In a prior post aimed for the loved ones of people who abuse drugs and alcohol, Tim Stoddart powerfully writes,
“Watching someone slowly destroy themselves is like some kind of Greek tragedy, where all the potential and love and beauty in that person slowly subsides into a pit of hubris and shame.”
Similarly, I couldn’t ever imagine feeling so many emotions at once. You may call it anger, disappointment, disgust even. But for me, it really all came down to fear.
Jealous of the Heroin
I know the statistics, and they don’t make it any easier. What if this is the last time I hug you or look into your beautiful eyes? What if this phone call is the last phone call? The tears, the nightmares, the guilt. At my lowest, I find myself, dare I say, feeling jealous of the heroin. I wish I could make you feel so safe and take that pain away. What’s wrong with me?
Emotions are funny like that – there’s a refractory period, where, no matter how logical we think we are, our thinking simply can’t take in or integrate information that doesn’t fit with our emotion. Long story short – when I’m scared, I’m scared.
I feel helpless, powerless (and not the AA kind of way!), and completely broken. No words seem good enough, because it feels like nothing I say matters anyway. A constant state of negotiation between I want you to know I love you and I need you to know that I’m hurting.
Radical acceptance is a skill taught in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT); it functions under the premise that no matter the distress, getting angry or blaming yourself/others will not take the pain away. Being overly judgmental of a situation only makes you miss the details of the situation, makes you overthink, doubt, criticize. Add that to your fear and your loved one using, and you’ve got yourself quite a pity party.
Radical acceptance means taking the situation as it is, without judging the events or criticizing yourself or the person who uses drugs in your life. It doesn’t mean you have to be happy about it or even condone it per se. You just have to accept it. And it is not easy, by any means.
Some helpful radical acceptance coping statements:
- “The present moment is perfect, even if I don’t like what’s happening.”
- “This situation sucks, but it’s only temporary.”
- “This is an opportunity for me to learn how to cope with my fears.”
- “It’s okay to feel afraid sometimes, and I can ride this out.”
And of course, the classic…
- “This too shall pass.”
Utilizing Radical Acceptance
DBT has been shown to be effective in advancing recovery skills and aiding people who use drugs in building up the areas of their life that may need some work. What’s even more awesome is that we, as loved ones, can utilize the same skills!!
1) It helps us connect with the person who is using (especially if they’re engaged in DBT themselves),
2) It helps us self-regulate when we feel like shit (which will happen and it’s okay), and
3) It’s really just fundamental self-care!
And while we’re on the topic of acceptance… As important as it is to practice this skill toward yourself, you can also practice it with your loved one.
We know we love them. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t constantly try to “fix” the situation, scavenger the web for tips, or attend meetings like Nar-Anon and SMART. So that same love, no matter how unbearable it may feel in the face of anticipated grief, is KEY.
Whether it’s your significant other, sibling, parent, friend, or co-worker…
Accept them. Love them. And do it radically.
Related: Your Comprehensive Guide To Helping Addicted Loved Ones
See also: Three Blocks to Radical Acceptance