Pastor Ed Grant
The rain-slick highway was more dangerous than it appeared in the headlights, especially through the blurry eyes of someone who had indulged in a few too many drinks. But Bob knew the way home, and he had driven it countless times before without any problems. He had called his wife, Denise, to say that he was on his way home and assured her that he was fine to drive. However, once outside the tavern, he stood for a full half hour telling a friend about a recent fishing trip. Denise worried: it was only a ten minute trip from the tavern and her husband had yet to come through the front door.
She decided to drive there to see if something had happened to him. Bob knew she would be angry for a time – as she always was. He’d stop drinking for a while, attend a few AA meetings, and Denise faithfully came along side him to cheer him on. As Bob approached a curve in the road his front tires lost all traction. He began to slide across the double yellow line just as a car came around the curve the other way. In his headlights he saw the terrified face of a woman: it was Denise. To avoid a collision she went off the road and hit a telephone pole, demolishing her car and breaking her leg in two places. Surgery was necessary to repair the damage: steel rods, pins, and screws – equipment better suited for a metal shop – now held her leg in place until it would heal.
It was now three months since the accident. Bob attended AA meetings faithfully and hadn’t had a drink since the accident. He was excited about his sobriety and grateful to God for sparing his wife’s life. He was also terribly sorry for the pain he had caused his wife. But, truth be told, Bob was growing increasingly frustrated with Denise. She was cold, somewhat distant, suffering both from physical and emotional pain. He longed to have his cheerleader wife back in his corner again and was both sad and miffed that she didn’t celebrate or even seem to notice all the changes that were taking place in his life.
But Denise could not cheer him on. She had a wounded heart and a broken leg – and he was the cause of both.
Bob was feeling rejected by his wife, one of the most painful emotions we can experience. Those in recovery feel it even more acutely because they have stopped medicating their pain with drugs, alcohol, or pornographic fantasy. They are fragile and self absorbed, typically more aware of their own pain than of the pain they have inflicted on others. They want to move on with their lives, wanting everyone around them to notice what they’ve accomplished, to cheer them on and to trust them again. The trouble is, the cheerleader’s leg is still broken.
Emotional Pitfalls on the Road to Recovery
1. Unrealistic expectations
Those in recovery need to remember the years of pain, deceit, broken promises, and hardships created by their addiction have had a greater negative impact upon their loved ones than they can possibly know. Their loved ones require selfless support throughout the healing process. We can’t ‘fix’ our loved ones or undo what we have done, but through sincere and patient love we can help create the climate in which God can bring healing.
2. Riding the ‘emotional Ferris wheel’ with loved ones
Those in recovery often give their wounded loved ones the power to dictate their feelings. If the loved one is hopeful, they feel hopeful; if he is having a bad day, they don’t feel they have the right to be happy. While riding the emotional Ferris wheel is normal for our wounded loved ones, it is unhealthy to take a ride with them. It is a nasty trap that keeps us from recognizing and celebrating what God is doing in us, making it difficult for us to leave shame in the past and to fight the temptation to return to the addiction.
Finding refreshment for the Journey
The road to recovery is too demanding to walk alone. Sponsors, mentors, pastors, and support group members are prepared to offer the encouragement that loved ones are not able to give at the moment. This requires time, energy and a willingness to allow others to minister to us.
Finally, time spent with God in prayer, meditation and the reading of His holy Word are indispensable assets for recovery. St. Paul reminded the congregation in Rome of this, ‘For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves’May the God of peace fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 15:4&5, 13).