Three things you can do today to help your loved one
Every week throughout COVID, it seems that my prayer list is ever-expanding. There are so many people struggling right now. Some were struggling before COVID and some began struggling because of it. Regardless, people need kindness and love these days more than ever before.
People that had been doing okay had their social lives ripped away from them. They lost their jobs. And, most of all, the lost their sense of purpose. With no job to report to and limited social interaction, what is a person to do that is susceptible to dark times?
I believe that the root cause of addiction is often two-fold: Lack of purpose (or misguided purpose) and loneliness. Consider this for a minute. Anytime I recall a time when I was struggling in life, it was due to one of these things. Sometimes, it meant that I drank an extra glass or two of wine at night. Other times, it meant that I vegged out on the couch watching mindless t.v.
I struggled for years with a job that paid my bills. I loved the people, but the work just wasn't filling me up. I knew that I had a passion for mental health, suicide prevention, and addiction, but it took me years to figure out what to do with it. This internal struggle really pulled me down a few days each week. My purpose was lacking. Sure I was a pretty good accountant and helping business owners was fun in some respects. But, I wanted to BE a business owner.
I'm still putting all the pieces together, but I can honestly say that if I am feeling down it isn't due to being in the wrong place anymore. I know that I am on my path. A jagged little path sometimes, but my path nonetheless.
Which brings me back to some people on my heart today. If we are simply getting through each day, without any clear vision for the future, is it enough? Only you can answer that question. It was a clear no for me. And, I believe it isn't enough for most people. People are wired for growth. There isn't a line that brings you from point A to purpose that is straight. It will wind around in circles and even go backwards sometimes. I also don't believe that there is an ending point. The person that God made us to be is ever-changing and evolving. Where I want to land today will likely be different than where I want to land in 5 years. That's okay.
Many of us are lonely right now. Loneliness is hard. It can be difficult to tell when someone is lonely because sometimes the loneliest people are surrounded by friends and family. People can have spouses, kids, and a dog but still be lonely. I think that is why after someone dies by suicide that people wonder, "He seemed so happy. I just don't understand." Loneliness is emotional, not physical. That woman might be alone because she doesn't have anyone to tell her deepest worries to. She might be alone because she lacks meaningful connection. We all need someone that we can dump our shit on and get on with the day. I don't care if you are Oprah. She's got Gayle and a therapist. Why? Well, who the hell she can talk about Gayle with? See? We all need a person to confide in. Oftentimes, our loved ones are missing this. Please note: this does not mean that you should be this person for them. It is great if you are, but don't push an agenda. Encourage them to share with someone. We all need an outlet. A nonjudgmental, open-eared outlet.
Friends are asking, "What can I do to help my loved one? He or she is struggling with relapse or depression since COVID started." I wish there was an easy answer. I wish there was a cute little checklist that told us what we can do to help. I don't have all the answers, but here are three items that should be priority for you:
1. The first thing to do is ensure that your loved one is safe. If you are concerned that they may harm themselves, ask the hard questions. SAVE.org has published this list:
“Do you ever feel so bad that you think about suicide?”
“Do you have a plan to kill yourself or take your life?”
“Have you thought about when you would do it (today, tomorrow, next week)?”
“Have you thought about what method you would use?”
I know, these questions are tough. There isn't an easy path. Be brave and ask. If there is anything I know, it is that you will want to know that you have done everything you can to help. Ask the questions. If you want to learn more about how to handle a loved one's safety, please visit SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education): https://save.org/find-help/im-concerned-about-someone-else/
2. Listen. Listen to your loved one. Listen without judgment. Don't offer opinions or suggestions, simply listen. Be 100% present and show them that you care. We have lost the ability to listen in our technology-crazed world. Practice it. One easy way to do this is to use reflective listening, essentially, repeating back in a different form what someone has said to ensure that you are understanding. A reflective listening statement might start with, "What I am hearing is that. . . ". If someone asks you for your opinion, be thoughtful and genuine. Don't offer an opinion or advice to someone that isn't seeking it. Most people simply want to be heard. Be that person for your loved one. Put your agenda to the side and simply listen.
3. Take care of yourself. This sounds counterproductive, but trust me this is probably the best thing you can do to help your loved one. There are many books on the subject, and the one I am currently reading is incredibly insightful, "Get Your Loved One Sober: Alternatives to Nagging, Pleading, and Threatening" by Meyers & Wolfe. Using CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training), the book teaches everyday people how to better manage reactions to addiction. While I can't say that I agree with everything in the book, the alternative approaches to the standard nagging and yelling are welcome ideas. I also can't say enough great things about finding a counselor that you mesh with. There are also support groups - I appreciate Smart Recovery's Family and Friends and you'll also find Al-Anon. A long-term goal of mine is to create a program that meshes the parts of existing programs that I enjoy for people struggling with a loved one's addiction. You can stay in touch for the latest by subscribing to the Rise Up Mission newsletter here: https://www.riseupmission.com/
Please reach out and share your thoughts and if there is something you'd like me to cover, send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to hear from you!
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