One of the loneliest “places” is having to recover on your own. No matter how strong, capable and determined you are, when the setup is you alone versus all the adversities, things can get really difficult. Even within a therapeutic group setting and/ or with a well-trained, compassionate therapist—when you’ve no one to talk to about your recovery outside of its prescribed walls, it might be a challenge to stay on track. I’ve seen it first-hand as a counselling professional and I’ve seen it during my own recovery when I met other relinquishees and people with addiction trying to tough it out on their own. I’m not saying it’s not possible—it is; but it is unnecessarily difficult. I know it’s not always up to the person to have a solid support network built around them but if you can get your loved ones involved, please do. And to your loved ones I’d say: part of love means getting involved. How else can you understand one another? And how can you help one another without that understanding?
One of the biggest dilemmas in my life was feeling that I was different from everyone else. That feeling brought on other feelings—those of isolation, shame and guilt. I felt that unlike my peers and even my own family, I didn’t know the rules and I had no manual on how to be happy. Sure, I was intelligent, social and kind, but real happiness eluded me. Today, I believe contentment evaded me because I wasn’t understood. And the reason I wasn’t understood was because, instead of letting people know that there was something wrong, I tried to fit in. At the same time I had no words to be able to explain that there was something wrong. So I would attempt to alter my reality to be able adjust to it myself—first, desperately with alcohol and drugs, and later—just as desperately—with 12-step sobriety that didn’t align with my beliefs. However, the second time was easier because I had loved ones—especially my wife—to come along on the journey to self-understanding. She attended the meetings of Alanon, which were designed specifically for spouses of people with addiction. In those meetings she learned not only about her relationship with me, but she also learned from others about how to cultivate a healthy relationship with herself. As for me, having someone in my family attend meetings that were connected to my recovery was one of the keys to my own success. I was no longer alone, not just in the rooms of other people with addiction, but I was no longer alone in the world now that I had my wife beside me. (And in turn, my wife was no longer alone as a suffering spouse of someone with addiction.) The support meetings of Alanon not only saved my marriage, I believe they indirectly saved my life. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be a person in recovery who shared a life with someone who had no clue what I was going through. I don’t know if that would lead to a relapse, but I know for sure it would create a new kind of misery.
Adoption is a traumatic experience for many. It was for me. That feeling of being different was ever-present and it never really went away until my adult years when I started to discover my past and recover my identity. Being able to talk about what I was going through with other adoptees was a key to recovery, yet being able to talk with my family members was what made my healing all the better. Having been a part of my support group through my journey as a relinguishee, my family members were able to understand my perspective, build compassion, and see that many of my negative behaviors were a result of my experiences/ trauma, not because that was my personality. In turn, having a supportive family allowed me to change many of my negative behaviors while I rebuilt my identity and got healthier and stronger. Today, I no longer feel like I’m different from everyone else. I’m not on my own in either of my recoveries—from addiction or adoption trauma—and I know that it’s the group relational effort that truly saves lives.
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