Finding Compassion Is Your Choice
Finding Compassion Is Your Choice
Today we’re going to talk about compassion. And let’s be honest: finding compassion for our loved ones suffering from addiction can be very challenging. Especially during the global pandemic when we’re stuck at home, stress levels are high, and there’s an overwhelming sense of uncertainty and fear.
Listen to the podcast episode here:
Read the episode transcript and find details below:
It occurred to me that many of you are stuck. You’re stuck living with your loved one who is suffering from addiction and without our normal coping strategies because everything is shut down right now.
You may be witnessing your loved one’s addiction far more than usual right now.
It’s also possible that during the global pandemic, maybe you’ve noticed for the first time that there really is an issue here. We’ve heard that from many women who have newly joined our community.
In our programs we share tips and tools for living with their addiction. One of those tips is to leave the house when they start drinking or using. Grab your keys, purse, load up the children if need be, and leave the house. Go for a drive, go to the grocery store, go wherever. Just remove yourself from the situation.
And right now during the pandemic, that’s not possible. We can’t just leave and go places because we’re either not allowed to, or it’s not safe.
So now more than ever, you may literally feel trapped.
It can be incredibly triggering to watch our loved ones drink or use drugs and not be able to leave the house. Right? Have you felt that?
So here’s the question: how do we get through this period of time with no end date and keep our sanity? All the while loving someone suffering from addiction?
One of the ways that we can do this is through finding compassion.
I have a story for you before we get into the details of finding compassion: Shortly after I’d gotten divorced from my ex-husband who suffered from addiction, my kids would still go visit him on the schedule we’d outlined. He had a girlfriend living with him at the time.
One day his girlfriend called me during a time my kids were visiting them. She was a very good person and I felt they were in good hands with her.
So she’d call me to tell me that she and my ex-husband had gotten into a huge fight and she was walking around the grocery store with my kids.
And we all know exactly how she feels, right? We’ve probably all been there. It’s a strange feeling to feel like your world is about to fall apart.
But then it becomes more strange and hard to navigate when you’ve felt this way before, but your world didn’t fall apart. Right? You may think that this feeling of chaos is familiar, and almost normalized at this point, because you’ve felt this way before but everything didn’t crumble. Can you relate to that feeling?
Here’s the thing:
Every time a new situation occurs, we convince ourselves that this time, everything really, genuinely is going to fall apart.
I could tell in her voice that she was having one of these moments. And of course, as a mother to my children, they were my main concern. I knew I had to talk her down off the ledge because I needed everyone getting along while my children were there.
It wasn’t time for one of those empowerment speeches where I’d explain to her what he was doing was terrible. And that she needed to set more firm boundaries or take a stand against him. That was not appropriate advice for that moment.
And I feel like you’re in a similar situation because we cannot leave. So now is maybe not the time to take stands against our loved ones. And we need to modify the boundaries that we have in place around leaving the house.
We need to look for ways to cope while in the same house or apartment as our loved one.
Here’s how you can cope: by finding compassion.
When I was speaking to his girlfriend, giving her advice, this is what I told her and it’s the same advice I’m going to tell you, which is yes, it is important for us to feel compassionate towards ourselves.
That’s one of the key fundamentals of our community is first compassion towards ourselves. But in this unique situation, I am asking you to feel compassion towards your loved one.
That is the way to forgiveness. And forgiveness is a way to peace. And forgiveness and compassion are a way to feel empowered.
So how do you arrive at a place of compassion?
Now, I know a lot of you are thinking ‘No way!’. There’s just no way that I can find compassion for them.
You may be thinking that finding compassion is the last thing you’re wanting to do right now.
Here’s the thing: I get what’s going on in your life. I understand. And I can tell you compassion is a choice. It’s a way to change your perspective.
Tips for finding compassion:
Imagine yourself as your loved one. Imagine yourself struggling with addiction.
Most likely they were born with this disease. If they were not born with this disease, then something very traumatic happened in their life.
Addiction is how they are coping with the trauma. How they’re coping with the unresolved pain and suffering from their past.
If they have a genetic predisposition, they were born with that.
They didn’t ask for it. There was nothing they did that caused it.
And can you imagine if you or I were born with this and how difficult life would be?
Imagine every time you see an ad for alcohol experiencing a true sense of uncontrollable longing, and knowing that you cannot touch that.
Imagine going to parties and get-togethers with beer, wine, or drinks, and knowing that you cannot touch any of that.
The truth is that drugs and alcohol are all over the place all the time.
