Saturday, February 20, 2016

Addiction

I try to be a positive person, and my online accounts reflect that. We all have struggles we don't share freely. One of those stresses for me is the addiction a family member is dealing with. 

No, that's not correct. 

Typing the words "dealing with" isn't accurate. The person walked away from help this week. From the best opportunity. I would be lying if I used the words dealing with.

The distrust. The disappointment. The stress. The hurt. The frustration. If you know anyone with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, you have experienced all of these, probably simultaneously. And I know more than one person struggling with addiction. Many of us do. Every single person in the addict's life ends up picking up the slack and cleaning up the mess.

Sometimes there are bright moments, like when the person promises to get help and do what he or she needs to do. You get your hopes up. You talk about how things will finally change. But then you experience a huge letdown.

The biggest challenge when this problem started was figuring out what to do about it. I first took the approach of distancing myself from the person. I would never reach out and the stress of dealing with the chaos that the addiction created fell upon other family members. I could see the toll it was taking on them. It reached the point where loved ones' health was suffering because of it, and I'm not talking about the addict. Then I took a more hands-on approach. I offered rides to court appointments, doctor's visits, bought meals and helped in other ways. Neither method works. I coped by using lessons I learned from yoga, namely: The situation is out of my control. Only the addict is responsible for his or her actions. 

I learned a lot from my experience with a relative who is addicted to drugs. The most important: Don't blame yourself. Only the addict can take responsibility for what he or she does. Don't be manipulated into feeling guilty, and don't make excuses for them. Take care of yourself. (I do that via yoga and focusing on my health.) Don't believe what they say; actions mean more than words. Speak your truth. Be honest about how the addiction is affecting you and don't bottle up your emotions. This last lesson I finally learned in the last couple of weeks, when I burst into tears. It was as if a dam had exploded, letting years of frustration, sadness, guilt and anger come rushing out.

I have to let this go somehow. I have tried to help and I can only hope this person will try to change. As someone reminded me recently, "you reap what you sow." All I can focus on is what I can control, which is really just my breath and my attitude. 
Have you been in this situation? How did you cope?