Finding The Courage To Get Back Up Again
Finding The Courage To Get Back Up Again
Being in a relationship with someone that suffers from addiction is hard, and it takes tremendous courage. If there was one attribute that I could say would be the most helpful in our situations, it would be courage.
Listen to the podcast episode here:
Read the transcript and find more details here:
It’s the second week of school for us, and I am feeling exhausted to be truthful. I am tired. School is kicking my butt. My son, Henry, my sweet little nine-year-old, had a really rough week at school.
And he and I had a fascinating conversation yesterday that I thought, oh, I need to tell you guys about it because I do think it will pertain to you all as well. So he has a new class this year. He’s in fourth grade, and he got in trouble yesterday. He was called out of the classroom for something that I didn’t think was his fault, nor did he.
Now look, I have kids that definitely get in trouble and deserve to get in trouble. I know that about my children. But in this case, I think this was a bad call, and we all make bad calls, right? So bless his teacher.
She’s doing the best she can in a really stressful situation.
Henry is one of the most sensitive kids, and he tries very hard to be perfect all of the time. He puts enormous pressure on himself not to let people down, and to always get the best grades. He just has this weight on his shoulders that I’ve seen him carry around since he was a little boy. And I do believe it’s innate because if anyone knows me, they know that I’m not concerned with the grades my kids bring home. I think it’s self-inflicted pressure, which kind of reminds me of us too, to be honest with you. I was not a great student at all, but I do put a lot of pressure on myself to be the best around my house, with my family, and with my work.
Sometimes it’s helpful to have that high bar, and sometimes it’s ridiculous, and it can run you into the ground and make you feel incredibly exhausted and broken. And it works against you.
So my son has inherited this trait, unfortunately. And so every time he feels he disappoints somebody, he acts fine in front of them. So in the classroom, if he gets reprimanded or gets spoken to negatively, he will look happy and like he’s received it and has moved on. But internally, he feels humiliated and carries that shame with him until he gets in the car at the end of the day. And then he just starts crying and unloading.
I know this is a pattern with him.
So at the beginning of the school year, I always say, listen, this is how Henry copes. You’re not going to know that he’s upset because he pretends that everything is fine. And then he comes home to his safe spot and his safe people. And he lets it go. When you’re teaching him, please, if you could, gentle and softness work best with Henry.
Some of my other kids need somebody who’s a lot more strict and structured and kind of gets in their faces a little bit. That works well for some of them, but for Henry, he just needs soft and kind, and he will do the rest of the work. Like he gets it right away and redirects easily and wants to please.
It does sound like us, doesn’t it? I mean, are you listening to the way I’m describing my kid and saying, ah, yeah, me too? It’s true. We all are people pleasers and the type of people that hold ourselves accountable to an incredibly high standard in most areas, if not all, areas of our lives. We all are our worst critic and feel deep shame and embarrassment when we let people down.
We’re working with a wonderful woman who is an occupational therapist to help him. And part of this feedback that I’m having with her is that I feel like Henry just takes life a little too seriously and needs to loosen up and have a little more fun.
Don’t you feel like we could use a little bit more fun in our lives sometimes too?
Don’t you feel like sometimes we need to loosen up and have a little bit more fun? And I’m not talking about drinking or using drugs or anything like that. I’m just saying sometimes we can take this whole addiction stuff and desire for change and feeling better way too seriously. Sometimes we need to let go and loosen up and just forget about our problems and all the ways we can improve. Sometimes we need to put down the self-help book and stop trying so hard. And remember what it feels like to have fun in our lives.
Can you remember a time when you really let it go? I don’t know what that is for you. What gets you in the flow when you’re just having fun and time goes by so quickly?
I remember watching Oprah on TV, and she was interviewing George Lucas. And he was saying when he was writing Star Wars, he would sit in front of the computer and write for so long, he’d look up at his clock and it would be seven hours later. And he had forgotten to eat and get up and move because he was so in the flow of writing Star Wars; he was in his creative jam.
