In the last entry in this addiction series, we had just managed to successfully get through all of the awful withdrawal symptoms and complete my detox. This is a huge achievement in itself, and it is without a doubt the most difficult part for me in overcoming my addiction, but it is not the end of the journey. In order to finish this process, get your life back, and move forward, it is crucial that you address the consequences of your addiction. In my experience this undertaking has two parts, which will be discussed in the next two parts of this series. The first thing you have to work on is how your addiction issues and detox impacted your family and loved ones, and this is the topic of today’s post. The second is to truly examine how your problems with addiction have affected you emotionally and learning to live happily with this lifelong disease, which will be discussed in part five.
As I said in part one, there is probably not a single family, or possibly even a single person, who has not been affected by addiction in some way. Part of what makes this disease such a major issue is that it impacts not only the person with the addiction, but also all of the people in their life. Your loved ones have to watch helplessly as you battle your demons, and even once you decide to get help, they then have to watch as you go through the fight of your life as you detox. This can cause all sorts of negative feelings and emotions in you and your loved ones that can damage your relationships. Whether they blame themselves for not getting you help sooner, feel hurt by something you did while you were under the power of your drug of choice, or are upset that you hid your problem for so long, you need to repair the relationship. This is one of the most important things you must address in order to move forward and get your life back, because their support will make living with your addiction post detox much easier.
For me this process of repairing the relationships impacted by my struggle with addiction and my detox involved three groups of people. The first group was my siblings, who were the only two people aside from my nurses who I told about my detox beforehand. The second group was my parents, who I did not want to worry before my detox, but I felt should now know what I had gone through. The third group was the nurses who were with me through my withdrawal, Beth and Kristin. None of these conversations were easy to say the least, but I knew that I had to clear the air in order to maintain these relationships that I valued so much. I also knew that if I was going to live a happy, fulfilling life again, I was going to need the support of every one of these people.
My parents and siblings were the most important, and also the most difficult, relationships I had to work on after my detox. Going into this horrible ordeal, I knew that my strength, resilience, and will to fight would be pushed to the absolute limit as I went through withdrawal. While I was really scared about doing such an aggressive detox and desperately wanted to have my family with me for moral support, I just could not do that to anyone in my family. I could not ask them to come watch me helplessly as the withdrawal symptoms ravaged my fragile, weak body. The physical pain was going to be bad enough, and I did not think I would make it through if I also had the mental anguish from knowing they were watching me suffer. For this reason, I decided not to tell my parents about my detox, because I knew they would insist on coming to be with me. I did however think that someone in my family should know about my upcoming battle with addiction, just in case something happened to me, so I did tell my brother and sister. They were both concerned, but supportive, about what I was going through, and my sister even volunteered to fly out to be with me if I wanted her to. Even though I did not take her up on her generous, loving offer, her willingness to drop everything to be with me was an enormous source of strength for me.
After I had successfully gotten through my withdrawal, since my siblings were the only two people who knew what I had gone through, they were the first relationships I addressed. They were so understanding and encouraging beforehand that I was not worried about them judging me in any way, but I was anxious about speaking with them for another reason. I felt quite guilty about worrying them for the last 10 days as they wondered whether I would make it through the detox in one piece. While I was worried about what I had put them through, I should have known that they were in no way hurt or upset with me, and all they were concerned about was that my detox was a success. I can still remember calling Stephanie to tell her I had survived my withdrawal and hearing the relief, joy, and excitement in her voice. The unconditional support of my siblings during this entire process played a huge part in my recovery. It also helped give me the courage to address the next set of relationships, my parents.
When it comes to telling my parents about anything I have to go through medically, I always have a hard time deciding how much information to give them. I have always felt like it is pointless and almost cruel to tell them about some medical issue I am dealing with, if there is nothing they can do to help me. All this would do is give them one more thing to worry about, and knowing that they were worrying about me from 600 miles away would put more stress on me too, so I am usually careful with the amount of information I share with them. For this reason, I did not tell them about my detox before I did it. This made things easier for me going into this process, but it also made it much more difficult to tell them about everything afterwards, because I knew they would be somewhat hurt that I had kept them in the dark about my addiction issues. While they were a little upset that I had decided not to tell them anything prior to my detox, this feeling was quickly overshadowed by feelings of relief and happiness at hearing that I was successful in beating my addiction. So once again my worries about my family members being upset or angry with me because of my problems with addiction were unnecessary, as their only real concern was that I was healthy.
The last set of relationships that I had to address was with my nurses, Beth and Kristin. They had put their lives on hold for over a week, so that I would feel safe enough to do my detox. Even while I was being grumpy and irritable as I was going through withdrawal, they continued to do anything they could to make me as comfortable as possible so that I could get through this awful process. Since I had no recollection of what I said or did during the worst days of my withdrawal symptoms, I was not sure how they would feel about me afterwards. For this reason, I was a little nervous when I saw them for the first time the week after I had completed this whole ordeal. Just like with my family however, my anxiety was completely unnecessary. Beth and Kristin were both nothing but overjoyed and relieved that I had gotten through everything, and while they would not tell me exactly what I had said to them out of anger during my withdrawal, they did say that they forgave me. If anything, we ended up being closer than we were before going through all of this.
Checking in with all of these people after my detox taught me something very important about the closest relationships in my life. Even though we may do and say things that hurt or upset our loved ones, when the chips are down and we really need them, no matter what they will be there for us. All of the stress, anxiety, and worry I put the most important people in my life through as I battled my addiction was completely washed away when I successfully completed my detox and got my life back. All they cared about was keeping me happy and healthy. Realizing that they would always be there for me not only brought me a considerable amount of love and happiness, but it also has been a huge help as I have moved on with my life and learned to live post detox. This difficult process is the topic of the next entry in this series.