A family is like a mobile. You know, the fragile, suspended, moving sculpture you might hang over a baby’s crib. The kind that gently moves with the breeze. In the family of an alcoholic or addict, this mobile is named “Dysfunction.” This mobile is inelegant, some pieces taking on much more than their share of the weight, others not so much. Uneven. Inharmonious. The breeze may not be so gentle either. It’s more likely to be blustery. Stormy. Alarming. The sculpture may be banging around, battered, sometimes terribly, but all the pieces keep trying to play their parts, heroically hanging on, trying to keep the unit somewhat in balance. Trying to keep it together, hoping for calm, knowing it’s futile, knowing it can’t go on.
What happens when recovery comes along? When one part of this delicate structure is removed and placed on a completely different mobile? A mobile named “Recovery.” The “Dysfunction” mobile is thrown out of balance, cast into complete disarray by removing just one piece. The roles are no longer clearly defined or even necessary. The pieces that carried more than their share for so long can now drag the structure down. There is no balance.
The “Recovery” mobile could be doing better as well. It now consists of just one piece, hanging on, alone, with little family support. However, the recovery mobile can thrive even if the family doesn’t join. The program of recovery is a “We” program. “We” will find our “recovery family” even if our immediate family does not join in. But it is so much better if everybody is involved. Statistically, long-term sobriety is much more likely with family engagement. Families who engage in healthy recovery on their own. Support not “Snoopervising.”
What happens if the family starts to practice recovery as well? One by one they join this new “Recovery Family” mobile. However, this time it’s more balanced, graceful, less awkward, less reliant on some pieces carrying more than their weight… the breeze gentler. Harmonious. Serene.
I am very fortunate. My wife started first on our journey of recovery over 20 years ago. I joined pretty quickly after. Our kids have never met the dysfunctional couple we were before. They only know this better version recovery has taught us. We still make mistakes. That’s being human. They’ve certainly seen me be an asshole, but they’ve also seen me work hard to become better than that. To be better than that. My wife and I are accountable for our mistakes now. We try to own up to them ASAP and to make it right. My kids have seen us apologize to them and each other, a lot. To try and change our behaviors so we don’t repeat those mistakes. To try and behave like humble, loving, kind humans. Balanced.