We know it can be a long and winding journey, supporting a loved one through substance addiction. What are things along the way that have worked for you and your loved one? Small or big, we’d love to hear them and a little positivity to kickstart our Monday!
Solutions: what has worked for you? What tips or tricks would you pass on to your former self?
Making an effort for all close family members to be on the same page and be in the know about what is going on in the moment really helped once we figured it out - I wish we had done this 20 years ago, but today we are working as a unit and it seems to help the most!
My daughter didn’t go to rehab. She went to prison for 4 months, then went right into Drug Court. I thought drug court in Union County, Ohio was excellent. I’d rate it a 4 on the scale. I liked that it was a daily requirement. She learned that she could get past her anxiety about being around people, especially one who abused her. The abuser was also in her drug court. She didn’t tell me until the program was almost finished. She knew I would have reported him. She learned that she needed to accept all that she went through as an addict. She learned to be responsible for the things she brought on herself. She learned to be responsible for herself. They used a book in the drug court program, but I don’t know what the book was.
She said that she felt she got the most help from group sessions with other girls who could relate to her, so I’d say that is a 5 on the scale. I think she was desperately craving understanding and acceptance. She found that in the group sessions.
Our daughter had the support of my husband and I. We supported each positive decision she made. We supported her with letters and visits and a little extra money for food while she was in prison because she was pregnant while she was there. I’d rate our support as a 3 on the scale.
Our daughter didn’t feel that counseling by a therapist was very helpful to her, so I’d rate that a 2. I will say that the few times we went together to the sessions were very helpful to me. The therapist helped us separate ownership in the situation.
I honestly feel that the other thing that helped my daughter recover from addiction was when her boyfriend who she used drugs with told her he didn’t care about her anymore and she left him. I guess I’d rate that fortunate event a 1. That was just the thing she needed to move on to bigger and better things.
I hope this helps.
Something I would pass on to my former self (heck, sometimes even my current self!) is the tip “to not do for my addict that which he can do for himself.”
The ol’ teach-a-man-to-fish proverb.
I ask myself,
“Whose responsibility is this?”
“Is this something he is able to do for himself?”
“How will it benefit my addict in the long run to face, solve, or suffer the outcome(s) here?”
Surely, this ‘tip’ feels hard to swallow because everything I’ve chosen to do is because I care - right?! DOING makes me feel useful and important. But the more I let him take, the more I gave, and the more resentful and exhausted I became.
When I take responsibility for what is mine, and let him take responsibility for what is his (or not), I create more space in my life to take care of myself, fill my own cup, and then BE with my addict out of the overflow.
It was difficult when we realized that my brother was suffering from addiction. Back then I thought that if he just went to counseling or the doctor he could be quickly treated and poof his addiction would be gone.
I would definitely tell my former self that addiction is almost like a chronic disease and that there’s no one quick fix. Healing from addiction is not a sprint, more like a marathon, and I would tell my former self to not run out of fuel and to take some “me” time when I felt like I was running out of steam.
This reminds me of a post from earlier this summer, @katie related to allowing our loved ones to face natural consequences. When do I help and when do I leave him to feel natural consequences? There were some great contributions from @Mjiggity and @Sandy_Hall
The biggest tip I would pass on to my former self is GET EDUCATED! In addition, take advantage of supportive resources around me.
To be honest, having a real relationship with my mom is new to me and I’ve learned a lot in the past year about how to get the most out of it for both of us. Before, I would only talk to her whenever she called me, usually once a month or once every other month and usually when she was drunk. I would go through the motions of the conversation but when we were done talking I would go about my daily life and rarely think of her. I was always afraid of getting emotionally attached to her, only to have her let me down again. Several factors brought us back together, but one of them truly was trying to be more understanding and empathetic to her situation. She would always say no one loves her and that her whole family hates her. I know she’s burned some bridges but it made me sad that she felt so alone and rejected. I decided to start calling her and checking up on her, just to see how her day was. I even went to go visit her in her trailer park for mother’s day and she told me no one in the family had ever gone to visit her and she couldn’t remember the last time she got a gift. It kind of broke my heart to hear that so I knew that this meant a lot to her. I think over the years my mom has thought that if my family loves me they would help me financially or with a place to stay or other things, but I’m just trying to show her that you can still love someone without always giving them something. My mom knows I love her because of my everyday actions that show her I love her. Not because of how much money I’ve given her or if I’ve given her a place to stay. I hope I’m showing my family that it is possible to have a relationship with my mom without giving her money or needing to help her solve all her problems. My mom said that her sisters have been reaching out recently so that’s great news! After all, the opposite of addiction is connection
Another thing that that has really helped me during all this has been writing and finding a time to disconnect from everything and just be present. I try really hard to get up every morning early enough to do my devotionals, some meditation (I’m still learning how to really do it but just being silent and breathing deeply for a few minutes does the trick) and my writing. I’m human and some days I don’t, but I can tell you that the days I do get to do my routine I feel much more peaceful and joyful. I write about past hurts and what I have learned from them or how they have made me grow or even if they’ve hindered me in some way that I need to adjust. I write about how I’m currently feeling and I even put some of my emotions down in the form of poetry. My goal is to stay in tune with my emotions and how my body is feeling so that I don’t become to wrapped up in the whirlwind life that my mom has. So many ups and downs can send my anxiety and depression for a dangerously scary ride so I need to be sure to stay grounded and practice self care. If I’m too stressed out, I’ve learned to just turn off my phone, unwind and relax by being fully present in the present moment. Writing has always helped me stay grounded and let my emotions out in a safe way. I highly recommend it
Thanks so much for sharing this @carolzevallos! Journaling is such a great way to let everything pour out as well as monitor our feelings (and remind us that whatever emotion we’re feeling doesn’t last forever)! I personally love journaling - I write down three things I’m grateful for every day and at least one motivation for my day to get me going in the morning (along with a cup of coffee, of course )!
