I am excited to open my platform to the Foundations Recovery Network and one of their amazing Writers!
Along with beautifully capturing the life of a vivacious and talented young woman and mother gone far too soon, the obituary for 30-year-old Madelyn Linsenmeir also contained a decidedly hopeful message that helps dispel popular myths about people who struggle with addiction.
Highlighting how addiction is a disease — not “a choice” or “a weakness” — the writers also thanked the rehab treatment center, hospital, jail and court workers who responded with the “compassion” and “respect” those who struggle with addiction deserve and advised anyone who can’t see “a human being in need of help” to “consider a new profession.”
Stories like Madelyn’s, not to mention a growing awareness of the opioid crisis that affects every possible demographic and claims the lives of 116 people per day in the US, help put a very human perspective on such an important issue.
That said, there is still a significant learning curve that can feel intimidating — not only to those facing addiction, but for family and friends walking alongside them, and that’s why separating fact from fiction and truly understanding your loved one’s addiction is so important.
Acknowledge Their Fears of Recovery
For many people who haven’t struggled with addiction, starting over in the recovery process can seem so logical, so easy. Quit abusing (insert chosen substance), and you will have a second chance at a better, healthier, more fulfilling life. While that’s precisely what so many people seeking treatment are aiming for, it’s just not that cut and dry.
There are a number of pervasive fears that can make the journey difficult. It can be the fear of navigating unknown territory, of feeling unsure and uneasy about what life without drugs or alcohol looks like. Another fear that often weighs heavily on someone in recovery is the fear of failure, namely what if someone pursues sobriety and takes a major step backward?
There’s hope in knowing these fears are common during the journey. For Bo Brown, featured on Heroes in Recovery, he credits the tools he picked up in treatment with helping assuage his fear of failure. In addition to attending meetings and reading books to further educate himself about addiction and recovery, he was proactive about meeting people in recovery who’ve been successful for many years and getting a sponsor and working the steps. Knowing recovery is a life-long process, he poured his “entire being” into sobriety.
Understand What a Day in Their Life is Like
For anyone regularly abusing alcohol or drugs, there’s no predictable pattern of how one day, let alone a week or a month, will go. The unpredictable nature of the disease itself — not to mention how long somebody has been using and how that has affected him or her mentally over the years — can make life exceedingly difficult for the person’s spouse, parents and friends.
Sometimes the person struggling will behave in a hurtful way he/she isn’t intending to. Maybe they’ve grown distant, seem angrier, more on edge or is caught in a number of lies. While it’s difficult not to take it personally, it’s important to remember your loved-one isn’t trying to hurt you on purpose. Behavior that may have been so out of character in the past is now at the mercy of the disease.
While self-care is something consistently emphasized for those struggling with addiction or in recovery, it’s also important for their friends and family as well. Whether it’s sleepless nights spent worrying, feelings of depression, sadness, significant changes in physical health or weight, anger or hopelessness, those standing with a loved one(s) need support and encouragement, too.
It’s been reported that caregivers who don’t find positive coping skills and prioritize their mental health can experience burnout and compassion fatigue. So, to better help and care for the one you love, it’s imperative to take care of yourself. By learning to set boundaries, finding ways to manage stress and taking care of your body with sleep, a healthy diet and exercise that can alleviate stress, the overwhelming journey of loving someone through addiction can feel a little less so.
For more information on helping a loved-one struggling with addiction or to find a community of like-minded individuals facing a similar situation, resources are available here.
By Christa Banister
A writer for The Life Challenge.
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It’s a family disease and we’re all still learning,
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