family recovery life coach, please go to this link: CLICK HERE