The Raphael Remedy

The Downside of Healing

by | Nov 9, 2016 | Counseling

Imagine if you slipped into a coma when you were 13 years old. When you’re 40 you wake up, defying all medical odds and explanations. A miracle, for sure! No one can deny that. And yet, instead of being happy, you start to fall into a depression. So much has changed.  Your friends have grown up and had families of their own. Your parents have aged or passed onto eternity. And your siblings are frustrated with your ingratitude…

Although it’s not usually that dramatic, sometimes experiencing a healing after years of suffering can have its downside. It’s a common experience in alcoholic families. After years of praying for a husband to sober up, he finally does, and the marriage falls apart. It can be hard to comprehend. But by understanding the whole picture and with proper understanding and preparation we can help minimize the impact of a new (and positive) reality.

Every individual exists in relation to other individuals – in systems, if you will. And each system has some predictable elements with each individual playing specific roles in this system. It can be a work environment, a social group or, most commonly, a family. So we need to start by identifying the roles played within the system.

In the case of an alcoholic husband, it’s not unusual for the wife to be an enabler. For whatever reason, she helps her husband to avoid the consequences of his alcoholic behavior and may even, at times, buy him alcohol. Or perhaps instead of being an enabler, she identifies as a victim or martyr. That’s a role she may have taken on growing up in her own alcoholic family system. Once her husband takes the steps needed to get sober and healthy, her role as victim is lost and she doesn’t know how to adjust to this new reality. Her identity is literally shattered. In such cases she may begin undermine his sobriety to reestablish the familiar dynamic to which she is accustomed.

His sobriety is obviously a good development but her need to change now is imperative in order to not trigger the old familiar system everyone is used to.

When seeking healing from emotional or even physical challenges, we need to think about for the ways in which our lives and relationships may change and be open to make the changes needed. For obvious reasons we imagine all the good things that this change may bring but it’s wise to consider what may be lost as well. Will your image and role change? Maybe you were babied because of a physical challenge or emotional impediment. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Depending on your challenge you may have needed and deserved the special attention. But are you ready to leave that role behind? It will take courage and faith to step up to the plate and be who you are now called to be.

Within every challenge there is a blessing…and within every blessing a challenge. Each presents a personal growth opportunity if we’re willing to take it. Remember, the goal is not happiness but holiness. Once attained, happiness walks in the same door.

Allison Ricciardi, LMHC
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