I’m in Rehab. Well a family member of mine is in rehab and the program they’re in asks loved ones to come and do some group work. This is good, bad, stupid and necessary.

It’s good (brilliant actually) because it allows for the doctors to get information from someone other than the addict.  Addicts are notoriously bad at telling the truth.  Having people close enough to have seen the problem, but who aren’t the addict themselves, seems really important to me.  I’m glad to be able to help illuminate the labyrinthian reality that was the life during the time our patient was actively using.

It’s also good because it reminds (if you’ve been through it before) or enlightens us about how normal we are in our abnormality.   How addiction has predictable effects on those close to the addict, not just him or herself.  It allows us to see that dishonesty, embarrassment, anger, fear and shame are part of sociology of alcoholism and drug abuse, not just something wrong with me or our family.  What a relief that is to know.

It’s bad because we are just ass-draggingly tired of dealing with the consequences of our addicts.  We’ve already picked up a lot of slack, done damage control, crisis intervention and rearranged our lives enough.  The program wants family members to come in for 3 days straight.  That’s one more drain on our already depleted resources.  Surprise, surprise, when we went around the room talking about what feelings we had today, the first 3 were resentful and frazzled.

It’s stupid because the technology hasn’t changed much in the last 20 years.  I’d wager the relapse rate hasn’t changed much either.  When the facilitator asked my dad and me to name two feelings we were having today, it seemed impossible that she didn’t know how ridiculous this was.  She did know.  She even cited Stewart Smalley.  But she still asked, “How does that make you feel?” repeatedly.  I think it’s kind of worthless to find out how we feel, unless it’s just an elaborate ploy to extract information from us, which I would approve of.

It’s also stupid because we’re all thrown together in this small group thing with strangers (cool because we realize how alike we all are) and expected to share intimately.  One thing The Group is supposed to do is watch us as we talk about 5 incidents when the addict was using and how we felt during those incidents.  The Group is then supposed to relay back to us how we appeared while we were speaking.  If we get teary eyed, they will comment on that.  If we shake our foot (and we do), they mention that.  If we are stiff and stoic, they let us know that.  As it turns out, there is no way to escape editorializing on what is essentially our public speaking style.

If you’re a fidgeter as my dad and I are, people will be watching and reporting back to you how you capped and uncapped your pen, shook your foot, bit your nails or played with your hair.  Let me tell you a little secret about fidgeters:  We’re nervous already.  Letting us know you’ll be watching for fidgeting is like telling people to not think about hippopotamus.  It’s counter productive unless you’re trying to make people neurotic.

It’s necessary because it recognizes that the nature of alcoholism and drug addiction causes it to be a family disease.  Treating just the addict won’t cut it.  Treating the whole family might not even cut it, but the odds are better.  If nothing else, all those people on 5th floor are safe for a couple weeks.