Top 10 Things that Helped Me Navigate the Roller Coaster of My Son’s Addiction
1. Twelve Step Meetings. I can’t stress this enough. These meetings saved me from despair and hopelessness. I was afraid to go to my first meeting. After that, I was afraid not to go. It was such a relief to sit with others who were also struggling with the insanity. I loved the slogans, especially, “Take what you need and leave the rest.”
2. Walking. There were times I felt so anxious and stressed that I was worried for my health. I was always a positive thinker and watching this disease take over my son just beat me down. I realized I needed to take action, so every night I would “walk it off.” I would try to clear my head and breathe in the fresh air, and I usually returned home in much better shape.
3. Education. I started educating myself on addiction. I read a lot, talked to people in recovery, and tried to learn as much as I could. Favorite titles include Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott, Beautiful Boy by David Sheff, and One Day at a Time in Al-Anon and Courage to Change (both daily readers that helped me start and the end the day with thoughtfulness).
4. Yoga. I discovered that yoga was a great way to decompress, as well as get a great mind and body workout. It improved my sleep immensely. It improved my balance, which is something I laugh about now. I did not think of my life as being out of balance but it totally was. The deep breathing and meditation helped me stop existing in crisis mode.
5. Sleep. Once I figured out that yoga helped me sleep, I started sleeping better and would wake up feeling rested instead of exhausted. Before that I was running on empty every day because I was so often up half the night worrying.
6. Good Food. Worry kept me awake at night and it also kept me from eating. I could barely choke down a piece of fruit for breakfast or lunch. Dinner was pizza or pasta. As a family we decided to start eating healthier, and I made myself eat nutritious meals and snacks.
7. Therapy. After going to meetings every week for a year and a half, I woke up one day and thought perhaps therapy might be helpful. Up until that point, I thought a therapist could not possibly help me unless she or he could fix my child. It was kind of ironic that at my first session, my therapist urged me to go to a meeting.
8. Laughter. After many months of tears and sadness, I decided I needed to lighten up—for myself and for my family. They deserved happiness and joy, and certainly I did, too. I greased my funny bones and started making little jokes with my youngest and it was like breathing cleaner air. It was so much fun to be silly and make jokes and LAUGH. I firmly believe laughter is the best medicine. At night, I would watch comedies before going to bed and my motto still is “End the day with laughter.”
9. Gratitude. I started keeping a gratitude list. Putting focus on the good things made a huge difference in my outlook. I stopped spending so much time and energy focusing on what I couldn’t control.
10. Service. Helping others was a great way to get out of my own head and stop obsessing about things. If someone new came to the meeting, I tried to make him or her feel welcome. If a friend called to see if I would talk to their friend or mother or sister who had a child with an issue, I gladly shared my number. Another way I reached out was to knit for charity. It made me feel a sense of connection to others, whether I was knitting blankets for babies on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota or hats and mittens for kids in war-torn Afghanistan. Knitting allowed me to do something meaningful while sitting still with my thoughts.
It is so easy to isolate ourselves. It helps to know that we are not alone as we travel on this journey.