How to support yourself and loved ones through addiction recovery

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BAY MILLS INDIAN COMMUNITY, Mich. (WJMN) – What is the difference between supporting and enabling someone with their addiction? Rachel Lyons, Tribal Manager for Bay Mills Indian Community, council member of the BMIC Executive Council. She’s a mother, wife, daughter, and sister. She’s also no stranger to addiction.

“Substance abuse has been prevalent in my life since birth. Both of my parents were alcoholics when I was growing up. Thankfully they went into recovery when I was about 17 or 18 years old. Family members throughout my life have always struggled with substance abuse. Family, siblings, I mean, it’s been at the forefront of my life forever,” said Lyons.

Lyons spoke with us about what she’s witnessed. We talked about personal responsibility and setting boundaries.

“I can remember when I was a teenager, I was always worrying and always trying to fix things. And that’s being a child of an alcoholic. That’s kind of the role that I’ve taken on. I’m the caregiver. I’m the one who fixes things. I’m the one that takes the lead in making sure everyone is okay. I’ve put that stress on myself. I’m in my 40’s and I’m still learning how to kind of separate that a bit because I can’t take that whole load on and I can’t take that load on. I can’t be the mother and fix things. But what I’ve learned is there’s a thin line there when you’re supporting and when you’re enabling. You have to be really aware of that and make sure of that go you give that boundary there. I’m there for my sibling any time they need me. If they need a shoulder to cry on, if they need an ear. But I really, recently, there had been some legal issues that had come up and I finally put my foot down and said no, I’m not bailing you out this time. I’m not helping you dig out of this, but I’ll be here, I’ll be your support. I’ll help you get better, but I’m not going to bail you out again,” Lyons said.

Lyons went on to tell us she doesn’t have firm guidance for anyone on what is enabling and what is supporting. She said that is an individuals story and something they have to learn on their own.

Lyons shares how people she knows experienced their lowest point and turned to recovery.

One topic Lyons spoke about was how she’s making sure the next generation is not going down some of those dangerous paths she’s witnessed before.

“I’ve been very upfront with my children because we have a lot of substance abuse in our family. They see it. I want them aware. We genetically have it in our blood. My parents were alcoholics. Their father’s parents have struggled, others in the family have struggled. I’ve been very up front with them that this can be a problem and this is why. Really been open about what addiction is, what substances are, healthy habits and what have you. I think education is important. You don’t want to go to your five-year-old and explain what hard drugs are. But there are little things you can do to teach those healthy habits to your kids. Be a good example. that’s a huge thing. Obviously they see you day in and day out. You need to be that example for them of what a healthy lifestyle is. I think open and honest communication when they get a little bit older is important too. So that not only are you giving them information that’s important, but when they have questions, they can feel comfortable coming to you and talking about it and really learning the reality of things,” said Lyons.

The final thought in our conversation was what advice she would have for other people who have family or loved one’s who are battling addiction.

“I’m here. I’m a testament to you can support your loved ones and be okay. Your loved ones can make it through the recovery process. Right now I have individuals in my life that have been recovered for decades and they are thriving. It’s not a day by day, hour by hour battle for them anymore. And then I have individuals who are freshly clean and just starting that road to recovery and struggling. I’ve seen that full gamut of the beginning and I’m not going to see the end, because it’s not the end. It’s an ongoing struggle for them and I know that. But I see it decades out and I see how successful they are and how happy they are. There’s hope. There’s hope.”

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