And I think that’s wonderful. That’s the way we should feel. And so one of the questions I would ask you is:
What is your flow?
What helps you? It could be yoga or painting or exercising. It could be hanging out with your girlfriends. Maybe it’s decorating or writing. It could be anything, but what is it that just makes you forget about time and lets you just do your thing, do your purpose, do what gives you joy? Let’s do more of that, right? Let’s add more of that stuff to our lives before we add all of the busy-ness again.
When Henry came home, and he got into the backseat of the car and crumbled just fell apart. My husband picked him up from school that day, so I wasn’t there in the car.
But he came home, and I scooped him up and brought him into my bed and cuddled with him and let him just cry and cry and cry. I was listening to him, and afterward, we talked about what had happened. And I said, babe, you know, you got to go back to school. And he said, I can’t, I’m too embarrassed. I’m too ashamed.
Which just killed me, broke my heart for him. And I said, but listen, Henry, you are a courageous young man, and you can do hard things. And he said, mom, I’m not courageous. I’m sitting here crying like a baby about this. And I said crying does not mean that you are not courageous. Courage means you cry. And then you choose to pick yourself back up and try again. That’s courage.
Courage is being willing to fall apart and keep trying and trying and trying.
And I thought about us. And I thought being married to somebody that suffers from addiction is hard, and it takes tremendous courage. If there was one attribute that I could say would be the most helpful in our situations, it would be courage.
And courage is not about leaving or staying. It’s not about self-advocating or speaking up for yourself or learning when to keep a quiet mouth or all the other tools we talk about. The most important thing about courage is that you try. That you recognize you don’t have this mastered, and you shouldn’t have this mastered because you’ve never done this before.
You’re learning as you go. This is a new position for you to be in a relationship with somebody with addiction. You’ve never been in the world of addiction before, or you’ve never been in love with somebody who suffers from addiction. You might have grown up with it in your household when you were younger, but you weren’t in love. You didn’t have this dynamic.
So you shouldn’t have the answers. You can’t have the answers. You’re learning as you go. Addiction is unpredictable. You can’t rely on anything. When you’re married to addiction, nothing is stable. Nothing is steady. There’s no foundation. It’s all rocky. And you don’t know what you’re going to get tomorrow or the next month or the next year.
So how do you prepare for that?
You can’t. You have to take it one day at a time. That’s why that slogan is so popular in AA – one day at a time. So when things go wrong, when you make mistakes, because you will and I will, and we all will for the rest of our lives. It doesn’t matter if you fall apart or if your life is a mess, or if you’ve got a thousand things to do and you’re procrastinating. It doesn’t matter how clean your house is or how well you’re performing at your job.
Or if your kids are a mess right now and not happy and doing poorly. What matters, what really needs to be held accountable is whether or not you are getting back up and trying again.
That’s the only thing that you should measure yourself. Your success is not your tears, not your failures, not how put-together your life looks or if you’re a hot mess. That’s irrelevant.
The outcomes are relevant. It’s when you cry when you come home, and you crumble. When you fall apart like Henry, like me, sometimes, are you dusting yourself off and picking yourself back up? Are you continuing to try if you have failed today? If you failed yesterday, if you failed last month, are you carrying around the shame of that failure? Or are you saying I’m a human being, and I’m going to make mistakes, and it’s okay.
That is what courage is about.
I’m just going to be honest with you. I didn’t handle the situation with Henry very well. I called his teacher and asked, hey, what happened? Can you give me some insight as to what went on? We ended the conversation well, but I did get a little upset. Henry said, why did you have to get upset? And I said, look, I’m a human being. And I’m feeling things. I was feeling very protective of you, and I made a mistake. I apologized immediately if my tone had come across too harsh. And I made a mistake in the way that I handled this. When someone hurts my child, it causes me great concern.
And so I apologized. Henry said, what are you going to do about it? And I said I did everything I was supposed to do about it.
