Addiction is a hot topic right now, still after many years in the spotlight. I often wonder why and then recognize that my time is better spent accepting the problem, supporting active recovery and bringing awareness to an issue that clearly isn’t going away anytime soon.
I recently had the pleasure of attending an event that celebrated individuals and their remarkable contributions to alcohol and addiction treatment. As I sat, listening to stories, surrounded by my peers, I was touched by the level of dedication from both the honorees and the attendees; all gathered together with one goal in mind. All of us, connected by our own why, determined to fight against the battle of addiction, with the understanding that our efforts have meaning.
I never intended to work in this field. In fact, because I too am in recovery, I began my career with the notion that I needed to focus on something outside of addiction. Misguided by the thought that my personal and professional life were meant to be separate. As time went on, I was drawn toward recovery, fascinated by the disease and the misinformation on the topic, along with a lack of resources available to individuals and families struggling. An internal drive and resilient nature paved the way for me to shift my focus; recognizing the importance of having empathy and giving back to my community.
Last night, I was talking with a mother whose son is in the grips of his addiction. She quickly drew a picture, one of which we’re all too familiar with. A sensitive young man, with great potential, unable to see what his behavior is doing to both himself and his family. Using every day, lashing out, stacking up consequences and unwilling to try something different, at least for the time being. Substance abuse doesn’t discriminate, evidenced by the large number of cases we experience on a regular basis. In moments like these, when unwillingness is so prevalent, we hold a safe space for the loved ones, offering support and resources, keenly aware that recovery is possible. We know this to be true because in time we observe the shift in our clients, the ones who are ready to surrender to a new way of being.
Each day, someone loses their battle against addiction. A mother buries her son, a child grows up without their parent, a student drops out of school and a friend is thrown in jail. The consequences are endless. Addiction is widely present in our culture, lingering in the wings, ready to strike. And the dedicated treatment professionals, primed for the counterattack are the real warriors. The work is tedious, heartbreaking and exhausting at times. However, miracles happen more often than we think. When a person seeks help, begins to do the work and the light comes back into their eyes; that’s a miracle. Families reuniting, dysfunctional relational patterns changed and lives restored; another miracle. Doctors, clinicians and case workers showing up, day in and day out; what a miracle.
Hope, courage, inspiration and miracles. The four pillars of recovery. Change is possible, but not without a tireless and collective effort. Taking the opportunity to honor the ones who are helping to make a difference not only places a value on the work but further sparks our purpose. We stand united and dedicated to working in the trenches, side by side; one day at a time.
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism or addiction, I empathize and offer my unconditional support. I’ve also included some useful tools below to help guide you through the recovery process.
(1) Reach Out for Support
A commonality among those dealing with addiction is feeling lost and not knowing what to do. Admitting there’s a problem or asking for help feels scary and overwhelming. It’s not easy exposing yourself or your reality, especially considering how stigmatized substance abuse continues to be in this culture. That being said, trying to deal with the problem alone can have detrimental effects to both your emotional and physical wellbeing. There are many options available to you. Support and guidance are crucial components for learning how to survive during this challenging time. Start by talking with a friend or reaching out to someone in your community for appropriate tools and referrals.
(2) Find Your Own Recovery
Taking care of yourself is by far the most important part of the recovery process. If you aren’t addressing your own emotional health, it’s easy to fall back into old patterns, especially when it comes to a loved one’s addiction. Oftentimes when working with clients, I hear, “why would he/she do this to me?” or “if he/she would only quit or do things differently then everything would be okay.” There’s an intense level of desiring in these types of dynamics that our thought process becomes one-sided, always with a naive, yet understandable belief that our happiness and wellbeing is dependent on another person. Wanting someone to be better, do better and make decisions that no longer hurt us. This type of magical thinking is common; believing that the person who needs to change is the addict. However, taking personal responsibility for your own behavior (not someone else's addiction) can foster healing and the chance to reclaim your sense of self; leading to great emotional freedom. I’ve seen this change happen for my clients and it’s a beautiful thing. I suggest finding a trusted confidante, therapist, coach or a support group that allows you to speak honestly about how you’re feeling
(3) Set Boundaries
This is one of the most difficult practices for many of us, myself included. Setting boundaries is painfully uncomfortable because it’s counterintuitive. Addicts are good at manipulating the situation and getting what they want. I don’t say that disrespectfully, it’s only meant to shed light on the behavior. It’s a powerless feeling to know that you can’t fix someone or solve the problem. What you do have control over is what you’re willing to tolerate and how consistent you remain in your approach to change. I recommend making a list outlining what your bottom lines are with regards to your person. Once you have a clear understanding of what you’re willing to accept vs. not accept, start by disengaging, no matter how challenging that may be. For example, try not picking up the phone every time your loved one calls in crisis and wait until you feel less activated before calling back. Setting and maintaining boundaries will become easier to tolerate and sustain with a little patience, self-care and consistency.