As I watched Irma head towards Florida along with the rest of the world I knew a dark secret. I knew there were families struggling not only to deal with a hurricane, but a private storm of addiction in their home. I knew there was a storm within the storm.
My husband would run to the store to stock up on alcohol. He knew he would need it and he was right. The person who is abusing alcohol as much as my husband was can’t stop drinking alcohol abruptly. It could kill him. Within the first three days of not drinking a person addicted to alcohol will suffer the following if they go cold turkey*:
- visual and auditory hallucinations
- whole body tremor
- diaphoresis (profuse sweating)
- heart failure
*Reference the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Trapped By A Disease
When a hurricane threatened our state I wouldn’t even consider going to a shelter. My husband’s disease would not be understood there. Hurricane shelters don’t allow alcohol, but my husband needed to have it. No matter how bad the storm was we always stayed home. The tensions would increase as the threat of the storm would near. My husband would be on edge and pace around the house. His mood would grow from irritated to angry to raging as though he too was following a storm pattern.
The power would go out and then there was just us. No AC, no TV, no lights. The lack of control would slowly grow on my husband’s nerves. The alcohol could not sedate his worry and he would start yelling about something. It was my storm within the storm. It would cycle like any storm. My husband would eventually become unconscious and there would be calm, much like the eye of the storm. It was peaceful, but I knew there was more to come. I was trapped and the disease knew I had no where to go. Like so many families trapped with the disease of addiction I could only pray for the natural storm to end soon so we could leave.
Recovery Changes Everything
Standing up to addiction during a storm is not easy by any means, but for the safety of all those concerned sometimes it is vital you take action. While I had no recovery when I faced storms, recovery has taught me I can now make healthier choices to protect myself:
Stop being ashamed
Easy to say, hard to do, but detach from the person and know this is a disease. Treat it like any other medical disease and leave the guilt and shame out of it.
Do what is best for you
In Al-Anon it is said, "Do what is best for you and most of the time, it is best for everyone else."
We often focus on the person suffering from the disease and don't want to leave them. Ask for help. Call a support group familiar with your situation. They can direct you to someplace that can help.
If you need to get away from unacceptable behaviors call the police. You know the situation better than anyone. Be honest with yourself and accept what you know will happen if you stay. Will you be safe? Will your children be harmed? What has happened in the past?
Give yourself grace
No matter what you decide know it will be OK. You may not make a perfect plan, but you will be brave enough to try something different.
I feel for those families in Florida with addiction in their homes. There isn't a shelter for those suffering from the disease of addiction and their families. Be gentle on yourself and be safe. You are not alone and others in recovery understand.
A Reach Out Recovery Exclusive By: Madeline Schloop
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