Although it can be repetitive, it is best to take dealing with your family after rehab one day at a time.

“How long will you have to go to meetings?”

“Will you be able to drink champagne at my wedding?”

“Was it something that I did? Am I to blame for making you an alcoholic?”

When I got out of rehab and into early sobriety, these were all questions that loving, close members of my family asked me. They’d all known I had a problem; no one in my family could deny I needed help—badly. I was not a functioning alcoholic, and my disease had already led me to mental hospitals and jails.

Like most families, though, mine thought that rehab “cured” me. I had “dried out” and met with a psychiatrist and attended a few meetings, and that meant that I was better. This is the model of illness in our society: you get sick, you seek treatment, you get well.

Trying to explain to them that I would never get “well” went over badly. What did they pay for when they sent me to rehab?

I found it helpful to describe my addiction as similar to diabetes. Just as there is no cure for diabetes, and a diabetic must take insulin for the rest of their life, so too an alcoholic or addict must get involved with the community or work a spiritual program continually.

Some of my family got it right away. They understood why I would be drinking apple juice instead of champagne at the weddings. Others still ask, from time to time, if I’m ready to stop going to so many meetings. I don’t argue. I just smile, and say, “not yet.”

It was my mother who always asked if I was an alcoholic because of my childhood. Like so many parents, she blamed herself for my struggles, even though my brother and my sisters grew up without addictions.

Early in sobriety, I asked my sponsor what I ought to say to my mama when she was hard on herself. He told me to tell her that we aren’t sure what causes alcoholism, but we do know that it hits kids who grew up in the most perfect surroundings you could imagine. Whatever the cause, it’s a lot more than bad parenting!

Over and over, I had to remind my family of two things: there is no quick cure for alcoholism and addiction, and they weren’t to blame for my disease. Some of them believed me the first time I told them. All these years later, I’m still repeating myself to others. That’s part of being in a family. And if we take those families one day at a time, we’ll make it through.