How do you support someone you love in their struggle to overcome an addiction?
Often we read or hear about the person with the immediate problem, however, with support being one of the top success factors in overcoming addiction, it is those around us that can often make or break our recovery. They too need their own coping strategies and support networks, and these are often overlooked.
I was intrigued and inspired by the story of Jason and Andy, the founders of ETCH Sparkling and they agreed to share their story in the third Sober Session. They managed to navigate Jason’s issues with alcohol together and stay together. Not only this but, as a result, they now work together on their inspirational brand which combines their core values at its heart and embodies their goals to produce a quality drink that is Alcohol Free, celebrates Native Australian flora and is environmentally sustainable – ETCH Sparkling.
Jason and Andy talk about how they succeeded in not only making it through but coming out stronger on the other side.
At what point did you realise that Jason was struggling with alcohol?
Andy - Jason had always been a drinker and I never really saw an issue with it. In our situation there was no obscure, erratic behaviour or abuse, so I accepted his drinking as part of who he was. I didn’t realise it was a problem until he actually admitted that he was struggling and, after that I began to understand how bad it was. It was definitely his honesty that helped me to understand and be supportive, because I knew Jason and I knew that if he was telling me this, it must be serious.
What were the challenges you faced?
Andy - After he admitted that there was a problem there followed a period of time where I became aware that he had been and was lying to me. He was hiding his drinking at times, and that was the hardest part – when I realised that he was out of control. It wasn’t so much the drinking that bothered me, but more so the dishonesty. I struggled with knowing that he was behaving incongruously to who he was – he’d always been a man with a strong moral compass, and it was against his nature to lie. Looking back, I remember times when I would be afraid of what I might find when I came home. It was a difficult time because I was also dealing with a friend who had a terminal cancer which, in some ways, distracted me from Jason’s issues. At the time I just put one foot in front of the other, I just kept going, hoping it would get better.
In what ways did you support him?
Andy - Well, I understood that he needed help but I also knew he had to do it, and want it, for himself. I struggled to walk the fine line between being supportive and enabling. I questioned myself on this often. It’s hard to watch someone you love in pain, but it’s also important not to accept the behaviour, so I tried to find the balance between being kind, but also firm.
To encourage honesty, you have to be open, in a non-judgemental way, try to remain separate and respect the individual’s journey and because Jason was generally open about his struggles it made it easier.
I also felt it was important to support him by not drinking myself and by removing alcohol from our home.
Did you seek any support for yourself?
Andy - I wanted to be informed so I read books to try and understand what Jason was going through and I attended a couple of Al-Anon meetings. I also saw a psychologist a few times. It was important to me to find someone I could talk to who understood the challenges of addiction in a non-judgemental way. I think you need to explore options and find out what works best for you. In the end it was family and friends that really helped the most and you can’t get that support unless you are open and honest about what’s going on.
Do you have any advice or insight for someone who finds themselves in a similar situation?
Andy - Firstly, you need to understand that it has to come from them. You can’t force change, so you need to be clear that the choice has to be theirs.
I also believe self-care is so important. It’s easy to get caught up in the drama and experience of your partner but you need to take time for yourself and know that unless you do, you can’t be the support that they need. And whilst you need compassion you also need boundaries. Be supportive, but prioritise your own mental health.
I think it was ultimately hope that got me through. A cautious sense of hope. During this period, I never allowed myself to look too far ahead. If someone had told me we’d be where we are now I wouldn’t have believed it. Life is so much better now and our relationship is so much stronger after what we have been through together.
Jason what do you think helped you the most?
Jason - What saved me in the end was being vulnerable, and open about what I was going through. Speaking up opened up conversations with others about their own situation and challenges which meant I felt less alone, and that I was, in a way, helping others. It’s not easy to do but it’s not only helpful for you, it helps those around you to and builds your support network.
Coming out the other side what are the Upsides for you both?
Andy - We’re a lot closer. After Jason left rehab, we spent the time to work together, build compassion, honesty, self-belief and get clarity on our goals and values. This resulted in the creation of ETCH which embodies the values we worked on and the name of the brand (Every Time Choose Health).
Jason - Clarity, perspective, better sleep and improved health, both physical and mental. The removal of unhealthy levels of anxiety, depression and fear, replaced with a sense of peace, gratitude and recalibrated perspective.
A huge thanks to Jason and Andy who share with us how they overcame their situation by practising things that we humans often struggle with, vulnerability, brutal honesty and compassionate support.
If you are the partner of someone who needs help or is struggling with any form of addiction here are some links to resources that may help.
Hello Sunday Morning
Family Drug Support
Supporting families affected by alcohol and another drug use in Australia.
Jason is in his forties, a father, husband and successful businessman, formally in The Wine industry. Jason recently shared his story on the Hello Sunday Morning blog. It resonated with me because I could relate to the ‘pretty darn fine’ life he presented to the outside world. If you’d like to read Jason’s story here’s a link.
Jason & Andy Quin are the Founders of ETCH Sparkling.
Jason and his wife, Andy, launched ETCH Sparkling last year.
ETCH is short for Every Time Choose Health.
ETCH is also on Instagram and Facebook @etchsparkling