I read in a book by Earnie Larsen* that there is scant difference between an abstaining chemically dependent person and a co-dependent person. Both have living problems, intimacy problems and issues with self-esteem. All these issues, Larsen says, are about the ability to function in relationships. I found this intriguing and I couldn’t help but recall when I first suggested to my husband that we attend a PAL support group meeting. He looked at me with all seriousness and said, “But we are not the ones with the problem.” I finally convinced him that we were not going there to work on ourselves but to find out how to get both of our sons off of drugs. I should mention that, at this point, we were nine years into trying to “fix” them our way and it wasn’t working. After several weeks of attending the meetings (which I found extremely helpful and my husband did not), the facilitator spoke to my husband directly during the check in and asked if he’d like to say something. To my surprise, he responded and said, “Yes, actually, I do have a question. When are you going to tell us how to fix our sons?” Without skipping a beat, the wise facilitator said, “Well, I’m sorry but I won’t be able to tell you how to fix your sons, but I can help you start working on fixing yourself.”
I wonder if this resonates with you as you think back to when you first began your journey with PAL. I think if most of us are honest, we all truly hoped that the group had at least a good idea of how we could correct the course that our sons and daughters had embarked on. As a facilitator for quite a few years now, I can tell you that I’ve had people never return once they realized there would be no magic formula for fixing their child’s problem. I’m thankful that, as a couple, we opened our hands to receive the education and hard truths that came from the early years in our PAL group. We were told that if we embraced the education and support that all of our relationships would benefit. We have definitely seen that ring true over the years. We also began to get better years before our sons did.
My challenge to you this month is: are you willing to swing the spotlight around and place it squarely on yourself? Are you able to admit that there could be some things that you might work on to improve your relationships? Especially with your loved one that is battling substance use disorder?
It turns out that Earnie Larsen is correct. All recovering people have work to do. Whether it is related to chemical dependency or co-dependency. Remember that the changes you make might positively impact your loved one. I have seen many parents (including myself) regain their joy and peace even in the midst of their loved one’s addiction.
PAL Facilitator, Coach – Partnership to End Addiction and college certification in Addictions and Substance Use Disorders
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. – Romans 12:12
*Earnie Larsen-Stage II Recovery Life Beyond Addiction
Our regular counselor blogger Josh Acevedo is on break for three months, so we are bringing you perspectives from a PAL Facilitator.