Recovery: Self Care for the Selfless by Erin Hill

Are you a giver?

You know the ones – they spend all day caring for others. Making sure the kids are up and ready, the hubs has his lunch, the dog is walked and fed, and the cat hasn’t left any presents… then they’re off to their job where they provide more care for others, be it nursing, social work, customer service, retail, etc. Once they get home, it’s mail-sorting, homework helping, dinner making, cleaning up, then – finally – bed. If you’re in a relationship that includes a dynamic of addiction, it can be compounded as well.

When does she take some time for herself?

It seems like we live in a world of busy-ness. There’s always more stuff to do and not enough hours in the day. Admittedly, we can bring some of that stress on ourselves by not asking for help, and/or allowing others to not do their part. We can get so busy taking care of others, that we forget to take care of ourselves, and at the end of the day, when we’re exhausted, and all the things are done (or maybe not) we might have a brief realization – “what about me?” – and cue the violin – the sad song of a wife, mother, worker who is running on empty because she gave “it” all away. Then she wonders:

“Why is nobody taking care of me?”… and that includes her.

The frustration that stems from giving too much, without taking some time to recharge can show up in various ways – as unique as each of us: it can look like weight gain, getting ‘stuck’, smoking, wasting time on your phone, bitterness and anger which might = picking fights with the hubby – all of these at the core – are patterns.

Those patterns are what we do when we feel like we aren’t getting enough for ourselves – when we are looking for ways to draw attention to the fact that we need something. For example: I was a smoker, and would say “that’s the only time I have for myself”. Or when playing a game on my phone – “I just needed some time to turn my brain off”.

We can dive so far into everyone else that we lose sight of who WE are.

Breaking down those patterns is one of the most significant ways you can move forward, and get back to the real YOU.

Good news: it’s not as hard as you think!!

First, and arguably most importantly – you have to notice what your patterns are – identify what you’re doing that you’d like to change. Maybe you dump all your stuff on the kitchen table as soon as you walk in the door. Or perhaps your drug of choice is peanut butter m&ms and fritos (ask me how I know!). It could be that you get lost in Facebook land scrolling through everyone else’s ‘perfect life’ and looking at cat videos.

You know yourself best – be realistic, but challenge yourself.

The change you want to make should be a bit of a stretch – not so much that it hurts, but that you feel the tug. Really take an inventory of what happens from the moment you open your eyes, to the time you finally close them again at the end of the day. What thoughts are you thinking? What things are bringing you joy? What things are NOT bringing you joy?

Be sure to spend some time really thinking and feeling how life would change if this pattern was different.

How would your life be better if you changed this pattern? You may find it helpful to write it down – maybe a pros/cons list would help you see the potential changes. You can also use visualization. Get super descriptive and use all of your senses to describe the differences between life if you keep going in the direction you’re headed, versus living the life you’ve always dreamed. Use all of your senses to feel how life would be like if you keep on this path, or make some changes to your trajectory.

You don’t have to be realistic here – you can shoot for the moon!

Using that information, you can use that to identify WHY you want to change your pattern. Maybe your best life looks like a minimalist lifestyle where you wake up with gratitude, do yoga on your porch facing the Caribbean Ocean, then have an organic breakfast in solitude. Or – you wake up to children who don’t have to be told a million times to put their shoes on or they’ll be going to school barefoot. Using your “dream life” as a guide, you can start to see how you can begin to make small changes today.

Remember – baby steps are OK!

Maybe instead of fuming about all the dishes piled up, you ask for your kids or hubby to give you a hand (Hint: could be a good connection/communication moment). If it helps you to feel less like a maid – take 5 or 10 minutes every evening to be sure that you (or the kids) put their shoes, books, etc. where they will be easily accessed. On the weekends, have everyone pitch in and whip out the cleaning in a fraction of the time it would take you alone. Give yourself some space to make a different choice versus following the habitual path, and ask for those around you to support you. *It will probably be uncomfortable at first – but it will get better! Keep at it!

It’s really about progress.

You’ll learn quickly what works for you – what feels good – but you have to give it a try (and not just poo poo it because it seems (or is) uncomfortable!). Remember – nothing changes if nothing changes – and although I hate to break it to you – there’s no magic wand that makes doing the work easy. Support can definitely make it easier though.

