I recently contracted an awful head cold from a water park excursion in Texas. Playing, splashing and sliding at the park proved a great time for the family, but getting on a plane the next day sealed the fate of my sinuses. Frustrated, I thought “Go ahead start beating yourself up for knowing better than to get in a water park with a bunch of snotty kids. Your boys would have had just as much fun without you!” The voice said, Really? Would they?
I am an absolute grouch without sleep. Staying up, worrying about an addicted loved one or worrying about whether I am going to get a full nights rest, is stressful. So, after several nights of a severe sore throat, headache and bed shaking coughing spells, I reviewed an article a reader sent to me about stress management. (I was awake anyway-why not stare at the computer screen and worry about all the things I was not getting done.)
The thing that caught my eye in John Parrott’s Stress Management Guide was listening to soft music or sleep meditation apps before trying to sleep. Well, why not, it couldn’t hurt.
Not being a medicine taker I fixed myself some hot herbal tea and headed to bed to try a sleep mediation app. I am thankful that somehow my cup of tea made it to the nightstand before I conked out.
I awoke to diminished pain in my throat and daylight! Yay! The first time in 4 nights I slept soundly without coughing myself awake every 20 minutes.
How does this Relate to Addiction
Simple! Statistically, every active addict affects 5 other immediate relationships. While your children may not be witnessing active addiction their little antennae are picking up on what is happening. (See Post, Who is Parenting the Kids?) Plus, beating yourself up, becomes its own addictive behavior.
As an adult, I fall prey to one of my own addictions. While real true problems are rising at my feet, I often get sucked into the vortex of negative thinking. These were some of my journal thoughts during the time my husband and I separated.
- Why was I so dumb to not see the addiction?
- How could I let this happen (the marriage, separation, children)?
- Why would I condemn two innocent children to this life with two crazy parents?
- How could I not see this for what it was at the beginning of our relationship?
Not managing my stress leads to a downward spiral of negative thinking. The situation may be no worse than those I handle everyday, BUT the lack of sleep, over scheduling, sickness and trying to control everyone and everything will lead to my most soul eating character flaws.
Negative Thinking Patterns
I am super talented at two ways of beating myself up. Maybe you have your own ways of beating yourself up. These are just my specialties.
Taking a little issue and making it huge by dreaming up all the scenarios by which it could get worse.
The car breaking down means, I can’t get to work, not getting work means I won’t get paid, or worse lose my job. If I lose my job, how will we pay the rent? If we can’t pay the rent and the car doesn’t work where will we live?Because now, of course, we can’t live in the car because it is broken. Homeless and hopeless is where my mind goes in 30 seconds or less.
The doomsday path my mind takes does not lead to problem-solving. It only leads to self-pity and complacency. This slippery slope increases when I employ my next talent.
Shame= I am bad and there is nothing I can do about it.
Guilt= I made a mistake. I can take steps to correct the mistake.
With these two words separated let’s plunge forward with self-shame.
As Wayne Dyer said in the Secrets of the Power of Intention.
“You can’t feel bad enough to make anybody else’s life better.”
My experience in the world of addiction is that I spent a lot of time self-incriminating. Saying to myself I am a smart intelligent woman with degrees, earning power, talents, skills etc; how did I let my personal life get so out of control?
These questions need to be asked. What immobilized me were the self-shaming words I used for myself. Sure, I could recount my strengths and talents, but the crippling self-talk kept me from acting on them. Shame loves the darkness. In the dark recesses of my mind, I kept replaying ways I should handle someone else’s’ addiction based on all my skills and talents. The addiction problems kept appearing outside of me, right?
Control Is The Key Word
I ended up in an addict marriage because it was what I needed. I needed control. I needed to fix. I needed to feel as sick as I truly was to get better.
“You can’t get sick enough to help one person on the planet get well.”
“You can’t get confused enough to un-confuse one person.”
“You can’t get sad enough to bring joy to one single soul on this planet.”
–The Secret Power of Intentions, Dr. Wayne Dyer
Dr. Dyer, with respect, I have to disagree.
You can get sick enough to help one person.
You can get confused enough to search for answers for one person.
You can get sad enough to bring joy to one person.
That one person is you. When self-shame overwhelms your very functioning in life and rock bottom becomes a way of life, the only way out is to heal that one person.
One of my favorite Al-Anon sayings is “you didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, you can’t cure it.” That is true for those outside of you. But what about you, the one person you can control?
How Well Are You Parenting, If You Are Constantly Beating Yourself Up
Just like the swirling circles of these water slides, the chatter inside our heads is almost non-stop. In fact, most psychologists believe we are always holding two conversations when we speak out loud. The one in our head and the one the other person hears.
How I act is based on how I think. Who I am is based on what I tell myself. If I am constantly self-shaming, telling myself I am a bad person, then I will do one of two things
- Strive for Perfection–try hard to cover the voices by doing everything right and trying to make those around me see me as a good person
- Self-Destruct–act like the person I think I am, by either acting out with addictions, self-pity or anger.
Remeber the antennas? Kids can see this in the way we parent. The little mind readers in our house see straight through our attempts to hide. Children do not develop the elaborate masks adults wear until much later.
The unhealed codependent me ran between perfectionism (we all must sit down for family dinner) and self-shaming (I am a failure because all we do is fight at dinner). I struggled to parent with joy, compassion, and love.
I loved those little boys more than myself, more than life itself and that is when I knew I needed to get well.
You Can Not Give What You Don’t Have
Say I wanted to give you a bunch of red strawberries fresh from my garden. Wait, I don’t have strawberries in my garden. Even more to the point, I don’t have a garden. Even if I had a garden with strawberries, my fences (boundaries) are so poor and broken that deer and rabbits already ate the young green shoots that might one day be strawberries. Are you excellent at beating yourself up too by trying to give what you do not have?
I loved those baby boys there was no doubt. My self-talk showed how little I loved myself. How could I give what I did not have? Where was I going to get the love to give to these precious babes?
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. Matt 22: 37-39
Love your neighbor as yourself. Love me? Look at the mess of my behaviors, my poor choices, my marriage, my life and love it? Huumph, not today, Lord, not today!
Jesus Freely Gives Love
Just like I could go to the store to get strawberries to give to you. If you tried beating yourself up to love your kids more, it is not going to work ever. Anger and frustration do not breed love.
Me trying to love myself enough to have something to give away was not working. I needed a storehouse, a well of love that filled me so full, it overflowed into my children.
Spending time with Jesus, who freely gives love, will fill your tank to give to others. Creating a space for meditation and prayer in my life meant I was loving myself. Remember you need to love your neighbor as yourself. If you don’t love yourself, how can you love your neighbor or your kids?
“Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action.” Mother Teresa
Here is the one de-stress action for today. Find a way to let Jesus love you. We often hide this under the label of reducing stress. Really, making time to let the creator of our souls love is a way to love others. How can we give what we do not have?
Look at the list of de-stress tools John put together. How can you use this list? Are there other ways you recharge with Jesus?
What would that look like for you?
Share a few ideas in the comments below.