My birthday is on the 4th of July. Last night my Mom told me,"We can't go to your favorite restaurant, El Taco Loco," said my Mom, "because they serve beer. Ricky can't go to restaurants that serve alcohol. Besides," she added, "Ricky has a meeting on Tuesday nights. We'll have to celebrate your birthday on Wednesday instead."
This is more than a small problem. It's an infringement on my emotional rights, and it's not the first. When we were kids, I had very strict rules. Ricky didn't. If I disobeyed, I faced harsh consequences. Ricky had "different" punishments because "You just can't yell at Ricky." Or "Spanking doesn't work on Ricky."
In our teenage years, I fixed dinner, did laundry, washed dishes, and mowed the yard. Ricky had no chores because he wouldn't do them anyway. I had to pay my way through college. Ricky got bailed out of jail, and my parents paid for his rehab. Twice. Today, Ricky still lives at home with a built-in maid and babysitter, our Mom. Because she does so much for Ricky, she doesn't have any or energy left to spend time with me and my son.
Ricky Isn't The Problem
Who do I blame for all of these injustices? For many years, I despised Ricky. I was jealous and angry. When I learned that alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder, affects the whole family, I saw more of the picture. My Dad's drinking also contributed to our problems. For years, my Dad acted out under the influence. My Mom reacted. This became their dysfunctional dance. When Ricky and I came along, we learned their dance moves. These are the generational sins of alcoholism. Unfortunately, identifying the problem doesn't undo the hurt.
When I came to recovery, I was no longer mad at Ricky. I was mad at my Mom. Over time (many, many months), I grew to accept my painful past. I am working on forgiving my Mom. I learned that what happened, happened to me. It doesn't define me.
I'm Just As Important As Ricky
One of the best things I've learned in recovery is I am equal to Ricky. My Mom has always favored Ricky. Instead of rewarding the successful child, she rushes to the one in need. This speaks of her illness, not of my character. Recovery has given me a new family of trustworthy people who love me unconditionally. This helped heal many of my emotional hurts.
Settling The Score Between Family Members
Family healing doesn't happen overnight. Ricky and I have both been in recovery for a few years, but progress is in recovery is slow. Recovery isn't a magic 8-ball that delivers the answers to all family conflicts. How do we move forward in a healthy way when we are still working hard to overcome our dysfunctional habits? We live by The Family Recovery Bill Of Rights.
These guidelines protect everyone's best interest. If, or more likely, when Ricky, my Mom, and I disagree, I take a minute to review my rights. This document reminds me that I don't have to lose just so Ricky can gain. I can brainstorm for win/win solutions. I can set boundaries to protect myself. I don't have to blindly trust those who have hurt me. No one can change the past, but I can protect myself now and in the future. It gives me independence in a chemically dependent family.
A Reach Out Recovery Exclusive By: Grace Silverstone
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