Fear

What motivates someone away from addiction and toward recovery? The million-dollar question. The number of lives that could be saved if there was an easy answer.  Our brains are wired for survival. So, it seems we would naturally choose what is good for our survival. But we don’t.  Addiction hijacks the survival system.  It is a repetitive self-destructive cycle fueled by fear.

Holding on to what is familiar prevents seeking a healthier alternative.  Even when the current situation is painful.  Fear keeps us from seeking a solution. Finding courage to persevere through the fear is the challenge of recovery.

Watching the disease consume my child was beyond fear.  It was agony.   Addiction is lethal.  I understood the risks.  I did everything in my power to get him into recovery.  Fear of losing him kept me trying.  But it was not in my power. I am his mother.  Not his God.  I had to step out of the way and let him find his own way.

I understand the three Cs of addiction.  I didn’t cause the addiction, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it. But I can contribute to it.  I think the same three Cs can be applied to Recovery.  I can model healthy behavior. I can create a community of support. I can connect to a higher power.  I can give back through service to others.  I can share what I have learned.  Practicing these activities helps me to keep the focus on myself.

My recovery gives me the courage to walk thru the fear.  I know I am not alone.

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Denial

Don’t Even kNow I Am Lying

I find denial to be one of the confounding issues of addiction.  How can an addict deny the mess and pain the disease has caused?  It is so obvious to everyone else. But it is outside the awareness of the one suffering from addiction.  Denial allows the addict to believe they are the only one suffering.  Denial perpetuates isolation and allows the disease of addiction to flourish.

Denial is also present in the non-addict.  It might look like:

Rationalization – “ He had a bad day”, “She is under stress” or “I am only trying to help.”

Minimization – “It isn’t really that big of a problem”, “She does not use everyday”, “It does not affect me.”

Over-functioning – “If I just take care of his obligations I can reduce his stress and they won’t use.”  “I like being busy so I don’t mind doing more than my share.”

Omnipotent “If I find the right program, say it the right way, he will agree to get help.”

Overcoming denial is a process.  It begins with awareness, followed by action which leads to acceptance.  I saw my son’s addiction the moment I discovered him in a blackout.  I was very familiar with the disease of addiction. However, I was in denial about my ability to get him sober.  I really believed I could love him sober.  I was in agony over my inability to stop the disease.  Gradually with support of others who had walked this path before me could I begin to let go.   Connecting with others helped me see my role in the disease differently.  Allowing others to support me while I walked this journey gave me the courage I needed to persevere.  This community of support helped me to connect with my higher power whom I call God.  And I began to feel relief.

Denial initially offers protection from the pain of the disease.  Healing begins when denial is penetrated.  Recovery is a journey.  It is not finite.  It is more of a loop.  I can be in acceptance and quickly return to denial.  I easily slip back into self-destructive behaviors. Recovery takes daily practice. And it is worth the effort, because I am worth the effort.

Recovery Resolution

This year I resolve to make myself a priority,to listen to my own voice over anyone else, to set limits and to self-soothe.

I realize I have the intrinsic motivation to take charge.  I have the compulsion to do more than my share.  As the single head of household I naturally assume responsibility for the management of the household, paying the bills, doing the chores, preparing the food.  As an entrepreneur I am solely responsible for my business.  I cannot afford to let things go.  If I do not do the work it would not get done.

The lifestyle I created suits my personality.  I like to be busy.   I am more comfortable being busy.  I feel the best when I am functioning at full capacity. I feel relevant and important.  I have a purpose and a place.  Fear of losing my place and of disappearing drives my relentless activity.  It is hard for me to sit and relax. However, the constant movement sets me up for burnout and exhaustion.

I also realize that I partner with others who do not do their share, or will gladly let me do it all.  I find this trait to be common with those who are suffering from the disease of addiction.  Their inaction causes them distress.  I am sensitive to distress. It is as if I catch their distress.  I am filled with fear and anxiety.  And my response to these disturbing feelings is over-functioning.  I step in, take charge and solve the problem.

I know that distress in my loved one causes distress in me. My feelings of distress motivate me to take unnecessary action.  If I can reduce your distress by over functioning, taking charge of what does not belong to me, I can solve the problem.   When the problem is solved my over-functioning behavior is reinforced.  I feel better. But at what price? I am exhausted, depleted and resentful.

Understanding the reason for my sensitivity to distress is helpful but does not make me feel better.  When I step in and solve a problem, I feel relevant, and important.  If I am useful I won’t be left alone.  Being left alone is what underlies my fear.

I understand by doing for others what they should do themselves interferes with their learning. I cannot expect others to change, or exhibit less distress. I cannot expect others to do what they are not capable of doing.  I cannot expect them to do their part.  But I do not need to do it for them.  I am only responsible for my part.

So, what is my part?  What do I need to change to feel more comfortable?  It is empowering to realize it is within my power to change my perceptions.  It also is within my ability to take different actions. Or to not act, to not respond, to let go.   I am learning to manage the fear that gets ignited when I do not take charge.  Don’t just do something, sit there.  The simple act of taking a deep breath of walking away or responding with a “that is interesting let me think about it”.

I used to think it was the others who needed to change.  If they did their part and respected my feelings I would feel better.  However, it is my responsibility to protect myself.  I can’t expect others to know what I need.  I am responsible for myself and I have tools to feel better.

Finding connection with positive people, in nature, and with God helps me feel better.  I can make good decisions for myself but I don’t need to make them for anyone else.  My loved ones also have a God of their understanding and it is up to them to make the connection and figure things out.

