Individuals struggling with drug and alcohol addiction create destruction in our own lives, but we also wreak havoc in the lives of our family and friends. When addicts first find recovery, looking at the lives we’ve hurt can feel overwhelming and insurmountable.
The good news is that we are resilient and so are our families. We can repair the damage and even create healthier and better relationships than ever before. In Steven Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families”, he explains that we are the creative force of our own lives and, through our example and leadership, we become a creative force and agent of change in the lives of our family members. I like this idea because it reminds us that we are powerful in positive ways too.
The key skill to cultivate to repair our relationships is the ability to act based on principles and values rather than reacting based on emotion or circumstances. In other words, act, don’t react. Find the “pause” button; something that enables you to stop between what happens and your response to it. The key is to choose your response. Just because there is a stimulus (your wife yells at you), doesn’t mean there needs to be an automatic response (you leave in a huff and use drugs or drink). The space before you choose to respond is your free will or freedom to choose. Unless you put the pause button on, you will just react with an old response, instead of acting with a newer, healthier one.
These are the steps to access and use your pause button:
- Self-awareness: this is your ability to observe yourself
- Conscience: after observing yourself, you can evaluate your observations
- Imagination: now you can create or envision something entirely different
- Independent will: here we utilize our power to take action
- Sense of humor: lastly, we can’t forget to use our humor and find perspective in every situation. Substance abuse can create overreactions or under-reactions to different situations. Finding a healthy perspective is critical to lasting sobriety in relationships.
Overall, remember that love is not a feeling, it’s a verb! Listen, empathize, appreciate and affirm those around you.