This is an “encore” post from My3Sunz
Early in my grieving process, when I realized my love could not save the ones I love, a stranger handed out a reading at one of the support groups I was in. The printing does not reference an author. It touched me greatly and I kept a copy. Reading it made sense, but I just wasn’t sure I could do it – it seemed counter intuitive to my mother instincts. Here it is reprinted:
To protect our own integrity and peace of mind, we may have to redefine the word love. Sometimes no is the kindest word we can say to a family member or close friend who’s in serious trouble with alcohol, drugs, or any other ravaging obsession. Their suffering pushes all our “rescue” buttons. What we feel like doing is straightening out their messes and protecting them from farther harm. If we could, we would banish all their miseries with the touch of a magic wand! But we can’t. Often the only thing we can do to help our self-destructive loved ones is to sop helping completely. As hard as it is, and as unnatural as it feels, we may have to make some or all of the following declarations of love if we want to shorten our loved one’s path to the recovery turnoff.
- I love you, so I won’t buy your groceries or pay your rent.
- I love you, so I won’t loan you money or the uses of my credit.
- I love you, so I won’t call in sick for you at work.
- I love you, so I won’t cover your bounced check.
- I love you, so I won’t let you move in with me.
- I love you, so I won’t listen to your excuses or accept your lies.
- I love you, so I won’t make your bail.
If we know down deep that these words need to be spoken we need to practice them until we can get them out. Many recovering people only got turned around because someone loved them enough to give them a cold shoulder instead of a helping hand.
One of our readers commented on a previous blog post that, “Staying out of the way is a tough one. Especially for someone like me. I have spent my life rushing to be a hero. Here I am to save the day. Finally, someone reminded me that what I save, when rushing to clear the debris of a using addict, is one thing: that they survive yet another day without responsibility; leaving them free to create more chaos. If I do this long enough, they might actually die.”
Being a Super Hero is exhausting. And saving someone who needs to save themselves is futile and even potentially deadly. How can we remove ourselves from the role of rescuer and enabler? Here are some ideas:
- Instead of jumping in to solve their problems, just say “Oh” or “Hmmmm” or “I’ll have to think about that” or “I know you can figure that out.” If you are accustomed to having the answers for your child, this new approach may make you anxious. How can they possibly figure it without SuperParent assistance? The truth is they will never figure it out if you always solve it for them. Handing them the power and responsibility of managing their own lives requires both parent and child to change. This is about you, Mom and Dad, as much as your child.
- If you leap into action to stop a barrage of threats or accusations (for example, “It’s your fault if I can’t get to work!”) then pull out the S**T shield. Imagine a magical force field that protects your from incoming threats, hatred and abuse. And tell your child, “I will not tolerate that kind of language,” and let them know they have to leave if they continue to speak that way. (Reminder! You have the right to a serene and calm home.)
- Let your child know that the rules of engagement have changed. When your child accuses you– “You USED to be nice and let me crash on the sofa”– tell him or her, “I’ve changed. That’s not OK with me anymore. If you are using drugs or alcohol, then you cannot sleep in my house.”
- Finally, use difficult confrontations as reminders to take care of yourself. When your child presses you for money, go treat yourself to a coffee or flowers or new paperback. When yoru son complains that you don’t care if his back aches (which is often a result of opioid abuse), then go get yourself a massage. When your daughter complains that she needs new clothes because left her old clothes at her last crash pad, go put on something warm and cozy.
Tough Love is tough—on them, and on us. Seize your superpower to take care of yourself and give your child a reason to change.
To restore healthy boundaries, check out our “Boundaries Meeting in a Box.”
I have learned something that is very helpful in going through the trials and tribulations of a relapse of a loved one struggling with addiction. My friend told me about the ‘4 M’s of Relapse’. When your child relapses you should avoid doing the following; mother, manipulate, martyr or money. This is excellent advice and not at all easy to do. Let’s look at the first M – mother. When relapse occurs the first thing I would want to do is ‘mother’ by jumping in to take care of everything, ease the pain, work on solutions and try to ‘make it all better’. But mothering is hurtful because it alleviates the loved one from feeling the consequences of their action which inadvertently keeps them in their addiction. Next is manipulate. Even with the best of intentions, manipulation is a way of trying to control our loved one. We take on the behaviors of the bargaining and offering options in an attempt to lovingly manipulate the safety of those we love. Next is martyr. When a relapse occurs many of us go into the ‘woe is me’ syndrome – how could she do this to me? Doesn’t she understand how stressed I am and how hard this is on the family? The list goes on, but being a martyr does nothing but turn us into a helpless victim. And the last one is money. It is a natural response for us as parents to want to reach for our wallets and solve problems. We need to think about any money we are considering to bail out our loved one and be careful to consider what message it is sending and how it may disempower them to take responsibility for their actions.
The 4 M’s are a great tool to consider under duress. When we get the crisis call that our kid has relapsed and we begin to hear the wreckage that has ensued we can use the 4 M’s as a way to keep focused on being supportive but try our best to avoid taking on their responsibilities. I know that when I’m concerned or worried I don’t always think clearly, but keeping this simple list in the forefront will help to keep my actions in check.
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