I sit on a plane next to friendly strangers. We make small talk. We exchange niceties and speak of our children and grandchildren. All smiles, all happy thoughts and exchanges as strangers do.
As the conversation falls quiet, I remember events from the last couple of days. The worry, the anxiety, the fears that pop in my mind like little burrowing moles digging their way from one hole to the next. As one pops up and I whack it in the head, the next one surfaces and the next and the next. What the heck? Why is this happening? To the best of my knowledge, everything is peaceful, well and taken care of.
Then, I take an inventory of my actions over the last couple of months. I’ve been talking the talk, but not walking the walk. I have done what I need to do, just to say I have done it. I have been coasting through, not doing much to dig deeper, heal more, find additional peace. I have only coasted through the moments.
Not being diligent can rob our loved ones of their progress, lead to a fast paced downward spiral, cost them their sobriety and even their lives. For family members, well….. family members usually relapse first.
What do I mean by this? Families can also get complacent, thinking everything is fine now. I don’t need to practice my peace because everything is peaceful. I don’t need to stay on top of my self care, everyone is fine. I’ll get to it later, I just want to relax.
When I get complacent, the anxiety creeps in and starts burrowing those holes. Then, I get tired, restless, more anxious. I am unable to stay in my own lane, I am less likely to be aware if someone else is struggling- because although I am in denial- I am beginning to struggle. Then I may start snapping at people and overcompensating because I have guilt. I may judge, accuse, or shame my loved one. I may simply start overstepping my boundaries to calm my own fears.
At that point, I am almost right back to square one. My mind is in chaos, my actions follow suit and I am unable to see the forest for the trees. I have relapsed. I have mentally relapsed first, by thinking my work is complete or that I can put it off until I feel like doing it. Then I have emotionally relapsed by ignoring and feeding in to these anxiety patterns. Long before my behavior changes and I start to become controlling or enabling- I have started the relapse. You see- in recovery they say, you are always either working on recovery or working on a relapse. That goes for loved ones with behavior or use disorders AND for the families who love them.
Now, as the plane is descending, my ears begin to pop, the turbulence can be felt as the air changes from the altitude. The niceties between strangers have stopped over an hour ago and people have been in their own worlds, thinking their own thoughts.
I have been thinking of a mom who lost her son this week. A mom who stayed in her values, practiced her peace and loved her son well. A mom who is certain her son knew he was loved whether he was in recovery or active use- because he was a beautiful person who was worthy of love, just because.
Although we are never promised tomorrow with anyone, when you have a loved one with use disorder- it is under the surface of every thought. If I am doing my work, I can love them. I can support them, I can honor them with dignity. If I am doing my work, I can have peace even if. I can rest assured knowing that my words and actions were a reflection of my love, even if.
That is my work- to practice my peace so that I may show that to those I love. To feel peace that surpasses all understanding because although I cannot do it alone, I am never alone. When I make it a priority to do this work that brings me closer to peace- I know I am honoring those I love. I know that they feel loved and valued because my actions, thoughts and feelings are full of peace toward them.
I will continue to fall back in to these patterns from time to time. Then I will remind myself that each day is a gift and I must continue to follow the path that leads me to peace. Because by doing my work, I am able to offer unconditional love to those who mean the most to me, for all the days we have together.