Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Myths of Recovery - #1
There are many myths about recovery – and in this Blog I’d like to highlight one of them. The myth is: “If I recover, then all the people in my life will be different. Everyone will recover along with me. And I will never have to deal with difficult or dysfunctional people ever again.”
Oh if only that were true! I know that some families are motivated enough to do the deep difficult work to change along with their daughter or son who is recovering. But many families are not. Some will do some surface work and change a behavior or two – and some may even maintain those changes for a long while, maybe forever!
But many of my clients come from families that are resistant to change because their own Parts are so extreme and may not have the “Self-energy” to tolerate the discomfort necessary to make lasting changes.
So I tell my clients, “Your family may not recover along with you. They are who they are!” And then my clients have to do double work, they have to do the deep difficult work necessary to recover – and they have to find a way to maintain that recovery in a family that may stay as difficult and dysfunctional as ever.
Some clients resist accepting that their families will not change – and they may use a lot of time and energy to get their families to change. They may even put their own recovery on hold while they try and try and try and try, thinking, “If I try hard enough, then they will be different, and if they are different, then they will love me.”
I have an analogy that I give to illustrate the futile nature of this. Your friends go to a pet store and come home with kittens and puppies. You see them cuddling with and petting these pets and you want one too. So you go to the pet store and they hand you a box. You go home and open the box and find that it’s a hedgehog! You want to cuddle and pet the hedgehog, but when you try, you get hurt by the prickly spines.
There are some good things about having a hedgehog – they are unusual animals and I’m sure they do some fun things. But you have to be careful when you handle a hedgehog. You may need to wear special gloves and wrap the hedgehog in a protective towel.
No matter what you do, a hedgehog will not turn into a kitten or a puppy. If you are really nice, the hedgehog will still be a hedgehog. If you give it a lot of money, it still will be a hedgehog. If you lose weight, it’s still a hedgehog. If you are perfect, it’s still a hedgehog. It will never, ever turn into a kitten or puppy.
For those of you who come from difficult or dysfunctional families the same is true – we may not get the same things as our friends get from their families. There may be some unique things about our families that we can enjoy, but we may need to handle them in special ways – ways that our friends don’t have to do. And no matter what we do, they will always be the way they are. “They are who they are!”
When we can accept our families the way they are, when we stop spending so much time and energy trying to get them to change, then we can work on the “special ways to handle” our families so our recovery isn’t derailed every time we are with them.
I hope you ponder what “special ways” do you need to learn to handle your family? You may want to read another of my Blog articles: “Changing The Game” to learn a fun way to deal with your family: http://awakeningcenter.blogspot.com/2011_11_01_archive.html
Amy Grabowski, MA, LCPC is the Director of The Awakening Center. She established The Awakening Center 20 years ago! Yet, she feels like it was only yesterday!