A dear friend, the mother of a recovering addict, recently wrote to me: I suffered greatly for ten long years with my son’s addiction. One of the most valuable lessons I learned was the importance of never loosing my voice to express my feelings, thoughts, and fears. I’ve also learned that that my body won’t be silenced either. If I waiver or loose focus on my personal self care, my body reacts (illness, rashes, digestive issues, fatigue, headaches, depression) and reminds me it has a voice too. I must continue to listen to my inner voice and stay balanced. It is essential for my health.
My reflection: The fact that our bodies react to stress is medically substantiated. Addiction brings incredible tension, especially to the family of the sick loved one. When my son was in active addiction, I plastered a smile on my face and went to work. I could fool some people, but I couldn’t fool my body. My health suffered.
Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction takes a hard toll on our spirit, mind, and body. The longer stress lasts, the more damaging it becomes. Those of us who love addicts often live with chronic tension. Today, I will pay attention when my body gives me signs and work on developing a specific program that helps me relieve stress: running, writing, taking to my support group, meditating, and praying. I must take care of myself.
My heart goes out to you and all of us who have suffered along with our loved ones. I/we too have been on this journey for ten years and counting, with all the ups and downs and stressors that go along as well. Although I practice self care, including time for exercise, meeting up with friends, journal writing, walks in nature, listening to music, talking to trusted counselors, support groups etc, I find there is a lingering sadness in my mother’s heart that has taken up permanent residence there. Along with the dragon (the addiction) that has resided all those years in our living room and sometimes wakes up and breathes fire, other times slumbers while hoarding its golden prize it is not yet willing to relinquish – my son and his freedom. A wise guide told me recently that I am suffering, quite understandably, from what she called “compassion exhaustion.” Maybe you are too. I try to practice lovingkindness for myself, then extend it to my loved ones, then to all who are suffering. It is comforting.
Maureen, I love the term ‘compassion exhaustion.’ What a perfect way to explain the result of unrelenting stress and trauma. I asked Dr. MacAfee about this and he responded, “Be patient with yourself. You’ve been vigilant a long time.” His words help me to breathe a little easier. Thanks for sharing. We walk a similar road. My love to you.
We hold on to this false vision of our child believing that one day the child of our dreams will return. Addiction has destroyed that dream and due to our willful blindness we focus on attempts to control believing we must play a role in saving the child of our dreams. We will never know who our child in recovery will be, this will be a new child. A new child that we will develop a new and loving relationship with. A relationship built on compassion, understanding and love. The child of our dreams is gone forever, never to return. We must grieve the loss of the child of our dreams and focus on our new child, our child of recovery. Long term recovery is based on a lifestyle change for both our child and the family. We are unified with one goal and that is to maintain and strengthen recovery. It is a family focused recovery lifestyle that gives life new meaning and purpose, one that leads to true peace and serenity. May it be so for you.
Yes, Pat, you’re right. We have to let go of our false vision of the child of our dreams and accept with love and compassion the child in recovery. God bless them for having the courage to find recovery. This acceptance – for both the child and the family – leads, as you rightfully note, to true peace and serenity. God bless you and your family for staying strong for so many long years.