Parent’s Guide – Is it Selfish of Parents to Take Care of Themselves?
The simple answer is no, parents taking good care of themselves is the only way they will be able to help a loved one that is suffering from addiction. So, this is the starting point on the road to your loved one’s recovery.
When a family member has an addiction a parent is consumed with anguish, fear, and suffering. This is justified; the parents do in fact have reason to fear for their loved one’s life. The worry can cause sleepless nights leading to tremendous fatigue. The fatigue can lead to poor performance at work, poor decisions at home and to poor choices regarding their own health. A parent has to question what good they are doing for their loved one if they are willing to let their own health decline.
Parents cannot take care of or support their child if they do not take care of themselves. While ensnared in an addiction an addict is not taking care of themselves and they are not showing any love for their family. While it may feel selfish to insist on meeting one’s own needs, it is the only way to be an intact person and to have a home from which to support an addicted loved one.
Some parents find themselves so filled with despair they stop taking care of themselves. It can help to get dressed and force oneself to do some normal chores. The worries will still be there after the floor is washed but one’s thoughts will be a little clearer; one’s self esteem will be a little higher.
Parents need to do special things for themselves
If the home has been filled with drama and fights; finding something relaxing to do away from home can be a good idea. Making the effort to have a meal at a nice restaurant or a get together at a good friend’s house can bring back a sense of normalcy and hope. Stay social and don’t let one’s whole being be wrapped up in what the troubled family member is doing.
Get out to the gym or go for a walk in the park. Find an enjoyable, affordable activity and pursue it. Set goals and work towards them. Eat healthy. It is not selfish; it is building the strength needed to care for the addict/alcoholic. A parent must find what helps bring some joy or at least some satisfaction into their life and they must work at being a complete person.
Get support to be supportive
Al-Anon is an organization that gives families of addicts a place to comfort and to support each other. It provides parents with steps to learn to support their child and to take care of themselves. Other parents will share their experiences of discovering their child’s addiction, and then supporting them through treatment and recovery. Al-Anon can be a valuable resource to learn what to do and, more importantly, what not to do. Professional help is available through Sober Living in Los Angeles.
Author – Chris Howard
Chris Howard is the Founder and Director of Ethos Recovery. He has a B.A. in Psychology from UCLA and has served as a community advocate/mentor for men and women in recovery since 2010.