Clearing Out the Clutter and Co-Dependency

Last weekend I did a much overdue task which was cleaning out the clutter that had collected in a couple areas of my house. I realized how therapeutic this activity was for me. I initially created more mess as I pulled things off the shelf and went through the pains taking sorting process: Attic? Donation? Keep Handy? Throw away? As I sifted through books, hats, papers, just to name a few, I started feeling a sense of unburdening. While I do not like to have a messy house, I do have small messy areas! The area I was working on was in the garage where I have shelves and cabinets for various projects and activities stored. I have a tendency to do a big clean-up project and then slowly it gets cluttered as I zoom around in my busy life not paying attention to the little things that add up to bigger messes later on. When I was done and all was neat and tidy I realized how this relates to life in general.

When I am organized and on top of the many responsibilities that I have, I feel peaceful and stress free. And when I am on top of setting boundaries and taking care of myself then I can better care for those I love. In my co-dependency, I can let things get out of hand quite rapidly. Which in turn creates messes that I need to later clean up! These messes are usually around letting a bad habit creep in – like jumping in and paying a bill for my child when they are responsible. I may think, ‘oh, it’s just a small amount and she can really use the help….’ or ‘I’ll help by creating a resume since I’ve done so many…’ Yet, doing these small things can add up to a big message ‘you are not capable, I am’ and ‘why take responsibility when Mom will bail me out.’ I’ve worked hard to undo these types of bad habits and create healthy ones. Just like cleaning out the clutter around my house, I will continue to clean out the clutter of my co-dependency!

There is no ‘Right’ Answer – Every family must do what is in their heart

hands in shape of heartOften we are faced with decisions that we need to make on whether we will help our loved one in addiction.  When we first start dealing with the wreckage of a loved one’s addiction we are often uninformed and ill equipped about what to do, I know I was.  It seemed whatever I did just made things worse and I became more resentful.  For example many addicts go from rehab to a sober living house.  Although many times there is an agreement that if they relapse they need to figure out where they will go and not give them an option to come home.  Yet when the dreaded relapse occurs, we are faced with this heart wrenching decision – do we leave them out in the cold or take them in?

I’m not for one decision or the other – both have consequences which can be very unpleasant or it could have a good outcome.   In my experience we did what we felt in our heart when faced with difficult decisions.   And sometimes the outcome was not good for my daughter and actually enabled her to keep going down a dark road.  The bottom line is that there is no ‘right’ answer.  Many people will have opinions on what to do – very strong opinions.  But in the end it’s your child and you have to make the decision that is best for you and your situation.  We need to look at each decision and think about whether it will help or whether it will hinder the health and well-being of the people involved.  With each decision and outcome we learn, we adjust, and keep moving forward.  Each family has to work together and make the next ‘right’ decision for their circumstance.

Instant Gratification – Learning to have patience

One of the characteristic of addictive behavior is a lack in patience to wait for want you want. This is also characteristic of many people, but it is particularly prevalent when someone has the disease of addiction. It makes sense that when someone is struggling with drug addiction and they are coming down from the drugs that they have an ‘instant’ urgency to fill the void with the next fix. What can happen is that this also transcends to all aspects of the addicts interaction. Even as recovery from the addiction comes into play, the desire to instantly satisfy a craving or desire is a challenge.
As a person who struggles with co-dependency, I know that I play a part in this behavior. Early in my daughters addiction I didn’t understand that many times the urgency of something was not realistic or warranted. I would be convinced that the upgraded cell phone was absolutely essential to getting a job or the gas money was not enough because, because, because,…the list goes on. And while now it seems so obvious to me, at the beginning of the journey I wanted to believe my loved one. As recovery grows and sets in, I see these behaviors dissipate. Partly due to the upgraded conversation we have when a need is expressed. I know to not take on the issues or problems that are not mine and to let her know that she’s capable to fix them and I’m willing to give advice. It might sound like sound parenting to a young adult transitioning into a responsible member of society, and it is, but it can be a challenge to break old patterns and create new healthy boundaries moving forward.

Uncluttering my life, including my co-dependency

closetLast weekend, I completed a much-overdue task: cleaning out the clutter that had collected in a couple areas of my house.  I realized how therapeutic this activity was for me.  I initially created more mess as I pulled things off the shelf and went through the pains taking sorting process:  Attic? Donation? Keep Handy?  Throw away?  As I sifted through clothes, books, knick-knacks, just to name a few, I started feeling a sense of unburdening.  While I do not like to have a messy house, I have to confess that I do have small, tuck away messy areas.  I have a tendency to do a big clean-up project and then slowly it gets cluttered time moves forward in my busy life.  As I was going through this process I realized this relates to life in general.

