Take care of yourself to help your loved one
People in recovery who have strong, involved support systems are more likely to recover than those who don’t. However, if you want to help your loved one get sober you have to remember to take care of yourself also.
You are your addict’s rock. In the chaos of an addiction, that simple fact is often overlooked and forgotten. And it’s the reason many addicts never succeed in recovery.
Put Your Mask on First
Before any plane leaves its runway, flight attendants stand in the aisle and give a quick safety presentation. A set of instructions for all passengers to follow in case of an emergency. The most notable part of that presentation is the bit where they tell you to put your mask on before trying to help others.
It makes sense when you think about it for a second. But it’s shocking the first time you hear that. For a brief moment, you think “I’m supposed to put my mask on before a child’s, or an elderly person’s? That can’t be right.” It goes against our nature. A moment later rational thought kicks in and you realize that you cannot save someone else if you are struggling to breathe yourself.
That same rule applies to you and your addicted loved one.
You want to help and that’s great. Fact is, you’re the best candidate for the job. And that is exactly why you need to keep yourself in good health. If you let your own needs slip—as many addict’s families often do—you will be less capable of helping.
Put your mask on first.
It’s okay to take time getting your nails done, or go to a movie, or to sit and meditate. In fact, it’s crucial that you do these things. You should never feel guilty for taking time for yourself.
Don’t Take it Personal
People with addiction can be unpredictable. Many will lie, steal, or worse. Unfortunately, it’s the people closest to them that bear the brunt of that erratic behavior. It’s disheartening to say the least. But it’s important to remember that these behaviors are symptoms of the addiction.
Whether you believe addiction is a disease or not, there’s no denying that certain behaviors are only present because of the addiction. This isn’t to say that all addicts were well-behaved little angels before they started using, but addiction brings out the absolute worst in people.
That doesn’t excuse these behaviors. It certainly doesn’t make them okay. But when your addict lashes out at you in some way, you should never take it personal. Try to remember them as they were before they started using drugs. You will need to develop a thicker skin and this will make it easier to do so.
Of course, there are some things that are just unacceptable. Physical violence, for example, is one thing you can’t allow. If it happens, put a stop to it immediately.
An addict’s actions are almost always directly caused by the addiction. You have to understand, for an addict, there is nothing else but drugs. Their mind and body will not allow anything else.
The addict’s brain wants to protect that addiction at all costs. So anything that poses a threat to it invokes a sort of fight or flight response. Lying, yelling, and even stealing are a manifestation of the addicted brain trying to protect itself.
Keep a Recovery Journal
Recovery is a process. A journey that can take years. Journaling through this process will help you minimize some of the stress, anger, resentment, or other negative feelings that come up during a loved one’s addiction.
Getting that stuff out of your head and onto the page can be transformative.
But it doesn’t have to be all negative. If you notice progress, you should note that in the journal as well.
Getting started is easy. You can use pen and paper or your favorite writing program on your computer. Either one is fine. But make sure you can go back and read your entries later.
Be sure to mark the date on every entry. You also want to note important events. For example, if your loved one starts a new job you’d want to note that in the journal. You will also want to write about their behavior, especially as it relates to things like landing a new job or any other event.
The important thing is to keep this task simple. For now, you want to make it as easy as possible for yourself.
Dedicate about five or ten minutes a day to this process. Don’t try to do too much in the beginning. You can always add more time later, if you like.
Keeping a Recovery Journal is important, because as I said earlier, you are your addict’s rock—their best chance at recovery. The journal is an outlet you can use to express your feelings privately (and creatively).
You’d be surprised how much it helps.
It can also help you spot triggers or patterns in your addict’s behavior and/or environment. This information is useful while your loved one is still using, but can be even more useful later on when your loved one begins recovery.
You might also find it useful to write your entries keeping in mind that you will someday show some or all of them to your loved one. This isn’t necessary of course, but it could be another tool to pull out of your toolbox when/if you need it.
One caveat to the Journey Journal is that it should be kept separate from personal journals. The Journey Journal is meant to help you express feelings and discover things about the addiction that might otherwise go unnoticed. You can (and should) keep a personal journal, but keep the two separate.
Got Advice or Questions?
If you have any helpful advice to share with others please do so. Or, if you’d like to ask question, you can do that too!
Just leave a comment below. Thanks!
CK Stull is a single father, writer and introvert who has been sober since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @CKStull