“You get what you get; it’s what you do with it that counts”. This reminds me of the three As which we discuss in my loved ones’ recovery group: awareness, acceptance, and action.
Awareness — When we’re ensnarled in the midst of our loved one’s addiction we often jump from crises to crises. We become addicted to the addict and accustomed to the melodrama. We busy ourselves putting out fires, picking up the pieces after a relapse, and waiting for the next shoe to fall. Our thinking becomes distorted. We’re so consumed with our loved one’s addiction that we fail to take care of ourselves. Although we didn’t ask for it, we got what we got. And until we slow down and recognize our part in the addiction dance we won’t be able to make the changes needed to better handle the situation.
Acceptance — It’s no coincidence that the first of the 12 steps says, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol that our lives had become unmanageable.” Unless we fully embrace this wisdom, we won’t get beyond trying to control outcomes over which we have no control. Our efforts are futile and lead to anger, disappointment, and frustration. Yet, we persist. That’s been the case for me. My mind recognizes that I can’t control my son, but my heart sometimes wavers. Old habits die hard. So I work hard to not stick my spoon in my adult son’s bowl by offering unsolicited advice, asking too many questions, and rushing in to fix a problem. I also try to not berate myself when I slink back into unhealthy ways of relating to my son, like nagging him to schedule a doctor’s appointment.
Action — What do you do with what you get? Instead of saying “I’m upset because my loved one abuses substances,” focus on taking positive action. There’s lots of help available from professionals, as well as family and friends in recovery: http://www.al-anon.alateen.org; http://motivationandchange.com/outpatient-tr4eatment/for-families/craft/overview. Here are several Do’s and Don’ts to put into action.
Don’t nag, manipulate, blow up or shut down.
Don’t talk to a loved one when he or she is intoxicated or high.
Don’t make excuses.
Don’t make snap decisions.
Don’t keep secrets.
Don’t dwell in the past or project into the future.
Don’t wallow in self-pity for what you don’t have.
Don’t regret past mistakes because you didn’t know better at the time.
Do express gratitude for what you do have.
Do set boundaries but try to be flexible.
Do take care of yourself.
Do seek help and support.
Do face what you got with compassion and an open heart.