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Addiction, Families and Butterflies

Dealing with a loved one struggling with addiction can be a tiring and demanding process. Logic seems to have no place in trying to make sense of your situation and the behaviors of your loved one. What is more mind boggling are professionals, which you seek for assistance, are quick to point out your own motives and behaviors are just as harmful to creating the chaotic situation you have found yourself in.

Wait! What?

Oh, yes. If it’s one thing we in the helping professions know how to do is make people crazy with self-doubt. That is of course you don’t take a swing at us first!

Without tossing around perplexing, clinical terms and their convoluted definitions, I though a better way would be through an allegory. The story below was introduced to me when I first began working with families in an inpatient setting.

Its message is still as relevant today and gives an option to reflect on our own behavior and how it influences others in our lives.

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A Butterfly Story

Once walking along a path a man found a cocoon which held a butterfly. One morning on his walk a small hole appeared in the cocoon.  He sat and watched the butterfly struggle to force its way through that little hole.

Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further. So the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of cocoon.

The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.

The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would unfold and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.

Neither happened. In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its short life crawling around with its swollen body and shriveled wings in the dirt. It was never able to fly.

What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through that tiny hole was nature’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. Obstacles make us stronger.

You ask for strength and you often get difficulties to make you strong

You ask for wisdom and get problems to solve

You ask for courage and get danger to overcome

You ask for love and you get troubled people to help

You ask for nothing and get everything you need


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