Spirituality: The Antidote for Family Relapse
By Ken Davila
Drug And Alcohol Treatment Centers:
John (not his real name) grew up in a normal family. His parents were loving and attended him and his
sister equally. They were the kind of parents who were present for their children. You could probably
say they had a good home environment and great childhood. They attended church together and both parents
were involved in the spiritual upbringing of their children. Family values were shared and taught to
them equally. John’s sister, Jane (also not her real name), came to believe and live by the family values.
She succeeded in school, had good friends, and was a blessing to her parents. She was the “good child”.
John on the other hand changed as time went on. As he made older friends, his associations came into question.
John began to see how the family values did not match the ones he was learning from his friends and associates.
His parents tried to intervene with John about his associates but to no avail. They noticed how his behaviors
changed as his value system changed. As faithful parents they did their best to try to redirect their son.
As time went on their methods became desperate.
They tried restricting his behaviors in a number of ways. They limited his access to the car, they gave him a
curfew, and they forbade him to associate with “those kids” but to no avail. John had made up his mind.
His friends became more important to him than his family. Later the family found that drugs and alcohol
were involved. As parents they found John had been using at home and had the proof of it. Their efforts
increased in trying to control what was happening in the home. Chaos entered the once peaceful home as the
family, desperate and out of love, tried their best to cure the problem. They tended to cushion his falls
so he would not get so hurt, in the name of good parenting and misguided love.
John’s parents began to question their ability as parents, even with evidence that Jane was a happy,
well-adjusted daughter. Their entire focus was now on their son and their struggle to bring back harmony
in the home. Their efforts failed as John sunk deeper into drugs and alcohol. There were consequences he
faced with the law and his health. His school work suffered and his future became bleak.
Finally, after many prayers and at the urging of friends, John finds himself in
treatment for drug and alcohol addiction.
John begins to learn of the twelve steps and finds recovery. His parents
and became involved in
They found their peace and joy once again entered into the home.
Although purely a fictitious story, it sounds painfully familiar to some. The
and recovery for the addicted person and the family, through Al-Anon, have saved many a home. The secret for the family’s
security and serenity abide in the spiritual program the family partakes in. What is to happen in the event
the addict relapses? How does the family respond? What if the family has never been to Al-Anon before?
How does a spiritual program help them to cope?
The nature of the disease of addiction tells us that it is a relentless disease that will seek an outlet at
any opportunity; that the only reprieve is a daily reprieve if the participant is faithful to his step work
and spirituality. The same is true for the family. Consider the above story and let’s examine how spirituality
is the antidote to prevent a family relapse. How can the family respond if John relapses? The first three
steps are essential to have a good grasp on, if this dilemma is one you face. The first step reminds us that
we are powerless against others behaviors and addictions. We are reminded that we did not cause this, we
cannot cure this and we cannot control it. This principle helps us to set boundaries with our loved ones.
John’s family does not have to support their son’s addiction by cleaning up his messes. They can have John
suffer the consequences of his addiction so John can hit his bottom quicker. They learned that when they
enabled him he suffered longer and his addiction grew. This time the principle of powerlessness helped them
to take their hands off of John’s chaos and as a result they excised themselves from the drama that once
As a result, their lives did not become unmanageable anymore. John was left to deal with his own mess. His
guilt trips, that were once so successful, don’t work anymore. His victimhood didn’t hold water; his excuses
and blame were empty and rang hollow. Though he may try, the family recognizes the disease in play and do
not enter the fray. They detach lovingly from John. All because they know they did not cause this, they
cannot control it, and they cannot cure it.
As a result, they turn John and his problems over to God for help. God becomes, for them, the solution.
God becomes that power that is greater than John’s disease that they turn to. They begin to pray for John.
They may even have their own God box at home and begin filling it up. Their connection with God is not a
blind connection either. They have prayed in the past and God answered their prayers before and they have
the faith that He can do the same again. As a result, peace returns to the home. They wait for the power
of God to move once again in their lives and their waiting is not in vain. Regardless of what John does with
his life, weather he gets back into recovery or not, the family is strengthened to remain firm in their
resolve to work their own program.
They seek support from their own home group and together they all push back against the disease. John sees
this and begins to realize he needs to get back into recovery as well. The story ends like this for some,
not for all, but for some the possibility to live in peace, even though we have a loved one who is an
addict/alcoholic in the family, is a possibility. The challenge for families then is to believe that God
can handle the problems they face. The challenge is to trust that God is faithful to his promises and is
more powerful than the disease of addiction. My hope is that the family can establish that relationship
with their Higher Power so that the peace they deserve in their home is a reality. Seek Him early, seek
Him often. Seek Him when things are good and when things are not so good. He promises to be a help in
times of trouble. The Big Book states that God could and would if He were sought. He can help John and He
can help you.
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