All In The Family

By Chris Alvarez

The first ever Beit T’Shuvah Out of Town Family Week recently took place, and my family and I were lucky enough to be able to take part in it.  My mother and sister flew over three thousand miles to take part in Beit T’Shuvah’s inaugural family weekend—a weekend that would forever change our lives.  Over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, we took part in family process groups, individual therapy and spiritual learning.  Throughout the course of a few days, we were part of a life-changing event that I hope will help many more families in the years to come.

Beit T'Shuvah FamilyFriday was the first day all three of us were together.  The event started out with a group on family dynamics, during which I reaffirmed my notion that my family’s problems aren’t unique.  Afterwards I took my mom and sister up the block to the BTS Communications office, which is where I work.  I was so proud to be able to show them what I was doing there and introduce them to the people who I work with.  Through collaborating, I am finally finding how to use my passion for writing to become self-supporting, something I was proud to show my family who supports me now.  That night, Services were so moving that after the weekend, my 20-year old sister asked if I could get her the music from that night and from Saturday services.

Just as services ended Friday’s program, services started Saturday’s events, which included Family Torah Study. Saturday morning services were an experience that I hope to never forget.  Having my mom and sister there helped me feel even closer to my higher power.  We sang, danced, and prayed together.  On Saturday, my sister wasn’t alone in her love for the music; my mom also suggested that for the next Family Weekend that Shy rap more.  A little while after services, the cast of Freedom Song performed their innovate musical about addiction and family dynamics.  Though I had seen Freedom Song before, it was a different experience seeing it with my family.  During the show, I related the characters to my own family, and it was as emotional for me as it was for my mother.  With the short amount of free time we had after the performance, my family and I even found time to see the new Batman movie.

Sunday began with a brunch and dialogue for feedback on the weekend, and every family was in attendance.  Emotions ran high, my friends’ parents thanked me for being friends with their children, and my mother was able to thank the Rabbi and Harriet for all they’ve done for me.

After this inaugural Family Weekend, my family and I felt like we were pioneers of something bigger, something that will help many others in years to come. Together, my sister, mother, and I were able to form a closer and more meaningful relationship and came to understand how we all play a role in the family.  This weekend was the most meaningful thing I have been part of in a long time.

4 thoughts on “All In The Family

  1. Chris,

    I have known you and your family for over a year now. It was so nice to see the three of you so “connected” to each other. I’m quite proud of the person you are becoming.

  2. Chris, you wrote beautifully and sweetly. Am delighted to hear that you are reconnecting with your family. Experientially, just want to add a note of caution. We, as addicts/alcoholics, etc., do a lot of damage while we’re out there. The BB mentions that we’re like tornadoes barreling down on anyone who gets in our way. We want what we want and we want it yesterday. And the ones we hurt the most are our loved ones. They’re an easy target and we lie and manipulate until we can’t remember which lie we told which person. The longer we’re out, the more the wreckage. For me, reconnecting with my family took a very long time. It wasn’t a “gee whiz, I’m sober for 90 days or even a year and now you should all trust me.” Reconnecting is a process and it doesn’t happen over a 3 day weekend. Its slow and fairly unremarkable. Validation from family members is hard fought and truth be known, never happens for some. Personally, my daily actions did all my talking when it came to reconnecting with family. My sons had absolutely no reason to believe anything that came out of my mouth in the early days (years). I had zero credibility and they were right. So I just walked the walk. They didn’t talk to me at all until I hit one. Years 2, 3 and 4 they were still afraid to believe that this sober stuff was really going to stick. They read the relapse statistics and were afraid of being hurt again. It wasn’t until year 5 that our relationship changed. Five years of doing the next right thing. We became a family again and trust was integral to that relationship. Five years of receiving very little family validation. Although I thought I had done some amazing, I also realized that expecting validation for the paradigm shift didn’t make sense. Why would I get validation for living the way I should have after 22 years of abusing everyone around me? My point, Chris, is never to coast. I can tell from your writing that the weekend gave you great hope and maybe even a “high.” For me, the object was to concentrate on the mundanities of life, continue walking the walk, be of service, and be a little better today than yesterday. I also found that the longer I stayed sober, the fewer choices I had because with each sober day that passed, I had more at stake…in particular my family…to lose. Congratulations on the beginnings of reconnecting with family. Its an amazing & continuing journey!

    1. Thank you and I appreciate all of your words of hope!

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