Forgiveness and Family Love

Psalm 57:1
…in the shadow of thy wings will I make
My refuge, until these calamities be overpast

On my own spiritual walk, I heard that recovery is an inside job. You cannot recover until you take the journey within and turn you will over the care of God, as you understand him.

Along the same lines, recovery from the cycle of domestic violence that has infected our families is not different. We tried to hide our drinking and drug use only to find out that we were to last to know that everybody knew. We also must come to terms with the reality that we were the last to know that everybody already knew about the domestic violence that was happening in our family.

Recovery from the cycle of domestic violence is an outside and an inside job. Family problems were sometimes obvious to others when we were in public. It could have been a stern look of disgust if you did not agree with a decision. Some families looked great on the outside in public. At home on the inside where there were no witnesses, It might have been the negative and senseless treatment towards our family members for anything they did.

It is difficult to have peace and serenity if the family is not on the same road to recovery as you are. When they begin to heal the pain and suffering caused by addiction and alcoholism you begin to experience the serenity and the support you need to continue to work you program. This does not mean that every family and everybody will have the same exact experience. For some families it might take much longer than we expect before there are positive changes in our relationships. Hence the wise words, God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.

The cycle of violence can start without even realizing that a dangerous situation is about to happen. Everybody involved in the situation may have already learned to discount how serious thing are and how bad things can get. This way of handling things might be the safest way for everybody to protect themselves. Families sometimes tell you what they think you want to hear in order to prevent more pain.

In some families, things that happened in the past are still going on. They can push a person over the edge and make them feel hopeless to stop the problem. Addicts and alcoholics, think drinking and using are the only solution to handle problems. They make you numb to the emotional confusion that is the underpinning of domestic violence. Old ways of thinking can destroy all chances to empower families to support us in our recovery.

It is not unusual for family members to think, what can I do to protect others and myself in the family? How do I get help when I am afraid of being punished because I tried to get help? Addicts and alcoholics made hallow promises that the violence would never happen again if the family did not talk about it at all. Addiction makes you jump to conclusions. No matter what happened, our way of acting and thinking was not to questioned.

Abuse is not always physical. Emotional abuse is telling somebody how he or she should feel. Financial abuse is taking money from the family to support negative behavior and bad habits. Mental abuse is telling somebody they should know how you feel. How will they know what you feel unless you communicate your feelings?

It takes time to sort out many of the problems caused by substance abuse. Some helpful suggestions are to learn positive ways to deal with problems and keep the reality of your life manageable. When you start to be honest with yourself about what happened the healing can begin.

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Copyright 2009 by Jimmy Cathey, all rights reserved. Used by permission.
Jimmy Cathey is a substance abuse counselor and educator. He founded Support Systems, a substance abuse education program that helps families learn about the negative consequences of addiction and the rewards of life in recovery. He was a staff consultant to small and emerging non profit organizatons at Management Center in San Francisco, California.

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