“One family member’s addiction often becomes an opportunity for the whole family to heal. Rather than put all the pressure on the addict that they have to heal and get better, you emphasize the healing of the whole family. Recovery always is more effective when the whole family can heal in conjunction with the addicted member of the family. We all have to look at ourselves. We all have to compassionately consider how our family has carried forward suffering throughout generations.” ~ Gabor Mate
Let’s review some of the aspects that can help you in your own recovery.
REALITY: Get into the reality of things, as they are. Denial, avoidance, numbing and running are the allies of addiction. Consider the concept that “It is what it is … Now what?” You don’t have to like it, but you really weren’t given a vote or choice to control. It’s time to deal with it as it is. Become aware of your own expectations, assumptions, interpretations. There is so very much you can not, and will never know. Be willing to and practice dropping expectations, and be willing to move through the discomfort of not knowing so you can be more pro-active.
IDENTIFY YOUR FEARS AND QUESTION THEM: Don’t believe everything you think. Notice your fears bring you to imagining the past (it’s over) and imagining the future (often worst case scenario and not happening in the current moment or day). Is this thought absolutely true? Can you really know it’s the whole truth? Notice your reaction to believing and moving into fear and what is most likely to be uncomfortable feelings, blame, out of being pro-active, into controlling, etc. Then, let the thought go, drop it for a moment and invite some clarity without attaching or believing the thought. Example … Turn the thought around to the opposite: They are destructive turned around to They are not destructive AND turned around to yourself: I am destructive. Just notice what is true for you if in some way you are being destructive and how it can guide you to changes
EDUCATE YOURSELF ON ADDICTION (AND SUBSTANCES), WHAT TO EXPECT, HELPING vs ENABLING: Do your homework. Learn what you can expect about the common behaviors you may see when your loved one is experiencing addiction and if in recovery. Know that enabling is contributing to using or getting access to substance and situation to continue destructive behaviors.
MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS: Your loved one has their own business: their mind, own journey and own choices. This is not in your control. Trying to control, pressure, change their mind etc is going to create even more stress. God, Higher Power, Source, The Universe etc has its own business. It moves without your consent, you are on a need to know basis and more than not you may not ever know. This doesn’t mean you are a door mat, powerless, helpless or condoning behavior that is harmful. It means you can get into your own business. What is in you and what can come from you to address? Your thoughts, actions, interpretations, choices, words, tone, etc. That is enough to mind, isn’t it?
SELF-CARE: A must. Take care of your body, mind and spirit. No one else can do this for you: nutrition, exercise, a spiritual practice, etc
CALM: Another must. Develop a daily practice of Mindfulness (noticing without attachment, labels, without story and imposing meaning onto everything). Develop breathing meditation, walking meditation, sing, guided meditation by CD or YouTube, etc.
SUPPORT: Get it! Trusted family members, trusted friends, community support groups, 12 step meetings. Surround yourself with kind and supportive people.
GRATITUDE: Notice and record (to formalize this practice is much more powerful than just mentally considering your thoughts). What is in your world, what is it about you that you can be thankful for in each day? Bring your attention and gratitude to what you have and what you have can balance out or overpower what may not be available to you. Look at what is available!
GRIEVE, HONOR YOUR EMOTIONS: You are not broken and do not need fixing. It is normal and necessary to feel the natural human emotions that arise. If needed, create some space and time to have a good cry (and as often as needed). Journal your thoughts and feelings, ask for silent support for someone to just hold you in your grief. Do not expect others to understand or give you support. Be with yourself and take good care of you. Grief holds the love and the love will hold the grief.
BOUNDARIES: These are for YOU! What is your vision for your life and your home? Pick and choose what is most important for you and establish your standard, and your consequences. It is only a boundary if you follow it with consistency. If you can’t it is not a boundary but a contribution to stress and confusion.
VISION FOR YOUR LIFE: Imagine and plan something to look forward to for yourself. You have been blessed with your own life and your own journey. Receive the blessing. Join with the divine blessing and take care of your life. Be the example of self-care.
FORGIVENESS: Another must. When you understand deeply that every single person, including you, is doing the best they can with what they’ve got at every given moment, this understanding can welcome empathy and compassion. With this, you can forgive the fragile nature of our minds that leads to choices and behaviors. As different as we all are, we are very much the same. We all have wounds and silent insecurities, scars and fears. We also all have choice to care for them and heal.
COMMUNICATION: Be interested and curious. I hear you, tell me more. Use Open-Ended Questions (What, How, Where – allows others to think, own their own answers and find their own inspiration.) You are not a teacher or preacher, not your loved one’s therapist or recovery partner. Use language that is simple, short and kind.
BE PRESENT: Take a few deep breaths to get into the present moment, notice your surroundings and the feel of where you’re sitting or laying, notice a tendency to move through time and into the future or past. Bring your senses to the present moment. When with another, make eye contact and listen to hear with understanding and curiosity (not to give an answer or commentary).
PRAYER/GOD BOX: Surrender your prayers to a power far greater and more knowing than you. Place them and let them go. It is not in your time, your way, or your understanding. Give thanks for what has been given already.
AFFIRMATIONS: “I AM” put positive statements to these statements AS IF you already embody the qualities.
FLOODING: Take care of the intense emotions that will most likely arise, especially during conflict. Breathe. Move your body. Swing your arms. Do a body scan and deliberately relax your muscles from head to toe. Unclench your fists. Walk away and get in a different environment for a time out.
EXERCISE: Move your body in some way. Releases the feel good hormones and neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine). Your body will follow your thinking so be willing to believe that your body (and mind) can be flexible. Dance, lift your limbs, yoga, etc.
NUTRITION: Eat as close to a food’s natural state as possible. Drink more water. Limit sugar, substances (alcohol, etc) and processed foods. Food is like medicine for you. It feeds your body, and your brain, affecting how your body will treat you and how your brain will support overall health.
RESOURCES ON HAND: Gather local resources (food banks, shelters, hospitals for detox, rehab centers, etc). If or when you can offer this kind of help, you’ll have it on hand (for you or someone else).
VISUALIZATION: Imagine vivid and detailed more pleasant memories with your loved one and savor it! It happened. Visualize healing and connection with your loved one. Visualize a pure white ribbon connecting your heart to your loved one’s heart. There is a spiritual bond that was divinely created and can not be broken. Sit with your loved one in an imagined beautiful spot and enjoy holding them and being held in that love.
YOU ARE AN ADVOCATE FOR THEIR RECOVERY, NOT THE MANAGER OF IT: Family members do not make good recovery partners. That is what sponsors are for and they can hold a more objective role. You can be a loving example of your own recovery and encourage your loved one. But you can not change or fix them. Release control and welcome connection instead.
Know you will always in every situation do the best you can. It may not even look like the best, and know it is. Fear will arise. With a solid recovery plan of your own, you may choose to enhance or modify your own practices. It takes practice and consistency. You do or you don’t, and that is how it is for your loved one also. Remember, your recovery is a powerful example for your loved one. Your recovery is essential to being available to you, your life and your loved one. Even if your loved one is active in their addiction, your recovery can provide you with the tools, practice and skill to meet your loved one where they’re at, and respond with calm, loving kindness, and clearer communication.
“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation, some fact of my life unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my addiction, I could not stay sober. Unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy.
I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.”
~ From Alcoholics Anonymous, page 417 (Fourth Edition)