This weekend our family will celebrate my husband’s birthday and we are all really looking to gathering for a dinner in his honor. Now that most of our adult children are on their own living very busy lives away from home, time together gathered under one roof is really treasured.
Even during the difficult years detailed in our book Unchained: Our Family’s Addiction Mess Is Our Message we all always really tried to celebrate holidays, birthdays and family milestones together.
Those celebrations were a source of comfort as our family unraveled. And back then I clung tightly to them, because so much was up ended and I wanted to believe we could muscle through. I wanted to believe that somehow the answer we needed to fix our family would be neatly found in keeping those traditions alive.
I was wrong.
I realize now that while it was good that we didn’t give up on marking important milestones together it was in a sense what Bill W. the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous described as a “half measure” that held us back from what we really needed to do: enforce tough love and stick to it. Bill W. said it best more 75 years ago: “Half measures availed us nothing.”
I allowed myself to be lulled into a very temporary sense of security that half measures always bring during those family celebrations. Yes, we were well intentioned and we wanted so much for the intrinsic goodness of being together to for a holiday or a milestone to carry us beyond our family’s addiction crisis. But the cold, hard fact is that we only became restored as a family by making some very difficult choices to break the system of addiction that on many different levels bound all of us.
It was hard. It was rough as coarse sandpaper rubbed on bare skin, but ultimately those difficult choices led to healing. And a full – not a half measure – of happiness.