Your first duty in life is toward your own wellbeing and happiness. ~ Rob White
Many parents are in pain because of the drug or alcohol abuse of their children. Their lives have been turned upside down.
Taking care of yourself can easily go by the wayside when things feel overwhelming.
Often we feel confused, sad, angry, frustrated and fearful when we realize that our child has a substance use problem.
Parents may feel guilty or selfish if they consider taking the time to help themselves. The truth is that your mental, emotional and physical health suffers when you are under stress for a long period of time.
When you reach out for support, you are not only helping yourself, but you will be able to make better choices and help your child in a more positive way.
Recognizing that this is a big problem is the first step. The second step is knowing the benefits of reaching out for help.
I remember making that first call to an addictions counselor and how awkward and scared I felt. Looking back, I’m so glad I did because after the first call, it became easier each time to reach out. There are no guarantees, but reaching out for outside help is one of the reasons our kids enter treatment and finally reach recovery.
I finally felt more empowered in this new situation which I found myself that I had never expected or anticipated.
Walking through your fear allows you to get the help that will make the difference in your well-being. Your courage is within you. When you peel back the layers, you will find it.
What Addiction Does to a Family
Why do you need to reach out for help? Let me first share with you some comments I’ve heard from parents about how they are feeling as they try to cope with their child’s addiction.
Since April I’ve been sending out a survey to new readers.
Here are some responses from one of the questions:
What do you struggle with most?
- “Everything – pain, detachment, not getting caught up in trying to ‘save’.”
- “Constantly worrying when I get calls late at night.”
- “Guilt, shame, fear”
- “The constant turmoil created by having a son who is an addict.”
- “My obsession with my addict”
Know that if you are feeling this way, you are not alone.
If you didn’t get a chance to complete the survey and would like to, the Information is at the bottom of this post.
Benefits of taking care of yourself
You might ask, “Why worry about taking care of myself, when I am focused on my child?”
The answer is that taking care of yourself can make the difference because:
- You will not feel so stressed and anxious.
- You will feel more empowered, communicate better and make wiser decisions.
- You will know how to support your child in a positive way.
- Your fear will subside, because solutions will begin to flow more freely and you will feel confident that you can act on your intuition.
- You will not feel so suffocated by your child’s substance abuse issues.
- Your feelings of shame will lesson when you are supported by others and have the opportunity to communicate your feelings.
- Your mental and physical health will improve.
- Your life will feel more balanced.
- You will begin to feel inner peace.
Ways That You Can Take Care of Yourself
There are many ways to reach out and get the help that you need.
Below is a list of possibilities. Everyone’s needs are different, as one size doesn’t fit all.
CRAFT – Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) helps family and friends learn effective strategies for helping their loved one to change. It helps family members feel better. CRAFT works to affect the loved one’s behavior by changing the way the family interacts with him or her.
Three goals of CRAFT are to help families move their loved one toward treatment, helps reduce the loved one’s alcohol and drug use, whether or not the loved one has engaged in treatment yet, and improve the lives of the concerned family and friends.
I’ve recently attended a training about CRAFT. What I like about it, is that it is researched based. In other words studies show that when families use the CRAFT strategies, they have a greater chance of getting their child to agree to attend a treatment program.
Al-Anon Family Groups – Al-Anon is a 12 step support group for anyone who is struggling with a family members substance abuse. Often parents are told by counselors to attend. Groups can be found in cities world-wide and most large cities have a parent group. I have felt that a parent group is a better fit for my situation, but the suggested practice is to try six groups before you decide if you want to continue with Al-Anon. Nar-Anon Family Groups and Families Anonymous are two other 12 step choices. Al-Anon complements other forms of therapy and is way to connect with others who share their personal stories, offer support and encouragement.
Family Counseling – Meeting with a counselor trained in addiction can be very beneficial to all family members, especially parents. Alcohol and drug addiction are both considered “family diseases.” The family dynamic in drug and alcohol addiction is incredibly powerful.
Counseling can help address an unhealthy imbalance in the family structure. This may be one of your first steps in moving your child toward treatment. Counseling with your child as well as other family members who are feeling the pain of the addiction can help move your family toward recovery and healing. I have attended therapy at different times along this journey. I have found that being able to discuss my personal issues with a trained professional has been extremely beneficial.
Coaching – Coaching is not counseling, therapy or advice giving. It does not dwell on the past, rather it leads the client to the future with goal setting. Coaching does not endorse any specific type of recovery. A recovery coach is not a sponsor. Coaching can be helpful for the parent or family member.
Coaches often work with clients to discover their values so that they have a better understanding of themselves. Coaches use questioning as a technique to help clients discover their own answers to what is keeping them stuck. Finding the positive aspects in a negative situation can also be a technique that is used. It helps create a mental shift in how you view your current situation.
Parent Hotline – If you are interested in talking to an addictions counselor to get some immediate help, call The Parents Toll-Free Helpline – 1-855-DRUGFREE – (1-855-378-4373) – Mon.-Fri. – 10:00-6:00 EST. I have personally met the two counselors, Jerry and Denise. They are both wonderful resources, caring and compassionate and will share their wisdom and guidance as they listen to your question or concern.
Physical Exercise – This may seem like a no brainer, but when parents are overwhelmed with their child’s substance abuse, physical exercise may fall by the way side. A simple walk, game of tennis, a run with music from your headphones, yoga or a workout at the gym are all ways to help keep your body fit. Exercise can calm your mind, keep you focused and helps you relieve your stress. You will feel more relaxed and happy. Especially during this time of emotional overwhelm. Make every effort to start or keep up a regular exercise program.
Personal Health – During this time, it is especially important to pay attention to your personal health. Keep your doctors and dentist’s appointments. Pay attention to any health concerns. Eating right or sleeping well can be a challenge when you are concerned about your child. You cannot be supportive of your child’s recovery if you are run down and stressed out. Keep personal health and your overall well-being as your priority.
Meditation – So often we think of meditation as one of those voodo practices that sounds just a little too mystical. That being said, I continue to hear more and more from mainstream America, about the benefits of a regular meditation practice. From someone who is practical and no-nonsense (that would be me), I started with yoga and was gently encouraged to try meditation. Although I’m still working on reining in my wandering mind, I enjoy receiving the benefits of meditation.
Scientific studies have shown that meditation helps us be happier, less stressed, healthier and better able to deal with the unpredictability of life. Meditation is free and something that becomes easier with practice. There are guided meditation tapes you can listen to or a number of strategies that help, such as counting your breath to 108. Yes, patience and persistence helps. As you practice, the feeling of calm will continue to become irresistible.
Gain Knowledge About Substance Abuse – There are many books, videos and websites that will inform you about substance abuse. Rather than list them again here, please check my recent post, Are You the Parent of an Addicted Child Who Needs Resources?
Your life might look a lot different when you take care of yourself. I’ve talked to parents who are anxious and stressed about their situation. Then there are others with similar issues who react calmly and do what they can to find a little positive light in every day.
By practicing self-care, your stress and pain will be lessened. The chances that your child will recover are greater. You will feel empowered and be more at peace with the situation.
Remember there is always hope for your child.
Some examples of self-care practices that have helped others will be coming soon in a future post.
What are your thoughts about taking care of yourself while dealing with your child’s substance abuse issues? How has it helped you? What has worked for you? Please let us know in comments.
Are you concerned about your adolescent’s substance use? Getting support from someone who has walked in your shoes can be life changing. Coaching is a way to have more clarity and understanding about your situation and to take steps to move forward in a positive way. Click here to book a strategy session with me and find out how coaching can help you.