Have you ever flown on a plane and noticed the safety instructions to put your own oxygen mask on before assisting someone else with theirs?
There is an obvious reason for this. If you yourself are not healthy, you cannot help someone else get healthy.
But ask any mother what she would do if the plane starts going down and the masks drop. Would she put her mask on or her child’s mask on first?
Inevitably, she would put her child’s mask on first. In spite of being told not to. Even though doing so actually harms both her and her child more (because if something happens to her, both her and the child are harmed). It doesn’t matter. The tendency when it comes to helping people we love is to put them before ourselves.
The problem with this, however, is that if we aren’t doing well, we really aren’t much good to those we love.
But we are told to love them. We hear that not doing so is selfish. We feel obligated to love them. The truth is that loving someone when addicts hurt us is essential. The key, however, is that it’s not the person we’ve been told it is. The truth is that the person we need to love most when addicts hurt us is… us!
We need to make sure we’re healthy so that we are able to help others get healthy.
And there are 3 things we need to do as people who love addicts in order to make sure this happens.
Let’s take a look at each one together.
1. Protect Yourself Physically
When living close to addiction, we can quickly find ourselves in harm’s way. And we should never allow an addict to do this to us. How does this look in practical terms?
Well, we don’t have to ride in a car driven by someone drunk. We don’t need to allow drug dealers into our homes to make a sale. And we don’t need to protect someone who hits or abuses us either. We have a right to get help and to get healthy.
2. Pay for Yourself
One of the big problems with addiction, although it’s often overlooked and seldom addressed, is that drugs aren’t free. And addicts can take advantage of us financially to feed their addictions.
This comes in many forms. They ask for money (usually with a guilt trip attached), use “their” (even though in a home finances should be “our”) money to buy drugs instead of paying for necessities, and even sell items out of our homes to be used for drug money.
Ultimately, you need to eat. You need a roof over your head. Clothes on your back. Gas in your car. And your children need the same. If you have to hide money, hide it. If you have to refuse to give it to an addict, refuse it. If you need to make extra money because an addict isn’t contributing, make it.
You have to protect yourself financially. Providing for you and your children is your responsibility. Providing from someone else’s drug habit is not.
3. Replenish Yourself
Dealing with addiction takes a toll on us. It is draining and defeating to constantly be in a battle with an addict who is battling drug abuse.
You have to get away. Take time for yourself. And replenish your heart, mind, and emotions.
It’s important to find something you love that strengthens you. This fight through addiction is real. And if you constantly help an addict without taking the time to replenish yourself, you’ll quickly find yourself on empty.
Get your emotional tank filled back up and be strong on the journey that lies ahead.
Ultimately, we cannot help someone if we are in no condition to do so. To make sure we are best able to help other people through their addictions, we have to make sure we are physically safe, financially secure, and emotionally full.
The better we take care of ourselves, the more we will be able to help the people we love.