Keep your eye on the ball

It only takes one. I have heard this phrase a million times, when we have been watching our children play ball. My husband says it when the kids are up to bat. Meaning, it only takes one good hit to get on that base.

Let’s look at the family in the same manner. When a family is afflicted with substance use disorder, each person has a position on the team. Each position has a designated role. The actions of the roles have been practiced so many times, it becomes second nature.

One position may be the short stop, running between the bases, fielding the crises, so they stay contained in the family. Another may be the first baseman, the one who shuts down the individuals consequences before they have a chance to run it out. The outfield may be the person in the family who runs after the ball, cleans up the mess and throws it right back in to the family to deal with.

In the BALM®, we talk about the power of one. What does that mean? Well, the family really is a team. A team of individuals who are each suffering in their own way. A team who have learned their individual parts, but have not realized how their actions relate to the rest of the team. A good throw to first has a different outcome than an overthrow. Being able to read the field and know with instinct which play will get the out, it does not come naturally. The positions must be learned and if the team is blessed, they will become stronger and work together to be effective at supporting the other players.

The power of one, it only takes one. Ninety percent of the time, one person is coming to us because their loved one needs help, they need help. The other members of the family are still playing the roles that work for them, not necessarily the team. They may not be ready to accept that giving the loved one money is hurting them. They may not be ready to understand, their loved one has a brain disorder and isn’t dropping the ball on purpose. They are still stuck in the idea that the second baseman sucks and shouldn’t be part of the team, if he practiced more he would catch ALL the balls.

So what can we do about this? We use the power of one. It only takes one person in the family to start making the team start shifting positions. It happens gradually, when the grouchy catcher sees the right fielder run up behind second to grab the missed ball and flings it in to first for the out…. well he forgets that the second baseman missed the ball. He is thinking about the out. One person can learn new skills, new information, new ways of being and change the dynamics of the team.

One person can lead by example, begin to bring the secrets to the surface, practice saying no and show compassion. In a family system, when one person changes in a family system, it forces the rest of the family to change also. Change happens slowly and in stages. Things will not happen overnight. We encourage the person seeking help to start their healing journey. Not to wait for the other team members to get on board with change.

As the family member learns new skills in communication, it brings a different response from the others. As the one family member begins to practice peace and compassion while holding boundaries, the other members take notice. They see what is working and what is not. The majority of the time, they begin to either question “the one” about how they are changing or they begin to practice those behaviors themselves. The team becomes stronger and the struggling loved one receives a healthier support system.

If your loved one is struggling, if your family feels broken because of the chaos addiction brings, I encourage you to reach out. Don’t wait for the other family members to realize the drills you have been running are not working. Reach out. Learn new things, learn about the disease and begin your healing journey so that your wholeness may permeate in to the rest of your family. Change is hard, change takes time. The whole team doesn’t need to be ready.


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