Today has been a bit of a shock. I unlocked the office completely oblivious to the fact that in the space of five minutes life can change. I actually couldn’t even think of an interesting blog to share with you all. I wish this was still the case…
Here at Educational Life CIC, we try to be constructive about matters that affect our young people, their families and members of the community; to offer support and guidance and to provide the tools so that people can make positive and constructive choices about their lives and futures. We are non-judgemental. Sometimes though, we forget that these situations can impact our own lives and loved ones.
I received a message from a family member (who I love dearly) announcing that they have a drug addiction and that they need help. The realisation had hit them after stealing a precious item and selling it for drugs. I will be honest, I was gobsmacked. Not a lot shocks me, but this did. I try my best to be impartial non-judgemental and to only voice my views if I’m asked. I’m human, this does not always work out as I would hope but as a trained Samaritan, I like to think that if the lines are clear then I’m cool to talk to. That I’m approachable. But this? This came from left-field and it was about one of my favourite people in the whole world.
I responded in quite a typical way for me. (I’m just going to add in here that said family do not live in close proximity. It would be quicker for me to travel to Switzerland than to them, so the conversations are held remotely. This, of course, makes it infinitely easier and harder at once. You can hide your responses but can’t wrap your arms around your loved ones like your instincts tell you to.) I’m quite an emotional person by nature but I am good in a crisis. I keep a calm head and want to find solutions rather than losing my mind or going into shock.
My response was “Are you ok? Do I need to get in the car right this minute?” I then called my Sister to support her (the best I could) and ended the call with a handful of options of organisations to approach for support – for my niece and her immediate family who are in “the eye of the storm.”
I was shocked that all this has been going on for some time and I didn’t know about it. From any of them, but also that I hadn’t picked up on it. I’m worldly-wise…or so I thought. Could I have done more? Could I have been more observant? It seems that no matter how close or how much love there is, that life can get in the way and that certain situations come with shame stuck to them.
The team and our lovely Health & Wellbeing Columnist, immediately came to my aid suggesting organisations that might be able to help. I spoke Addaction and they were incredible, giving me access to support in their area, walking me through the next steps for my niece and her parents. They gave me a very useful link to a guide for dealing with addiction from the supporters perspective and how to process the shock and feelings whilst talking to the loved one effectively.
It is called The 20 Minute Guide and I found it very beneficial. After talking to Addaction, I felt able to go back to my Sister and tell her their advice, share on the links they had given and to take away a tiny amount of the burden. If you have no experience with drugs or addiction it is a mine-field to navigate. The GP had made a private (and therefore chargeable) referral for private counselling but that was it. It highlighted to me the importance of our community services and these organisations. Without them, there would be no support and unfortunately, in some cases, counselling just is not enough or people are not in the position to afford it.
I’m going to draw on my background and training here – there are plenty of people who are far more qualified than I, but think of it as a stream of consciousness. This is a blog after all and not an advice column…even though I do hope this helps someone out there.
You can’t help someone unless they want to be helped
This means that they need to accept that they have a problem and be ready to get support.
It is hard to face yourself, to swallow your pride and accept that something is out of your control. Control is a key element to addiction, the root of it and the transference of power that we give to the problem or substance that we use.
The first step is not only accepting that you have a problem and asking for help, it is also facing the pain we may have caused to those we love. By making that decision and taking the first step we begin to take back control.
We may have behaved in ways that are unrecognisable to us, perpetrated acts that would not have crossed our minds or caused our families to shed tears that we would never wish to see marring their beautiful faces. That is so hard. For you. For them. For everyone.
We cannot control their response to our news and they are entitled to feel that way that they do and those feelings may be confused and messy. There may be anger, hurt, distrust and dislike but they will still love you. They will still want the best for you and will be proud that you are seeking help and hoping, maybe even more than you, that the help is successful and the you that has got lost somewhere, comes back to them.
But how about you? How about how you feel in all of this? Do you miss you? Do you still know who you are? What your boundaries and needs are? If not, this is a journey of self-discovery; a painful one but one that will begin a love affair with you. Tackling addiction is tackling your self-sabotage and self-hatred.
There has been enough self-loathing and being nasty to you. Now is the time to accept love and to learn how to love yourself again, or maybe, for the first time. Your past actions do not define you.
Addiction impacts the whole family – not just the addict
We have touched on the plethora of feelings that your family members may be feeling when you admit that you need help. For them this journey may have been long and difficult too – you may actually have been unaware just how bad it has been.
Perhaps they are saying things that make you feel like no action you take now will be good enough. That you will never be forgiven or accepted again. In many cases, this is not how it works. Once a family can see that you are trying, have accepted responsibility and are supporting you in your recovery things will get better – slowly.
Avoid name calling and stereotypes
There are so many horrible and detrimental names for people with substance misuses problems. Please avoid using them. To dehumanise someone and label them with insults is not supportive. Anger is justified but demoralising someone while they are learning to be kind and loving to themselves is detrimental.
In fact, we can be addicted to positive things too. Love and hope are addictive. Despite all of the negative emotions, you are experiencing you will still cling to hope for recovery out of your love for the person who is struggling with their addiction. Love and hope help us to keep sight of all of the positive memories we have of that person.
The saying goes that, “Hope Floats.” Regardless of all the awful things that have happened, our pain, despair, anger and sorrow they behave like oils – they weigh us down; but in amongst them all there is hope and it is lightweight and floats to the top of the mixture. Sure, it may get broken up, displaced and separated but it is there and eventually, it gets to the top, covers the surface and suffocates the rest of the painful emotions.
This is going to be a long journey. One with lots of highs and lows and with permission, I will take you along for the ride with us. But I will respect the need for privacy.
I am so grateful for the support available and hope that this resonates with some of our readers. Perhaps it will even help someone. I hope so.
“Do all things with great love.”