When someone is suffering

When someone is suffering

For a long time I thought I had the “right” response whenever I learned that someone who loves a person with addiction was suffering.

Apparently, I’ve been doing it all wrong.

Until recently, if someone told me about a friend or relative whose child was actively drinking or using, I would say, “Sure.  Have them call me.  I’d be glad to listen and help any way I can.”

Doesn’t Al-Anon teach that one comes to the program when one is ready?


And doesn’t that mean you should avoid reaching out when someone is suffering and wait until they come to you?  Isn’t reaching out part of their healing?

No.  Or so I learned a few weeks ago.

On vacation this summer with my son, I got a phone call from a friend about her relative.  He and his wife were struggling with their 25-year-old daughter who was about to come out of rehab.  The family had no idea what she might do next or how they could keep her from drinking or using again.

Jacob overheard my conversation.  “Sure,” I said, “I’d be glad to talk to him.  Have him call me.”  After the call, Jacob asked me, “Why don’t YOU call him?  How will you feel if his daughter dies tomorrow from fentanyl and you could have done something today to help him?  Why wouldn’t you?”

I had no answer.

Seconds later I phoned the father.  Jacob and I talked with him for about half an hour.  We said nothing that would change the course of his daughter’s addiction. As my son reminded the dad, “You are powerless over your daughter’s drinking.”

But maybe what we said helped the dad.  I asked him what he and his wife were doing for themselves.  Had they ever tried Al-Anon?  or another support group?  or professional counseling?  He seemed grateful for the call.  We left our numbers in case he ever wanted to reach us.

At the end of the call maybe the dad didn’t feel better.  But I know I did.

4 Replies to “When someone is suffering”

  1. A 76 year old woman in NY I’ve worked with for 20+ years just found out the extent of her daughter’s alcoholism and incarceration. She and her husband are devastated. I’ve suggested Alanon, as did a friend. I sent her “Courage to Change” book. I’ll make that call next -thanks for that reminder. As we know, this disease knows no boundaries.