Note: This is from contributor B.H. who regularly shares her stories as she’s gone through her son’s addiction and recovery journey.
The Importance of Self-Care when Your Child is Addicted
As a mom, like many moms, I have always wanted my son to be safe. Being in complete control of his life was simple when he was young. But as he grew older and became an adult, it was heart-wrenching to see him deteriorate right before my eyes. When he came home from college and told me he was addicted to drugs, he looked disheveled, thin, and severely unhealthy. All of those years in my memory of keeping him healthy and secure flashed before my eyes as I talked with him and listened to his sadness and desperation. I will never forget that evening, as well as the days after.
Once he entered rehab, I remember attending a class on addiction. I remember the instructor telling us, “Do something for you. Get a manicure, a new hairstyle, go out to dinner with a loved one, take a day off work, or anything else to make yourself feel good about you.”
I thought to myself, “How in the hell can I feel better? My life feels like it is over.”
After a few weeks of my son being in an amazing rehab facility, I could see that he was starting to change for the better. The physical symptoms of withdrawal were over, and even though he was still dealing with intense psychological effects, I knew that he was headed in the right direction. My husband, my son’s stepfather, gave me a gift certificate to get a manicure (he listened!) and let me sleep and rest as much as I wanted. I was going through a bit of depression before I started Nar Anon and counseling, and when I wasn’t working…I just wanted to sleep. To me, sleeping and being to myself was my form of self-help until I found a counselor and Nar Anon. Taking time to go buy a latte and go to meetings also helped a lot. My self-help looked to be centered on my son’s addiction, but the meetings focused on me, and they were beneficial and made me actually smile again.
It May Take Time…
Self-care when your addicted child is either in active addiction, rehab, or recovery is essential. It took months to see the light and understand that his life was not my life. And those months drug me through the mud. It affected my job, leaving me unable to focus, and it affected my whole being. Who was I? I was the mother of a drug addict, rather than being me. I was a victim of his drug addiction, and I consistently and irrevocably connected it with me. I was going down with him. When he called me from rehab telling me how miserable he was, I became miserable.
It is important to understand that your child’s decisions are not yours. You do not own them by any means. It takes time to get to the point of putting your hand up and saying, “Not my problem!” It takes time to understand that no matter how much you do, no matter how much love you give, that it will not change a thing. It is a battle that you will not win, no matter what you do.
Why Self-Care is Crucial
When self-care is ignored, consequences occur. Don’t feel like taking a shower for a few days? Well, others will notice. Stressed out and anxious all the time? Be ready to get sick. Isolating your friends and the ones who love you? They will be affected and confused. Calling in sick to work? Your job and livelihood will suffer. You have to take care of yourself in order to live a successful life. Even if you don’t want to get up out of bed and get started on your day, you have to do it or you will feel worse. Choosing to live a healthy life for yourself will open up that door to happiness and well-being in all areas of your life. No matter how difficult times may seem, you do have a life to live, and you do have responsibilities. Letting everything go because your child is going through a rough time only affects you and the ones that love you the most.
Once you realize that your young-adult’s choices are not about you, but about the child, you will feel the weight come off of your shoulders. Understand that no matter how much you worry, enable, do-for, love, love even more, and suffer inside…your child is going to do what he wants to do. It doesn’t matter. So start thinking for yourself and begin the healing. Yes, it is okay to break down and cry, but then be sure to get back up and move forward. It is a process, and it does take time, but once it clicks you will see that your life is pretty amazing and worth really living.