Our loved ones are constantly being reminded of what they cannot have. They’re reminded of everyone else’s ability to get drunk, high, or just enjoy a beverage, but they cannot.
They have to use their willpower and internal drive every second of every day for the rest of their lives.
That’s not an easy request. It has got to be so difficult and we don’t understand this. There’s no way we ever could.
Sometimes I think about it this way, which I know is ‘dumbing it down’: there are certain foods that I really enjoy. I love carbs. I love sugar. And I have tried my darnedest to live a life where I don’t have indulgences in those foods. I can’t do it, particularly during this time of stress.
Do you know how many people are baking, eating and gaining weight right now? They’re using food as a coping mechanism for their fear and anxiety. The stress of losing jobs or losing incomes or losing family members.
We’re sitting here asking our loved ones to remain sober during this incredibly stressful time.
And, oh, by the way, they can’t go to meetings.
Even if they wanted to try and get help and reach out. Meetings are being canceled now. Yes, they have Zoom meetings, but if you look at the statistics, not a lot of people are going to Zoom meetings.
People are dropping out of AA because they’re lacking the real connection that it takes in order to get sober.
So when you sit there and you get frustrated, or you get hurt, or you get upset, or angry at your loved one who is using drugs and alcohol now more than ever, I want you to think about how difficult it is for them.
How hard it is for them to get help right now in this moment.
And how lucky and blessed you and I are that we don’t have to deal with that pain. That we don’t have to deal with that struggle, that we have no idea the discipline it must take to get sober long term and how lucky we are that we never have to struggle with that.
Look at your loved one with love during this time and think to yourself if they are even remotely trying to get sober, if they are remotely even attempting for one hour of one day to put the beer down or not to drink or they throw it down the drain or they don’t purchase it that day or whatever, you commend them.
You say thank you.
You say well done. I’m so proud of you.
And if they aren’t trying because they aren’t capable, that’s okay. I want you just for this time being to try and practice to keep a quiet mouth.
You become disciplined because they can’t. You become the strength and the strong one and keep quiet. Don’t nag, don’t pressure them. Don’t remind them how bad they suck because they already know it.
They already believe that about themselves. So they don’t need you going around the house telling them, telling them how bad they are.
They already feel powerless and helpless. So you practice your discipline. You support them by not being hurtful with your words.
Now, let’s be clear, I’m not saying that you need to wait on them hand and foot.
I’m not saying give them a back massage, run their bath, etc. That’s not necessary.
What I am saying though is you leave them alone. You let them feel their feelings and cope the way they need to cope. And you practice a quiet mouth and self-care.
You find a corner in the house or the apartment that you can claim your own. We teach this in the programs. You get books and put them in the corner. You get candles, you bring in a TV, a fluffy pillow, a blanket, whatever, and that’s your safe spot.
Create a safe space.
If there is a door that you can close to a room where you can make your safe spot, do that. Make a section in your living space just for you where you can go to escape.
Somewhere you can go when addiction gets too bad in your home. You can grab your kids and go into that safe space. Physically go there.
Go there when you’re tempted to nag, yell, prove your point, or scream. It’s okay. Keep a quiet mouth and retreat to your safe space.
Find self-compassion. Remind yourself you’re doing a great job in a very tough situation.
Remind yourself that your loved one is suffering too.
In a very different way than you are, but suffering all the same.
And listen, I know that you’re a smart person. You’re very loving and that you have this within you. Even if you are planning on leaving, you have it in you to exercise compassion for all of those people in your immediate life.
I know this was a little challenging of an episode. And I know I’m a little in your face today, but listen, I have been there.
I am your greatest cheerleader, your biggest advocate and your largest truth teller. And sometimes we all need a little bit of tough love.
That is what you’re getting from me today. If it’s not working for you, that’s fine. Go back to another episode where I’m a little bit more gentle and a little bit more loving, but maybe for some of you, this is exactly what you needed to hear and maybe this is the way you are going to survive getting through this difficult time.
How do you cope with loving an alcoholic?
We all have coping strategies that work for us depending on our circumstances and situations.
There are endless amounts of coping strategies available to us, and right now, due to the coronavirus some of them may not be as accessible as others.
Explore a way to cope by finding compassion, that doesn’t require leaving your home.
What are coping strategies when you love an alcoholic?
Take a walk, retreat to your safe space, listen to music, do yoga, go to the park, enjoy a cup of tea, practice finding compassion. The list goes on an on. What are some of your favorite strategies?
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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