The anecdote to over-functioning and taking charge is to keep the focus on me.  My recovery is about finding my identity.  It is deciding what is important to me.   It is making myself a priority and not what I can do for someone else.

This year I will treat myself better.

Relapse

Recovery has taught me hope, faith and confidence. Fear dominated my thoughts during active addiction. And it continues to be present in my life. Recovery has not eliminated fear but it gives me tools to manage my fears. I understand I am powerless over the disease of addiction. I also believe there is a power greater than me to help me deal with my fears.

As with any chronic terminal disease relapse is a risk. My fear as a mother is relapse will be fatal. Losing my child to the disease of addiction is a terrifying thought. Somehow voicing that fear makes it feel more manageable. Sharing that fear with others who understand, who have also spent endless hours in the world worry brings me comfort. Finding people who understand can be a challenge.

When your child is suffering from a potentially terminal illness you expect and need support. The suffering of addiction is misunderstood. Often we blame the addict or the parent for the disease. Shame silences the suffering of addiction. The suffering is so difficult to tolerate and understand. Addiction is a thinking disorder. When the mind turns against the host, it becomes dangerous and lethal. When your mind is not working, thinking clearly is not possible.

Relapse is a symptom of addiction. Addiction is a chronic and progressive disease. Relapse does not mean treatment failed. To me relapse is evidence of the power of the disease.   In the case of other chronic diseases when symptoms reappear we don’t blame the victim, the treatment or the parents. We acknowledge the power of the disease. We offer support and encouragement. We look for solutions. We try a different approach. I believe the solution to relapse is to treat each other with compassion and understanding. I believe talking about the disease reduces the shame and isolation. Starting the conversation encourages healing.

Treatment works. Recovery is possible. I will continue to work a program of recovery. I will reach out to others, share my fears and connect to my higher power.

I am Worthy

For me worthiness is a core belief that I am ok.  Arriving at that belief has not been an easy journey for me.  My sense of shame robbed me of feeling worthy.  There were multiple contributors that gave me the perspective that I was flawed, broken and unworthy.  Today I honestly feel worthy.  I know I am enough and I have enough.  I see my strength.

I also recognize worthiness is not a permanent state of mind.  I have to practice feeling worthy daily.  I am sensitive to external forces.  It is hard for me to hear criticism.  I realize though having an internal sense of worthiness protects me from the external criticism of everyday life.  I used to think others in my life needed to change and be less critical – kinder in their comments.  I would grow increasingly frustrated at their unwillingness to change their perspective and unkind words.  I now see I can lead to the way to making the change and can guard myself against those critical comments or expectations of me.  I may not meet everyone’s expectations.  But I am ok with that.  I am ok with who I am.

I am selective in the feedback I choose to accept.  Not all feedback is accurate, valuable or helpful.  I am developing the tool to be self reflective and not overly self critical.  I can stop the shame tape of “I am flawed”.  Shame tells me I am flawed and worthiness tells me I am human.

Addiction damages relationship because it spews unworthiness.  If you felt good about yourself you would not poison yourself with self destructive behavior.  The self loathing present in addiction is contagious.  It is so painful to watch.  Perhaps it is my over developed sense of empathy which triggers my impulse to rescue.  I am learning to protect myself from external stimuli and the pain of addiction.  Detachment – your pain is not mine.  I can listen but not absorbed.  I can hear the negative hurtful words as an expression of pain.  I can consider and decide for myself what part of the feedback is useful and make adjustments.

When lightening strikes near me it scares me and I react.  I jump, my heart races and I am ready to respond.  But I quickly realize I have not been hit by lightening.  I am safe.  I can self soothe – breathe, detach and know that I am ok.  Feeling worthy helps me to stay calm in the midst of the storm of addiction.

Clarity

My mind is like a muscle group much like my abdomen.  If I want a strong core I have to do more than crunches and more than once a week.  To develop a mindset of serenity I need to exercise my mind frequently.  I need to pause, pray, ask for guidance.  I need to read, listen, meditate, write, reach out, relax, recreate.  Connecting with God, my higher power, frequently gives me the strength and courage to stay calm.  It gives me clarity, understanding and relief.

My perspective is changing.  It is such a relief to not take responsibility for another.  When I rescue and stop another’s pain it prevents their healing and burdens me.  It leads to exhaustion and losing myself. I am changing my response and my initial impulse to rescue and fix.  It is agony to see my child in pain.  I’d rather suffer than watch him suffer.  But I am learning that healing does not come without suffering.  I offer support and encouragement not a solution.

I am learning to see my value, to not accept the unacceptable.  I am learning to stay whole and not bend to every request.  I can say no.  I can listen and then choose how I will respond.  I have a new prayer. God help me to love myself as you love me, and love others how you would have me love them.

Thinking Disorder

Addiction is a baffling disease. It hijacks the survival instinct.  It makes you think differently.  It creates so much pain and destruction for the suffering addict and their loved ones.  I have been impacted by the disease of addiction as a child, spouse and mother.  The emotional dysregulation addiction causes is so painful especially for the highly sensitive – like me.  Our brains are wired for survival.  Dopamine is released when we do things for our survival.  Chemicals like drugs and alcohol cause us to release dopamine.  The brain is tricked into thinking that is good for survival.  Helping others releases dopamine.  The brain is tricked again.  Because not all helping is good for my survival.  I am learning the difference between good and bad helping.  I can now recognize the impulse to step in and rescue.  It is a normal survival instinct.  But it is not always the healthiest for me to take charge.  I don’t have to act.  I can pause, pray and ask for guidance.  My recovery has not been a straight path to health.  There have been a lot of detours.  Changing my perspective and adjusting my attitude has helped me to think more clearly and to feel better.