“For things to change, I must change. For things to get better, I must get better. For things to improve, I must improve.” -Kirk Duncan
This has been my motto for the last year or so. Change is a part of life. The only one I can change is me, that’s it, no one else. It’s not my job, my calling or my anything to change anyone else. This is so far removed from the person I used to be. Don’t think for a minute that I have this down to a science. Those sneaky codependent traits poke up their ugly heads frequently. Then like wash, rinse and repeat, I have to restate, “For things to change, I must change. For things to get better, I must get better. For things to improve I must improve.” All we can do is be an example of what we believe in and what we know to be true.
I wanted to share with you how you can look at your own sorrow, your own struggle, your own stories to reach a place of empathy for someone who is struggling with recovery. Everyone has days of frustration, they have days when they break down and cry, they desperately want things to be different. Can you see how you can take your own trials and go to a place of empathy when someone else is struggling? Let me give some examples of how you can get there.
1. Death. Have you lost someone you loved. Go to that place of grief and you can empathize with someone who has lost their agency to an addiction. It’s painful, agonizing and you are going through the process of grief. It’s similar for a trauma survivor or recovering addict, it’s painful, agonizing and they must go through the steps of recovery too.
2. Miscarriage. That sweet baby you had hoped for is lost and you experience great remorse. You experience all the heart ache, pain, grief and no one could just make it stop until you had passed through all the stages of grief. You couldn’t just will it to stop. It had to unfold naturally. Think of this when you wonder why an addict can’t simply just stop, this puts you in a place of empathy.
3. Physical Injury. You just broke a bone or tore a muscle. You have have to have surgery and have to go through months of treatments and rehabilitation. You have to excercise to build up your strength again. It’s painful and sometimes your impatient and want your life to get back to normal. This is what an addict goes through. They have an injury that has left them feeling broken. They have to go through months and sometimes even years of treatment. It’s painful, and sometimes you get impatient and wish like hell your life would go back to how it was before.
4. Carrying a baby and giving Birth. Remember those months of nausea, miserable hot summers, feeling uncomfortable with the changes that are taking place, not being able to get rest, the horrible pain of child birth, then the beautiful joy of finally having that baby in your arms. This can be a place for empathy for what it is like for an addict who is uncomfortable within due to secrecy and never at rest with themselves. They are tortured by the pain they are causing their family, but once they experience the healing power of the Savior Jesus Christ, they will experience a most joyful rebirth.
Now I am sure I have set fire to some of the emotions in some of my readers. In fact I know I have. “There is absolutely no correlation between the pain of losing a child or spouse to death and the life of an addict!” They will insist that the pain they have suffered is the ultimate. I want you to understand that my heart goes out to you for what you have suffered greatly, all of you. I am in no way down playing what you have been through. I’m simply sharing with you how to go to a place of empathy for someone who is struggling in way you don’t comprehend by reflecting on where you have been.
When you are frustrated and tempted to lash out against the one person you love who is struggling with overcoming addiction or any other kind of problem go to this place of empathy and take the time to listen without holding judgement. Remember how much you hurt, how hard it has been to overcome and then hold that sacred spot for someone else.
The difficult thing about addictions, whether it’s a sugar, alcohol, drugs, all the way to a sexual type addictions, are they become a substitute way to deal with life rather than facing the problems head on. Addicts try to numb the pain, but the result is only temporary pleasure, then self loathing. They feel the pain and go to the addiction again and the cycle keeps repeating and repeating and repeating. It’s like the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make cookies.” You make the cookies, eat the cookies, get sick from the cookies and then do it again and again. It’s a substitute, artificial way of life that replaces what actually works, and that’s facing the obstacles with the help of so many who are willing, able, and even trained to help.
Holding space for empathy and listening to understand will help them recover faster. There is no shame in asking for help and believe me I know how hard it is to cross that thresh hold. I champion and hold my brothers and sisters in great esteem who ask for help. It takes greater courage to admit you have a problem, than to hide it. You my honest friends, who are stepping forward and honestly admitting you have a problem, are my heroes.
So this takes me to a new saying when it comes to addiction, “When Life Gives You Lemons, Ask For Help!” Overcoming addiction is not something you can do completely on your own. Addiction thrives in dark secret places.
For things to change, those working on assisting the addicted must excercise patience, love and empathy. They work on changing themselves. They must learn the healers art of listening. The addicted needs your help and you can become their number one cheerleader as they work towards changing themselves.
Note: These same patterns of empathy and truly listening apply to all aspects of life.