After your loved one goes to a substance abuse recovery center, you will probably feel a momentary relief.
Following a tumultuous period where you more than likely spent day after day trying to help them get better, shifting your focus to healing yourself should become a priority.
Whether it was your child, parent, sibling, spouse, or partner, watching someone lose him or herself to the wrath of addiction causes trauma—trauma that is most likely affecting your well-being more than you know.
The truth is, addiction not only damages the person using the substance, but it also worms its way into the hearts of all bystanders, tainting all those touched with continuous fear and continuous heartache.
There is nothing more frightening than watching someone you love wither away as a result of their own doing. Feeling helpless is a symptom. In cases where your loved one has been using heroin or oxycontin, there is a good chance that you have witnessed near-death overdoses.
In a recent National Public Radio interview, one mother even admitted to wishing that her daughter would’ve just died at one point in order to set them both free of pain.
Unfortunately, many people who have been personally affected by addiction are not equipped to heal themselves. It’s hard to rebuild trust and forgiveness after they have been compromised so many times. So, how do you start?
Consider the following tips:
One of the ways to address your physical, emotional, and mental needs is to implement an exercise routine. Consider anything from yoga to Zumba. It doesn’t have to be anything extreme. One of the best exercises for both physical and mental health is walking.
In fact, according to Dr. Thomas Friedman, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, walking has become known as a wonder drug. Even just walking fifteen minutes a day has multiple health benefits.
Perhaps you already have an exercise routine. In this case, consider adding something new to freshen it up and allow you to turn from the thoughts in your mind to being more grounded in your body.
As with adding any new exercise program, it is important to check with your doctor first.
Stop bringing up the past
Don’t deny your feelings about the past, but come to terms with the fact that the past is now the past. It is time for you to embrace the now.
If you find yourself saying things like “well, if it wasn’t for the fact that I just spent the last year dealing with…” or something similar, stop yourself. If you are reacting poorly in a situation, resist the urge to turn outward. Ask yourself—what’s really going on here? Are you really late to this meeting because of something that happened in the past? Or are you late because of something more present?
Learning to address the present can be difficult for someone suffering from a traumatic past. If you need help talking through your painful memories, consider meeting with a therapist or counselor.
Find your people
There is nothing like talking to someone who understands your experience. Al-Anon is just one example of support groups created by and for those whose loved ones suffer from addiction.
Whether you realize it or not, you have learned to live in a state of survival, always on edge wondering if the next time your phone rings it will be someone telling you that your loved one is gone.
As such, your reactions are most likely tethered to fleeing or fighting. It is essential to learn how to rewire your brain. Sometimes this is as simple as asking yourself, “do I feel safe?” If there is not an immediate threat to your life, take a deep breath. Take another and enter your day with courage.
Have your own life
Of all the pieces of advice, this is probably going to be the most challenging. After months or even years of dedicating your time to someone else, shifting your focus to yourself will not be easy.
You’ve begged, cried, argued, given up, given in, and begged again. You’ve tried to compromise with them. You’ve spent money and more money. You’ve felt defeated. And in the end, you’ve been left to stare into the vacant eyes of a stranger and feel your broken heart break once more.
Now, you’re supposed to just forget all of that, grab a pair of sunglasses and walk out into the sunshine? Well, actually—yes. In order to heal, you must learn how to trust again. Trust that your loved one is getting the care they need. When you do that, you can then start to remember who you are again and what makes you smile, express your creativity, and feel happy.
Try to think back to your life before addiction took center stage. Part of this tip is about letting go and allowing yourself the freedom to just do you.
Trust the process
Learning to trust the process will take time and practice but is essential for the continued progress of you and your loved one.
Trusting the process means that once your loved one is in a recovery facility, trust that he or she is now getting what they need. A huge part of this step is letting go—know that you have done your part and now it’s time to let them do theirs.
By trusting the process, you will free your mind from worrying unnecessarily. Of course, ceasing to worry will not happen overnight. But everyday, when you feel yourself beginning to worry, remind yourself that your loved one is safe.
You know the old saying that in order for you to help others, you must first help yourself? Well that is certainly the case here. In order to be a positive component in your loved one’s journey of recovery, you have to first attend to the emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being of yourself.