When I am organized and on top of the many responsibilities that I have, I feel peaceful and stress free.  And when I am on top of setting boundaries and taking care of myself, then I can better care of those I love.  In my co-dependency, I can let things get out of hand quite rapidly.  Which in turn creates messes that I need to later clean up.

These messes are usually around letting a bad habit creep in – like jumping in and paying a bill for my child that is their responsibility.  I may think, ‘oh, it’s just a small amount and she can really use the help….’ or ‘I’ll help by creating a resume since I’ve done so many…’  Yet, doing these small things can add up to a big message ‘you are not capable, I am’ and ‘why take responsibility when Mom will bail me out.’  I’ve worked hard to undo these types of bad habits and create healthy ones.  Just like cleaning out the clutter around my house, I will continue to clean out the clutter of my co-dependency.

Learning and teaching patience to an addicted child

kindness of others along the journeyOne of the most telling characteristics of addiction/alcoholism is an extreme lack of patience. (” I want it now now now.”). When someone is struggling with substance use disorder and they are coming down from their drug of choice, it makes sense that they have an urgent need for the next fix.  This urgency can also seep into relationships and  interactions.  Even as recovery from addiction comes into play, the desire to instantly satisfy a craving or desire can remain a challenge to those addicted – and their families.

As a person who struggles with co-dependency, I know I play a part in this behavior.  Early in my daughter’s addiction, I didn’t understand that many times the urgency of something was not realistic or warranted.  I was convinced that the upgraded cell phone was absolutely essential to getting a job or the gas money was not enough because, because, because…the list goes on.  And while now it seems so obvious to me, at the beginning of the journey I wanted to believe everything even when it didn’t make sense.

As recovery grows and sets in, I can see these demanding behaviors dissipate.  This is partly due to the healthier conversation we have when a “want” is expressed.  I know that it is not my place to take on her issues or problems. She is capable of fixing them, and  I’m willing to give advice.  That might seem like obvious and sound parenting, but for those of us in the trenches, it can be a challenge to break old patterns and create new healthy boundaries for the future.

Ditch the Super Mom cape and let your kids become responsible adults

super mom capeThere are times when I have to use all of my restraint to avoid jumping in and ‘making it all better’ for my daughter.  It’s easy as a Mom to want to rescue your child, even when they’ve grown up into adulthood.  Yet I know that letting them have their feelings and working through a difficult situation is what they need to grow into healthy, responsible adults.   It seems I need to keep learning this lesson and while I’ve gotten better at it, I still have this desire to ‘fix, solve, make better’ and spare my kids from suffering.  And it is even more difficult when there are good intentions or just bad luck that led them to the dilemma of the day.

Earlier when my daughter was active in addiction, it was much clearer as to what not to do, although still hard at times.  It was obvious then not to give her money that would be used for unhealthy choices.  Now it’s challenging because so many good things are happening.  Yet I know that I need to stay the course of being there to support but not enable.  I need to realize my role and not infringe on hers.  I need to see the progress but not begin to creep back in with old habits that could bring about a change in the wrong direction.  Having this awareness is what keeps me focused and mindful. My natural tendencies when not ‘thinking’ things through is to jump in with my ‘supermom cape’ and save the day, no matter how big or how small.  I will continue to be focused on healthy habits that lead to healthy relationships with my loved ones.

When do you cut the cord? Helping our kids become responsible adults

Often as parents we try to find the right balance of supporting our kids as they grow into adulthood and letting go of entanglement in their daily responsibilities. This is no different with our kids who have struggled with addiction regardless of whether they are in recovery or not. When I talk with other parents many of them see supporting their kids in their early adulthood as part of their responsibility as a parent. They may set boundaries and conditions and even consequences, but they are willing to extend the support.

What I have learned is that there is a delicate balance between healthy support and teaching our kids, somewhat inadvertently, that they are not capable. By supporting too much it takes away the ability for our children to learn and grow and become responsible. How do you find this balance? How does a challenging time with our economy play into it? I saw a statistic recently that over 30% of young adults (18-25) were unemployed. This is not an easy situation for a parent trying to do the right thing. On the one hand you do not want to enable, we have all seen what enabling can lead to with a loved one struggling with addiction. What seems to be an act of love becomes a ticket to continue in the plunge of drug and alcohol addiction that leads to devastating consequences.  It is best to be very mindful and talk openly with our kids about how you want to support them but not enable them. Help them be a part of the solution and agreement that you forge and make sure they know that the goal is to help them to become a responsible, self-sufficient adult.