I apologized profusely and wrote a letter in addition to that saying, I’m sorry, my tone probably was not appropriate, and it will not happen again. I support you. We’re in this together. Let’s work through this. And what else can I do to help you?
But also giving ourselves grace for when we make mistakes is so important.
Let’s all give everyone grace right now. Let’s start with ourselves first and say, I’m human. I’m going to make a thousand more mistakes. And I know that, and I’m going to apologize when necessary and forgive myself and move on, and from now on, I’ll try to do better. That’s the best we can do. That’s the best you can do and the best I can do.
It takes courage to have grace for others and especially for ourselves.
If we all just looked at each other, and mostly ourselves, and said, look, this isn’t perfect. We’re not going to navigate through this messy life with every step exactly where it’s meant to be.
If we set those expectations, I think the forgiveness for others and ourselves will come so much easier.
And so to you who is in pain right now, I know you are in pain. I know this is not where you think your life should have turned out. I know that you are feeling alone and comparing yourself to other people and saying, why didn’t it turn out like that? Why can’t I have that?
I know that there’s a part of you that secretly blames yourself for what has happened. And all of those things are valid, and all of those things are okay to feel. But I’m here to tell you in the most loving, kindest way, just to be gentle with yourself today and to get back up, dust yourself off and continue to try.
Continue to use your courage every day.
Please do not give up, do not stay hidden in a corner in your room, falling apart and refusing to fight the fight because you are worth it. Your future is worth it.
You are absolutely destined for wonderful things.
And this is just a stage in your life where you are here. This is a pit stop, and you are learning what you need to learn. You are gathering tools and collecting information. That’s going to help you make really wise decisions in the future.
This addiction is a gift. I know it doesn’t feel that way because it comes with a lot of suffering and a lot of pain, but it is a gift and an opportunity to grow into the person you were destined to become. It will shape your life in such a beautiful way. If you allow it and don’t give up on yourself and you don’t get stuck. And if you are the type of person where you like my son, my sweet little son this morning, getting up for school, wanted to hide under the covers.
When I dropped him off this morning, he was walking into the classroom so slow. And you can just tell in his head that he was mulling over everything. His mind was so heavy and going so fast. And I know with every step that he was walking towards that classroom, it was more and more difficult, the closer he got, but that was courage.
He was moving forward.
He was physically walking into a scary situation, but that was his way of dusting himself off and continuing to get up and keep trying. And if my nine-year-old can do it, I know you can do it. I know you can.
I want to be that safe spot for you. You can crumble with me because I get it. I understand exactly how you’re feeling in my core.
And I want you to be able to crumble with me. I want to be that safe person for you. And I also want to be a reminder daily that you absolutely have everything inside of you to dust yourself off and continue to try.
There is no ultimate destination of perfection.
It does not exist. I have read what seems like a thousand self-help books. And I learn and learn and learn and learn. I’m obsessed with learning new tools, and the thing is they all kind of, first of all, sound the same when you really dig down deep. And number two is you can know everything in your head logically, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to apply everything at the exact right moment in the exact right time, all the time, every time; that’s impossible.
So I’m here raising my hand saying I’m making mistakes right along with you. I’m human. Can we all just look around and look at each other and go, okay. It’s okay that we’re not okay.
Sometimes it’s okay that we are imperfect. It’s okay to remove this 50-pound weight that we’re carrying on our shoulders, trying to make everybody happy and never disappoint and nail it every time. We know that we are good enough as long as we continue to try, pick ourselves back up, and keep trying. Every time we do, we’re showing our courage. Right? Yeah, I think so.
I love you guys. You’ve got this. You do. And it’s going to be okay. You’re going to be okay. You’re going to get through this.
Michelle Anderson has over 10 years of personal experience with loving someone who suffers from addiction. She was married to a good man who suffered from addiction to alcohol, illegal drugs, and pornography. She's used her experience to create powerful resources for women in the same circumstance. Using her own personal experience, combined with years of research and studying, she presents ideas, tips, and tools on how to handle this disease, and take care of yourself, and your family.
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