WHAT FAMILY GROUP AT STEPPING STONE TAUGHT ME by Judi
Family group meets at Stepping Stone every Thursday evening 5:30 – 7:00. It is a big round circle of residents who meet weekly once they have settled into Stepping Stone. Family and friends are always invited to attend.
Sometimes I have attended alone, and other times I brought my husband or my other son. Sometimes I sat there and quietly observed, and other weeks our family ended up taking up quite a few minutes of that meeting. Because I live fairly near the facility, I became a regular. There was a time when I’d come into a meeting and the residents would all greet with me with, “Hi Mom!” On rare occasions, I would be the only family member there. Other times, there would be a perhaps 15 family and friends joining the group of perhaps 20 residents.
If your loved one is in the family group. attend a meeting! I guarantee you will be touched and you will learn something. Residents love having someone show up for them, whether you are a family member or a friend. Friends are often the chosen family of the residents, and you are really important in that role. Show up. You matter more than you think.
Often times, family members show up either with great fear and sadness, or with anger and resentment about the toll that the disease of addiction has taken. It’s actually really nice to get that out in the open. It feels great to say the truth openly. It leaves an opening for a little healing for you, for your family member, and for all of the people in the room. We find out we aren’t the only ones. In fact, we find out we all share more than we know. And with that, we also are open to a new possibility for the future.
In family group, I saw how self-consumed the residents can be. As in SELFISH! A few times as I heard residents whine about how they weren’t ready for a visit from a parent or some such thing. I felt like I was representing all parents as I reminded them that they weren’t the only people that mattered; that the Mom had a need to see her son, or a brother had a right be angry. Stuff needs to get sorted out, and at the beginning, addicts seem pretty preoccupied with their own feelings above those of others. I learned that was a process. The more we all talked and listened, the more issues get sorted out. In time, as healing takes place, residents evolve and are able to think beyond themselves. Whatever we can do to help facilitate that, let’s do it!
If an addict has been abusing drugs or alcohol for years, they are likely to be left back at the age where they started using. It took me some time to give my son the grace to view him as a 15 year old rather than a 25 year old. I learned that emotional development isn’t linear. It’s all ok. Gaps show up, then healing and growth happens, very quickly sometimes. By understanding the reason for inconsistent maturity levels, I became more compassionate.
I was impatient sometimes for residents to get on with the healing. I thought, “Ok, what’s done is done and we all love you and just want you back.” Boom, quick fix, all better. But I learned it doesn’t work that way. Much to my heartbreak, I saw time and time again, addicts feel a pervasive sense of shame. Like they will never be able to pay people back and that they are unworthy. It’s painful to see it in so many people. I’ve learned that shame is something that can immobilize and handicap residents from moving forward, is pretty much at the core of recovery and simply has to be worked through.
The residents get very close and feel a lot of love for each other. The staff is there to help, not to judge. The parents and family and friends just want their loved one back to being themselves, looking forward to a hope-filled future. It’s a perfect mix.
I’m in awe and humbled by how hard residents work to sort through all of these feelings that can immobilize and handicap them. In family group, you get to witness the evolution of people getting stuff off their chest, framing it in the past and forgiving themselves, and evolving some hope for the future. It’s wonderful to see residents who are able to put it aside. Their eyes and faces brighten up and they are lighter.
The transformations I’ve seen make the hairs on my arm stand up. I would love to be able to give every resident the gift of self-forgiveness and the ability to see themselves through the lens I see them from; gifted, creative, sensitive people.
I would have never learned all of these things outside of family group.