09/24/2013 01:21 pm ET Updated Nov 24, 2013

The Family Can Hit Their Bottom, Too

We have all heard from friends, neighbors, professionals, television shows and aliens from other planets that when the alcoholic/addict has hit his or her bottom then and maybe only then will they be ready for a recovery program. Usually that comes at the heels of a traumatic event in their life, like a DUI, being fired from a job or getting kicked out of the house. Rarely, does the alcoholic/addict come to a thunderbolt realization, in the comfort of their surroundings that maybe, just maybe their life is out of control and they need help.

I have often told my clients that when the alcoholic/addict in their life says "I will do whatever it takes to get clean and sober," then and only then there might be a shred of hope that they mean it and more importantly follow through. Not just "I've got to cut down on my partying" or, "I really shouldn't drink so much and will only have four beers instead of 11." Or because they are feeling sick swear off liquor all together, but usually when they are feeling better again, their mind will not allow them to remember how they felt and the vow they made at the time.

So, what does the bottom look like for the family member that just can't have the alcoholic/addict in their life anymore? When the wife, sibling or even mother/father face this decision it's always heartbreaking (especially if it's their child), but they are physically and emotionally exhausted and can't face another day with their loved one and their ride of addiction or addiction/recovery that is stressful and overwhelming.

My client Marta came to our session and presented her hands to me. I asked what the meaning of this action was and she reported that she had completely and totally washed her hands once and for all of her alcoholic boyfriend. She added an interesting analogy that I chuckled at, and yet realized that it was right on. She said that she loved shoes and often bought them on a whim. One day she was looking in her closet at a pair of expensive, fancy shoes that she knew she would never wear. She said "what was I thinking"?

She compared this to yet another go round with her boyfriend's alcoholic recovery. He said all the right things, did all the right moves and even sponsored a few newcomers to his AA meeting. But, after a year of sobriety, he relapsed. She couldn't help but ask herself (like the shoes), "What was she thinking?" to go this path yet again?

A few years ago I wrote a column entitled "When is it time to throw in the towel?" I have listed a few pertinent ones and added some new ones that might hit home as well.

1) You are mentally and physically exhausted in dealing with the alcoholic/addict's out of control behavior.
2) You can no longer trust what the alcoholic/addict says or does.
3) You look back and quietly scold yourself that you didn't heed the signs and get out earlier.
4) The emotional punching bag you have been is so bruised you wonder if wounds will ever heal.
5) You are embarrassed and even ashamed that he/she is/was in your life and you had to always explain to everyone how he/she is doing or what happened AGAIN?
6) Unable to recognize yourself anymore and wondering where you went.
7) You just can't be friends/lovers with someone that has such a self destructive streak.
8) The thought of spending one more minute of your life like this is beginning to make you physically ill.

The bottom line is that it doesn't matter what straw finally broke the camel's back, as they say. It's broken into a thousand pieces and can't be fixed no matter how much glue is used. Marta told me that for years she kept a candle in the window for her mate. Six months of recovery and she would be there again. She wouldn't date anyone else, but just hoped that the next time it might take. As she left my office, she had a smile on her face and what seemed to be a glow of a sense of relief and contentment. She felt free for the first time and though the road ahead might be bumpy and lonely, she was grateful that the alcoholic/addict monkey was really and truly off her back. Anyway, she said she was off to the shelter to find her new companion -- a four-legged friend that is kind and gentle and only requires food, water and some petting to make it happy.

If I can be of service, please visit my website and I invite you to explore my book Reclaim Your Life -- You and the Alcoholic/Addict. It can be purchased through PayPal or at Amazon. In addition, my book is available as an audio through PayPal only.

For more by Carole Bennett, MA, click here.

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