I was texting with a father whose daughter just entered rehab after a long hard run. I asked him how was and he wrote back: “EXHAUSTED!”
His response in all caps says it all.
Anyone dealing with a loved one in active addiction absolutely knows how that dad feels because the complete uncertainty of life drains you to your core.
There is a story I love that I share with family members seeking to practice more self- care in the midst of an addiction crisis. It goes like this:
A century ago, European missionaries in Africa hired local villagers to serve as guides and transport supplies to a distant outpost. The guides moved at a slower pace than the missionaries desired, so after the first two days they pushed them to go faster. On Day Three of the trek, the group went twice as far as on Day Two.
Around the campfire that night, the missionaries congratulated themselves for their timely progress.
But on Day Four, the guides would not budge.
“What’s wrong?” asked a missionary.
“We cannot go any further today,” replied the guides’ leader.
“Why not?” said the missionary. “Everyone appears well.”
“Yes,” said the leader. “But we went so quickly yesterday that today we must wait for our souls to catch up with us.”
How can we put them into practice in our own lives?
When our son was struggling with addiction, I really didn’t have any sense of selfcare. There were just too many fires to put out both with our son’s difficult choices and just the regular stuff : the needs of other children, work, illnesses, commitments to care for elderly parents, financial demands, community responsibilities, and trying to maintain a relationship with my husband that went beyond being fire extinguishers together.
Life doesn’t stop because your family is in an addiction crisis. But at some point, if you don’t make time to let your soul catch up with your body, you will burn out.
And that’s exactly where I wound up.
It was while being hospitalized with a bad infection and exhaustion that I honestly assessed how brutally hard I had been driving myself to seek solutions for our son while trying to maintain a semblance of a normal (does that even ever exist?) life with the rest of our family.
Laying in that hospital bed, I realized that if I didn’t make some changes ASAP on every level – physically, mentally and spiritually – the burn out was going to get worse.
I decided to turn the fire hose on myself and seek more opportunities for rest, support through counseling and 12 Step program, fun, and spiritual refreshment through prayer and participation in faith community.
I didn’t keep all those resolutions perfectly. But, doing something as simple as getting ice cream cones with my daughters, and staying present to the beauty of that moment began to make a difference.
Over time, I got better and ultimately, with God’s grace, life got better.
The practice of waiting for our souls to catch up with us is definitely worth the wait.