Addiction as a Personal Development Opportunity
Start with yourself if you want to build your ability to help an alcoholic family member. Take a personal inventory to uncover your own biases about alcoholism, and seek the most current and accurate medical information to update your own knowledge about this addiction. Refrain from taking action until you fully grasp the nature of the problem. Get professional support whenever possible so that you can understand the patterns of alcoholism as they emerge. Talk with others who have experience dealing with alcoholics.
Create a diverse support system with friends, professionals and allies who appreciate the difficult situation you are facing. Find people who have the emotional skills that you want to have, and anticipate that you will be able to develop these tools over time. Be prepared to cry at unexpected moments, for emotional growth rarely happens without some pain. Practice being uncomfortable.
Education, the First Step
The first step to becoming a positive counter-force in the life of an alcoholic is to educate yourself on various aspects of this addiction. Seek out the latest medical information on the subject. For example, Dr. Gabor Mate has done groundbreaking work on the connection between addiction and trauma. Many people find that his lectures present a refreshing alternative to the traditional approaches to addiction, which are based almost solely on biology. According to Dr. Mate, “Addiction is an adaption.” He says that addicts are often motivated by a reasonable need “to feel in control, less anxious and happier.” Cultivating a sense of unconditional support can help you recognize these feelings in your loved one.
Be genuine in your quest for knowledge on addiction. Do not try to impose your research activities on the addict; however, there is no need to hide your interest in the subject. Research the connection between alcoholism and suffering. Remind yourself that your loved one is coping with a serious problem with the only tools that are available at this time. Find stories of recovered alcoholics and observe their development over time. Many alcoholics are dealing with a deep feeling of unresolvable pain, and they often try to self-medicate by drinking, so be compassionate.
Creating a Daily Practice
Develop a daily practice that consists of holding a strong, neutral and non-judgmental frame of mind. Expect difficulties to arise when you practice. Develop a wide range skills to cope with each situation. If your loved one displays behavior that you find disturbing, for example, try to practice breathing into the bottom of your lungs while generating a feeling of unconditional love for the alcoholic and for yourself.
Remember that the best way to support an addict is to demonstrate what a healthy way of life looks like on a daily basis. This can be very challenging for you personally, so try to look at it as an opportunity for personal development whenever possible.
Keep the following concepts in your mind:
- Always seek to build your capacity to provide caring and effective support.
- Avoid contributing to the underlying problem whenever possible.
- Seek professional guidance if you feel overwhelmed by the situation.
- Understand that this process will take time.
- Since you want your loved one to grow into a healthy consciousness, an excellent way to support them is to be willing to grow as well.
- Practice perceiving the situation as an opportunity to develop a daily practice based on cultivating and nourishing yourself.
- Create opportunities for your loved on to join you in healthy meals, gentle yoga or other wholesome activities.
Create Recovery Opportunities
Always remember to take good care of yourself during the entire process, which can be very stressful at times. Take herbs, get a massage and practice yoga if you feel overwhelmed. Remind yourself that personal growth is never easy. Be gentle with yourself.
Go to meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous even if your loved one doesn’t want to go with you. However, if you happen to sense an opportunity, just casually let them know that you are going to a meeting and that they are always welcome to join you. Do not press the issue, but make it a social invitation with the same tone that you would use as if you were inviting them to dinner. This can remove the initial sense of shame that often accompanies the beginning stages of recovery.