When you share the load, it’s not quite so heavy.

Even I have to remind myself – “I can’t pour from an empty cup”. As givers, it feels funny to start taking care of ourselves, but I can promise – as you take better care of YOU – then you are prepared to give even more, and from a place of fullness.

Interested in ‘trying on’ a few different self care practices? I’m hosting an online, virtual sisterhood in July that I’d love you to be a part of! You can get all the information by clicking here. This opportunity is valued at over $1,000 but the registration fee is only $31 – that’s only a dollar a day! If you have a group of 5, registration per person is only $25 each, and 10 people can be part of the group for just $20 each. *Email me for registration for groups (and if you have any questions) at erin@beautiulmesslife.com

A Beautiful Mess was created by Erin Hill to educate and inspire women to Care for themselves, Communicate their needs, and Connect with their tribe of women who “get it”. Erin is a coach for women and blogger about life. She lives in Cambridge Maryland with her husband and 3 children. More information can be found at www.beautifulmesslife.com

Recovery: Should I Stay or Go by Erin Hill

When you’re married to an addict, there’s a school of thought that makes it sound so easy to “just leave”. In my last post here, I discussed why sometimes you can’t just leave. And there are also those who are staunch in their beliefs of “till death do you part”. I have been in both situations. The first addict marriage – I left. The second – I stayed. So I have this point of view that is pretty unique. There is a difficulty in both decisions. Especially when children are involved.

In many of the groups for addict wives, or loving alcoholics/addicts, even when I was in Alanon – one of the first questions was “Do I stay or do I go?” – and I believe that the only one that can make that choice – is YOU. It’s an extremely personal decision and there are tons of variables that no one other than someone in your shoes is privy to. There are well meaning folks that are truly only wanting you to be happy, but they are not understanding of all of the nuances involved in being married to an addict or alcoholic. (And that goes for any addiction – drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, etc.)

There are a few questions that I’ve come to believe are paramount to making the decision to stay or go.

1)  Are you/your children safe?

Only you can determine what “safe” means. There have been times in the land of “should” that “those people” would have judged what safe meant for me and mine. Please know that those close to you – are saying things out of love and concern. Those in positions of authority (Social Services personnel, etc) may be acting under the expectations of their job, and not necessarily out of malice. However, when you ask ‘what should I do?’ you are deliberately relieving yourself of the responsibility to choose.

2) Are you in a position to leave if you choose that option?

There can be financial, physical, and/or legal obstacles to navigate. You may not be able to afford to leave right away – while I’d like to believe that there are systems and programs available for those who choose to leave, I also know that there are many broken systems. Do your research. Sometimes the programs and systems meant to assist, may not be available or appropriate for your situation.

3) Which choice will be to your benefit?

You may need to make a good ole pros and cons chart to help you decide. Play that “what if” game and feel into each choice – like a choose your own adventure book. Really spend some time with the realities of each choice. Your intuition will assist you here – if you can still hear it. I’ve found that many times we’ve had many ‘red flags’ (our intuition) that we’ve ignored – you may have to apologize and coax her back out. She’s there – I promise. The best choices aren’t always easy or simple.

4) Are you willing to work on YOU?

I’ve done it, and I’ve seen it – we leave one relationship and hop into another – and before we know it, there’s a string of broken promises, hearts, and unfortunately sometimes bones. You have (and need) the ability to work on YOU – I know it’s hard to believe, or admit, but we all bring with us some baggage. If we don’t work on unpacking and sorting through that baggage before we enter another relationship, it’s bound to be an eerily similar situation. Think of it like weeds – if you don’t get to the root of it, they’ll keep coming back.

Finally, do you feel like you can change your mind? (You can.) There are few choices that are final. You can usually choose differently if need be. (Again, if safety is an issue, you need to take that into consideration – if domestic violence is a pattern in your relationship, please consider working with a DV support!) When you feel like you need support, please seek it – find a 12 step group, a friend, your church family, a coach, or online peers.

The MRS (Marriage and Recovery Support) group may be helpful to you – and you can consider this your personal invitation. Search TheMRSGroup on Facebook or click here to join. I’m also organizing in person ‘The MRS’ groups to be held in Easton and Cambridge starting this summer. If you would like more information on those as the details come to fruition, you can sign up for weekly newsletters at www.beautifulmesslife.com