By Chasity Edwards
How is he/she doing? Are they doing ok? What is going on with him/her?
If you have a loved one in active addiction or recovery these are phrases, you get used to hearing. We spend so much time worrying about them that we often forget to “worry” about ourselves, and when others are focused on them as well, it can be hard to make that shift in our focus. We hear the term self-care often, but what does that mean, and how do we focus on self-care when we have someone who is in active addiction?
Every time I would talk to someone I hadn’t seen in a while I would hear this phrase “How is he doing?” And I would give them an update, or just say “Oh, he is ok”. After a while I started to get frustrated. Especially with family. I felt frustrated because no one ever asked how I was doing. How the kids were doing. We were the ones dealing with the wreckage he left in his wake. We were the ones left feeling every emotion while he got to keep drinking to numb his feelings. And I let that frustration fester until one day I said, “I am done worrying about you. It is time I take care of me.”
So I started trying to figure out what self-care looked like when you have a loved one in addiction. The media portrays self-care as a day at the spa, chocolates, or a bubble bath. But, I knew that wasn’t what I needed. While those things would help me for a moment, I knew I needed time to focus on my emotions and thoughts.
Self-care is vital to happiness. I found this out by finding happiness when the world around me hadn’t changed. I choose me. My self-care meant time at the gym most days of the week. It meant taking the time to journal and process my emotions, it meant figuring out what I was ok allowing to continue and what I was’t; and then setting boundaries that aligned with those things. It meant choosing to not eat and shop when I was Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. It meant accepting my emotions. It meant long talks with myself and God, and long moments of listening. It meant giving myself permission to put myself first. This was the hardest one. Putting myself first. I have four kids. They should come first, this was the dysfunctional thought I had told myself for years. Realizing that by not putting myself first I was harming my children was a wakeup call. They already had one unhealthy parent, they didn’t need another. Giving myself permission to go to the gym after work was hard. It made me feel guilty at first, until I started seeing how happy it made me. In return, I was able to be happier at home and this gave my kids a happy mom. This was me putting my kids first.
So, what is self- care? Is it bubble baths and chocolate? Yes, it can be. But, it is so much more. Self- care, by definition is taking care of yourself. While it does mean eating healthy and being physically active, it has to be deeper to be effective. Anyone can eat healthy and workout and not be happy. Self-care is finding what you need to be happy and doing it. It is creating a budget, and sticking to it. It is setting goals and developing steps to accomplish them. Sometimes self-care is doing the dishes, and sometimes it means not doing the dishes. It is identifying emotions and talking about them. It is being true to yourself and authentic. It is choosing the path of happiness.
The one thing I realized in my process is self-care is not a one size fits all. It is a very personal path of self-discovery that can include an unlimited number of routes. Self-Discovery! What a powerful statement; and journey we can all benefit from.