Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Survival or Recovery Month -- September
Here we are again – September. It happens every year. September is Recovery Month according to SAMHSA – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It’s the 25th year that this organization has promoted the benefits of prevention, treatment and recovery for mental and substance use disorders.
When I first started writing the blog, I had already done months’ worth of research in order to get answers that were written in a format that I could understand. It didn’t happen overnight. I recall how I came upon each subject for research in The Immortal Alcoholic’s Wife.
However, there was a topic that I just couldn’t get my head around. The idea of recovery for the people who care about the alcoholic seemed to escape me. In my mind the only way for a spouse to recover from all that nonsense was to just get a divorce – leave him/her – kick ‘em to the curb! But there are also parents and children and friends and partners and co-works… the list goes on. What would be the answer to recovery for everyone?
As time went on, I discovered that the families and friends may need recovery just as much as the alcoholic. That’s why Al-Anon was created. It was to provide courage, strength and hope to the families and friends of alcoholics. There are 12 steps and 12 traditions that provide the handrails up the recovery ladder. Al-Anon provides a wonderful place for those just starting out in the realization and acceptance of being involved with an alcoholic.
But for me, the concept of recovery goes far deeper. There are so many of us that cannot or will not dump the alcoholic for some reason or another. Often when the alcoholic becomes end-stage separating from the alcoholic becomes just as problematic as the drinking itself. Everyone must make their own decision on leaving, staying, or whatever. For those people – the caretakers of end-stage alcoholics – recovery is most important. Maybe even not just the end-stagers, but all-stagers remaining in the situation.
Instead of the word “recovery” I like the word “survival”. How does the family or friend SURVIVE when in this impossible, nonsensical, frustrating situation? I sum it up with several words. KNOWLEDGE. SUPPORT. HEALTH. PASSION. LAUGHTER. SMILE.
KNOWLEDGE – As the alcoholic succumbs to different illnesses and conditions through the stages of the disease, do your research and learn everything you can about the physical biology that going on inside that alcoholic body. Also, learn about your legal standing, the workings of the hospital and hospice, know absolutely everything about your health insurance. Don’t just depend on an answer from a friend of a friend who once shook hands with someone who may have drank too much at a party… Find out for yourself through internet research, the library, speaking with a professional. Knowledge is the key to survival – I’ve said it a million times. Make all decisions based on knowledge that you know to be a fact.
SUPPORT – No matter how much research you do, there’s nothing like confirmation from someone who has been in your shoes. An exchange of ideas and experiences can be a life preserver in the midst of a super storm. Don’t just stick with only one support program because there are many out there. So if one doesn’t work, check it off your list and move on. Something will fit and you will be grateful to have found it. I offer OARS F&F Group on Facebook and at www.OARSFFGROUP.ning.com. Both sites are private. You must e-mail me to be sent an invitation to either group.
HEALTH – While you may be consumed with the health issues of the alcoholic, don’t forget that you may have your own health issues that need attending. You can’t take care of anyone else if you are too run down to take care of yourself. Get your check-ups. Take your medication and stay as physically fit as you possibly can. You will need all your strength to survive the chaos.
PASSION – Find your passion in life. Do you like bird-watching? Are you a writer? Is cooking your thing? Whatever it is, find it and do it. Don’t let anything the alcoholic is currently messing with stop you from enjoying the satisfaction of doing something you really want to do. While being involved in the activity you will most likely meet other people who also enjoy your passion. Having friends who are uninvolved with alcoholism is often a breath of fresh air when you feel your head is surrounded by the smog of drunkenness. Don’t deny yourself some normalcy. Those who are really – I mean REALLY – lucky can turn their passion into a new money-making venture. I’ve heard that if you make money doing what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. How awesome would that be?
LAUGHTER – Laughter truly is often the very best medicine. So you’ve been crying for days and the depression hole is so deep that you can’t even see the light from the top. STOP whatever it is you are doing and just laugh. Laugh at a comedy on TV; the squirrels playing in the yard; the crazy thought you just had; something some uninformed know-it-all said to you yesterday; the outfit you threw on this morning. It doesn’t matter what you laugh at or even if it is funny or not, just laugh anyway. Laughing fills your lungs with oxygen which makes your brain function in a clearer manner. It makes you feel physically more refreshed. It’s not just about attitude – it’s an exercise for good health.
SMILE – I have found that I smile at everyone I possibly can and I feel a bit calmer inside. I like to believe that I’m helping someone else by sharing that smile. When I wake up in the morning, no matter how I feel about another day, I always say “Gooood Morning!” and I say it with a giant smile. Even though my day may go rapidly downhill, I have started out on a good note. My mother used to tell me that if you smile, people will either think you are a happy person or wonder what you have been up to. I like both of those reactions.
In this month of recovery, I think we can all benefit from surviving whatever it is that is causing stress. Survive from being a caretaker of an alcoholic. Survive from the stress of having an alcoholic boss. And when you are on the survival road… don’t forget to smile!
at 7:26 AM