How does one start to convey the sadness sown by a life of addiction? For transparency, let’s get a few things on the table before going too far.
I grew up in a farm family where my parents worked very hard, long hours, and some would say were “workaholics.” My sister died at age 23 going home from my farm to hers when her car was smashed by a drunk driver. My close friend whom I’ll call “Jane” was married to a farmer who loved booze, but found a new path to health, reconciled their marriage, and sadly he died too young. I don’t drink alcohol, and never have because I love to dance with a clear head and be in control of my behaviour.
Now you know my backstory, let me share my concerns as a farm family coach about booze abuse on the farm.
Many people have addictive personalities, and if they don’t abuse alcohol, it may show up in other forms like perfectionism or working too much. I am not a psychologist or counsellor, but I have been coaching long enough to pick up some red flags in conversations that lead me to ask tough questions.
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I’ve found two books, recommended highly by the adult child of an alcoholic, and I suggest you run to buy them if you are suffering with the effects of addiction.
It will never happen to me… growing up with addiction as youngsters, adolescents, adults, by Dr. Claudia Black. This edition also deals with other addictive disorders such as drugs, money, food, sex, and work. The other helpful resource is Adult Children of Alcoholics, by Janet Geringer Woititz.
Why bother reading these books? They last. They linger. They can be shared with other family members. You can create your own learning experience in the privacy of your home to figure out how to get outside help for your situation.
My friend “Jane” had no trouble firing off a list of helpful insights, which I will share here:
You need to understand that this situation of “things are not working” did not happen overnight. It has taken years for this co-dependency to develop and become a way of behaviour. You are tired of walking on eggshells. You catch yourself saying, “it is my job to fix the person with booze issues.” You are taking on what is not yours to take on.
Some people never get to the realization that something needs to shift, but you have likely been given some “wake-up calls” to pay attention, what Jane and I would call “divine intervention,” so that you cannot put your head in the sand anymore. Some folks choose unhealthy ways to cope, like isolating themselves from friends, and they do feel powerless. It is difficult to reach out beyond the family for help, but you need to find help for yourself through a group like Al-Anon, and for the booze abuser.
During the new month of the new year 2015 you’ll find many stories about making goals or resolutions for a change in behaviour. My question is, “What needs to change in the addiction department on your farm this year?” Is it time for you to call for support for living with an alcoholic? Might you be ready to leave for a time to have a “redemptive separation” until the unwanted behaviour is extinguished with new habits? These are hard choices, but I have seen them work in farm families.
Sometimes we choose to avoid the struggles, but hard times and storms tend to mould us into resilient people who come out on the other side much stronger and wiser.
Consider what you really want to live a healthy and happy life on your farm.
- What choices are you responsible for?
- What assumptions are you making?
- What path might be waiting to be explored that you have resisted exploring?
- What is the best thing that could happen if the abuse ended?
- Who do you need to call today? Perhaps it is time to seek counselling or therapy to help you deal with your anger, pain, and grief.
Be open as a friend and neighbour to hear the stories of farm families that are looking for answers to dealing with abusive habits on the farm. Learn who the helping folks and professionals are in your region. Let’s all work towards healthier spaces to work in agriculture, and happier family teams.