Priorities. We all have them. And we all have different ones. Mine involve taking care of myself first. I’ve found out, by tough trial and error, that if I don’t, everything else falls by the wayside. Just one example: if I don’t eat well, or get enough sleep, and I get sick, who’s going to mind the store?
It’s the old oxygen mask analogy. If I don’t keep myself alive, who’s going to keep the kids alive?
Self-care is not selfish. It’s good common sense.
Because everyone benefits.
From From Survival to Recovery, p. 19:
“Surrounded by other recovering people, we are learning how to heal our broken hearts and create healthy, productive, joyful lives…(our program) has led many of us to serenity, fellowship, and relief from loneliness and pain.”
Because of the stigma and shame surrounding all forms of addiction, many of us have kept our loved one’s problem (or our own) shrouded in secrecy. I did most of my life, and only in recent years have I dared to share my family disease with the rest of the world. I realized that until I faced the dreaded subject and learned more about it, it would continue to rule me and my family.
“It” is addiction and all of its effects and consequences. They are far reaching, especially for the family of an addict. And they can become terribly complicated as we become enmeshed in the lives of those we love. Being in the rooms of recovery has helped me untangle the mess.
That’s why a number of programs have been so valuable to many of us who suffer. We break out of our isolation and share our stories with others like us. We gain valuable perspective by listening to others. Our self-esteem soars as we see others listening to us and validating our experiences. We are offered compassion and understanding inside the rooms when it may be hard to find either of those things on the outside.
And we begin our journey toward getting our lives back when once they seemed to be lost.
“In Al-Anon, the answer to ‘What if?’ Is: ‘Don’t project! Don’t imagine the worst; deal with your problems as they arise. Live one day at a time.’ I cannot do anything about things that haven’t happened; I will not let the past experiences make me dread the unknown future. ‘It is a vain and unprofitable thing to conceive either grief or joy for future things which perhaps will never come about.'” (One day At a Time in Al-Anon pg. 193)
In another recovery book is this quote: “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow; it only saps today of its strength.” A.J. Cronin said it better than I ever could. If I choose to put my foot in the future and worry about things that haven’t happened yet, both my feet are no longer planted in the present, and I’m not focused on what’s happening right now. The present, whether good or bad, is the only thing I can genuinely experience. So I owe it to myself to live it, learn from it, benefit from it, and go to sleep.
Tomorrow will come soon enough.
“I am the adult child of two alcoholics. Before I came into Al-Anon, I had no dreams or hope. I saw my life through my husband’s drinking. I had heard about Al-Anon, but couldn’t conceive how it could help me. As long as my husband was still drinking and had no intentions of stopping, how could going to meetings and focusing on myself make a difference in my life? My existence felt like an out-of-control whirlwind that nothing could stop…
Without Al-Anon I would be on a dead-end road. Instead, my path is one of belief in the gift of recovery.” From Hope for Today, August 31:
Substitute “my husband’s drinking” for my daughter Angie’s drug problem and that’s my story. I was so joined at the hip with my child that I couldn’t separate my life from hers. Hers was chaos, so mine was too. As her parent, I felt overly responsible for her problems, and I took on too much. It helped her not at all when I shielded her from accountability and took on the blame myself. I needed to find some relief.
My recovery program has given me some tools to manage my life better. I’ve learned to detach with love, I’ve let go of my guilt, stopped enabling, and I’ve learned to have faith in someone other than myself. Though I thought I did at first, I did not know what was best. Being in the rooms was a complete education for me and I learned how to cope with Angie’s addiction more effectively.
When I was willing to face the fact that there is no magic bullet to save my daughter, I discovered a new freedom. Yes, I felt sad about my powerlessness, but sadder still would have been losing my mind and my well-being trying to save hers.
I almost did. But I’ve learned how “changed attitudes can aid recovery.” I just needed to find the courage to change. And the will and the humility to ask my Higher Power to help me do the work.
Life is still good. I know how to be happy now by altering my attitude. “It’s a simple program, but it isn’t easy.”