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Coping with Families

Please join me by reading the daily meditation from “The Language of Letting Go” by Melody Beattie and share your thoughts in the comment space provided at the end of this post (Click on the Read More button to read the complete thought for the day).

Early in my recovery I embraced the Serenity Prayer.  “God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I can not change.  (Which I understood to be other people and the choices that they make.)  The courage to change the things that I can.  (Which I understood to be my own attitudes and the choices that I make.)  And the wisdom to know the difference.”  This prayer provided a foundation for me to set boundaries with my friends and family.

In the beginning, I did not have good boundaries.  I had to learn to say no and to mean it.  Eventually, my desire to change my life was stronger than my fear of losing the people I loved.  As I developed the courage to stand up for what I wanted, I informed everyone around me of the choices that I was making in my life.

I did not want the drinking or violence around me or my children. I did not ask them to change, I just asked them to not call or stop by our house when they were doing things like drinking or fighting.  I had to repeat myself many times at first.  Eventually, they stopped calling or stopping by when they were engaged in useless behavior.

As I was afraid would happen, this boundary resulted in many of my friends and family going away.  At first I was very sad to realize that my choice to live a life based in recovery meant that many of the people that I had tried to save would choose to continue to destroy their lives.  I struggled for many years with “survivor’s guilt”.

I struggled with the belief that unless everyone was ok that I did not have any right to be happy.  It was as if my being happy and successful was a form of betrayal and abandonment.  It took me time to realize that “I was not responsible for other people’s lives or their feelings.”  I had to repeat that statement over and over for many years before I could really believe it.  Eventually, I realized that I was not God and that even God does not control our lives.  We have all been given free will to make choices and live with the consequences of our choices.  The Serenity Prayer taught me that I could love them and let go of them at the same time.  With that realization came the acceptance of the loss of many family members and friends.

I had hoped that the choices that I had made in recovery would “break the chain of addiction”.  I had hoped that my children would be spared the family curse of addiction.  At least that is what addiction felt like to me at that time.  I was shocked when many years later my children would also make the choice to use drugs, alcohol and experience great hardship due to their choices.

Once again I was faced with the painful process of letting go and setting the boundary that I did not want them to call or stop by when they were engaged in useless behavior. The loss of extended family and friends had to some degree, prepared me to love and let go of my children.  As hard as this was for me, my ability to love and let go of my children was the very thing that my children needed from me.

Loving and letting go of my children allowed them to see for themselves the consequences of their choices so that they could find their way in their lives.  We are currently, once again, experiencing the miracle of recovery as they too are setting boundaries with their friends and family members to keep the negative influences of addiction away from their children.

The Serenity Prayer provides us with the foundation to develop courage so that we can achieve serenity.  The goal is love and acceptance of free will.   Not everyone in recovery will loose friends and family members as a consequence of their choices.  Some families are able to make the necessary choices that allow families to stay together.

Today: I will embrace love, freedom and happiness as I allow myself to grieve the losses that come with acceptance so that I can know serenity one day at a time.

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Diana Smith, PhD, LPC-MH owns and operates Serenity Mental Health Services and is licensed by the National Board of Certified Counselors. License number is LPC-MH2025 and she follows the ethical guidelines described by the NBCC found at their web site Diana is a member of the National Board for Certified Counselors, Certification Number 43911. In addition, she is also a member of the American Counseling Association, Member ID# 5140627. Online counseling can help you right now. Research has made it clear that this manner of offering therapy is effective and those who’ve experienced it have said they would seek it out again.

Dr. Diana is an APA (American Psychological Association) EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) approved Therapist in Training.