Self care and recovery for parents – seriously? Yes, seriously. If you have a child with a substance use disorder, it may be the most important thing you can do. But for so many parents, finding time or believing it’s okay to take care of themselves can be extremely difficult.
Today’s guest post by Dave Cooke, founder of 100Pedals, is about helping parents understand the importance of self care and their own recovery – not only for what it will do to help their child but as importantly, what it will do to improve their lives. As Dave writes on his blog, “I am that Dad. I am that parent — the father of a son with a heroin addiction.” As Dave further explains, “When it comes to addiction there are two victims, the addict who battles with their disease and the families who struggle to understand, cope, and live a normal life. Many parents commit every ounce of love, time, energy in their quest to save, help, and cure their child to the point where they often have so little left to give themselves or to the point where it nearly destroys them. It is as if the addiction has taken control over two sets of lives.”
Self Care and Recovery for Parents Whose Child Has a Substance Use Disorder by Dave Cooke
Three years ago I made a decision to ride my bike. It wasn’t one of those times where I simply said, “I think I will ride my bike.” And, the situation wasn’t the most conducive for fun, celebratory events.
When I made this declaration, I was eighteen months into my life experience and education associated with being the parent of a son dealing with a heroin addiction. For eighteen months, I did everything I could to rescue, love, save, cure, encourage, support, inspire and help my son. It seemed like everything I did, everything I tried, was met with another relapse, another betrayal of my love, another deceptive, manipulative tactic. The more I worked at his recovery, the less progress I seemed to make.
I finally came to the realization that he needed to want his recovery more than I did. There was nothing I could do to support a recovery program for him unless he wanted it.
I also realized that my life had become so attached to his addiction and his recovery that my business, my health, my relationships, and my psyche were being systematically destroyed by his addiction.
That is when I knew I had to do something for me. That is when I decided to ride my bike. I chose to ride my bike, not for the health value of cycling; but, more for the meditative effects of getting away from the chaos and clearing my head. I ended up going for quite a ride. I rode my bike one hundred consecutive days, at least one hour every day. I rode over 2300 miles. I covered a lot of ground and dealt with a lot of head trash. And, I completely changed my life.
Being the parent of an addicted child is maddening. We become so invested in helping our children and in finding a solution to their problem that we end up destroying ourselves along the way. We are of no value to anyone when we are broken. We accomplish nothing when we allow the addiction to destroy us. We solve nothing if the addiction successfully draws us in and breaks us down.
This is why self-care and personal recovery are so important. You may not have the time, the interest, or the physical ability to ride your bike like I did. That’s okay. You do have the ability to step away from the madness, get quiet, take a few deep breaths, say something loving or affirmative to yourself, and find a moment of peace. It only takes five minutes to step away, get quiet, clear your head, and discover peace.
Biking, hiking, running, walking, or meditating are all example of self-care. Whether you have an hour or five minutes you can and will find the time to accomplish it. The more you diligently practice it, the more you will make time for it. The more you make time for it, the more effective and strong you will be in the face of the adversity of your loved one’s addiction.
My bike rides completely changed my life in more ways that I can share in this article. While my son is now in his sixth year dealing with his heroin issue and still struggling to embrace a recovery program that works, I am a strong, healthy, inspired, loving, and available dad. His addiction didn’t destroy me and my self-care saved me. As a result, I am able to be strong for my son when he needs me most and even stronger for myself when he is lost to his addictive ways.
Self-care is an integral part of a parent’s recovery program. The sooner you embrace it and put it into practice the more prepared you will be for all the craziness that flies at you in the addiction environment.