This is amazing, @carolzevallos! Thank you for sharing so honestly what you’re learning about being in relationship with you mom, loving her & allowing her to love you in return, and some of the practical things that help you.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to start meditating or journalling? What worked for you in the beginning?
In the beginning I would spend some time outside in my backyard early in the morning and do my stretching/little yoga that I know and then do my morning devotionals. After I felt relaxed and centered I would think about how I had been feeling lately and try and get it all written down. This did require me getting up an hour earlier in the morning so I would have this peaceful time in the morning before the hustle and bustle of each day. It keeps me centered for the day.
Another oldie but a goodie! Commenting here to say there are so many great tips in this thread, so bringing it back up to the top of the Village Community feed. I think many people can still find these useful.
Over dinner last night, my husband and I calculated my morning routine and time to get out the door = 2 hours.
It starts with 20 mins meditation and a slow sit down breakfast.
He couldn’t believe it all takes me 2 hours. I don’t know if I’d make it out the door some days if it didn’t
YES to daily gratitude practice and motivational reading and COFFEE.
What has helped me is asking my husband “How can I support you?” instead of telling him what I think he should do. His recovery is, after all, his recovery. Usually his response is, “Just keep doing what you’re doing.” Which is focusing on me, my response, my feelings and struggles and connections and boundaries.
You’re right about the information in this thread, @jacqui. The info is totally worth a good read.
I appreciated reading these earlier posts that are helping us today. In the last two months, I think that I have changed more than in the past ten years. My son has also changed. First of all, I have understood and begun living the one day at a time concept. In fact I have fully embraced it. That has allowed me to let go of anxiety and impatience. Today is where we are. Let’s just take it for what it is. Add to that the attitude of gratitude and each day is significantly better. Today I am grateful for the gorgeous spring day, walking with a friend, making time for myself.
Another change is allowing myself to be removed from the struggle with addiction. I might be affected by that struggle, but it isn’t my struggle. I get to set my boundaries, but that is the only control that I have. Prior to this new understanding, I lived on hyper alert, thinking that I had to be on guard and to fix it. I was frustrated and angry and depressed because I couldn’t figure out how to fix it, but I just “knew” that I was responsible to do so. (Lots of Parochial school guilt ).
My son is able to do his hard work of recovery, knowing that I hold him in positive regard, and that I trust him to figure it out. Of course, when he indicates that he wants help, I do. But now, I do the least help he needs, instead of taking over and doing it for him. If he expresses frustration, I ask him what he thinks he could do. Sometimes he asks me just to tell him what to do. Another change in me- I ask if it would help if I asked some questions so that he could problem solve. He doesn’t always like this response, of course. It is easier to not have to figure it out yourself. But it gently places the decision making and also the solution back on his shoulders.
Im aware that there will be setbacks. But we will face those one day at a time.
So much good stuff @Alair! It’s amazing how much a change in attitude and thinking can set you on a new path of growth and healing. And your improved attitude can have a positive effect on your loved one! So glad you’re here, learning and sharing along with us.
@PeerGroup5, I am so appreciative that this opportunity to be included in the We the Village Community. You might almost think that it’s been my answer to prayer.
( and I have prayed a lot of them.) It truly has been life changing. My focus has been my son and his struggles.
Yet, In the background, like an elephant in the room, is my husband’s addiction to alcohol. I can’t use the word battle with addiction, because he quit trying a long time ago. I realize that he has noticed the change in me. I have distanced myself a lot. I don’t talk about drinking alcohol at all. I ignore his choices, but I won’t go anywhere with him or interact. We have fought this fight for over 50 years. He has had forced detox several times due to health conditions and hospitalizations. Each time, he started drinking again, making no effort at recovery. If I had it to do over, I would have not stayed. But now, practically, financially, it is too late. I have created a busy and active life with friends at church. I live with the guilt that my choice to stay with an active alcoholic undoubtedly negatively influenced my adult son and had a big part in his struggles.
I have learned about the way the brain that is addicted needs to rewire itself. I doubt there is research on this, but as an adult child of an alcoholic, married to one for 53 years, and a mother of one who struggles with prescription opioid addiction and alcohol, I’d be willing to bet my brain is busy rewiring. I just thought of what I would say to the 21 year old me. Get out. Leave now. It’s the only chance that your loved one will seek treatment for the PTSD from Viet Nam, the trauma of being an abused child, and the battle he is fighting over alcohol.
I would tell that 21 year old young women that she doesn’t have the skills to be in this battle. And that now is the one chance that he might seek help, if you set boundaries and leave. I’m also gentle with that 21 year old me, because I thought that I could save him if I just loved him hard enough. I thought my marriage vows were sacred and binding. I thought that my husband deserved unconditional love because of all that he had been through in his first 24 years of life. Well, that love and devotion has been offered for over twice the number of years he suffered childhood abuse and Viet Nam. So, if I could have only told myself then, what I know now, I would have picked me and my life.
I love all you said. We are pretty much in the same place with our son. I have learned to step back and I feel so much relief. Thank you for sharing. Rae
Having some outside interests has given me my own personhood. I am enjoying that. I’m glad to know that you are too!
I love your suggestion of playing games and cards! In fact, it reminds me that we used to have game nights, and it might be time to resurrect that plan!