The loved one's cycle is started by fear. Most move to obsession, then control, and can continue to cycle through because the control leads to fear again. Some people may not go through it so cut and dried and may skip obsession and go straight to control or it may depend on the trigger, but it still is a cycle for the person. Picture the cycle surrounded by triggers on every side that can start fear at any given moment. In my mind, I have literally felt like some triggers have been hidden like land mines. I innocently step on them and BAM I'm off and feeling some very strong negative emotions. There is a second ring outside the cycle surrounding the triggers ring that squeezes it all together. Just like the addict it fits together oh so nicely to send it all in a downward spiral. This ring is the loved one's faulty core beliefs. These may have been present before or developed through living with an addict (or "worsened" because of it). YIKES! This cycle is what I have been living for a very long time.
So, an example with the above trigger may look something like this: I find out one of my friends is pregnant (and don't feel guilty or bad for being pregnant! I love all of you and your bellies too!). I'm happy for her, but begin to feel that familiar tug at my heart. At this point I have a few choices. First, I can "stuff it" and pretend that is doesn't hurt. Second, I can choose to feel how I feel and allow myself to release those emotions in a positive way or third, I can enter the cycle. I've already talked about the first option previously and the second I will cover for the remainder of the post. So, third it is. My trigger of babies/pregnancy propels me into fear. What if Mark never hits recovery? What if it takes so long that I'm past child bearing years? What if I never have a baby ever again? What if we are done having children? (This probably isn't your trigger, but stay with me). I then begin on the obsessing stage. For me, this all unravels very quickly, so I have to be on top of things to prevent cycling through. I may begin to think about events from the past---things associated with his addiction. Usually I relive anger/resentment/frustration and blame "if he hadn't acted on his addiction, I would have 20 kids by now." :) Ok...not 20, but more than 3. :) This is usually a play on faulty core beliefs as well and can be irrational or not true. "If I was a better wife," or "if I was more interesting and not so plain," or whatever your faulty core beliefs may be. You get the picture. Remember in the previous post where I described the difference between thoughts and obsessing. After seeing how "out of control" things are, you quickly determine to get things under control. In previous times, I may have felt an urgency to call/text and check where he was or check his email, some indicator of where he is or what he is doing or reassurance (or sometimes looking for evidence) that he is/isn't acting on his addiction. You just feel very skeptical that he is where he should be and doing what he should be. If I were to not find him where I expected him or he doesn't answer his phone, that can propel me back into fear again because I feel like he is probably acting on his addiction. In reality, he probably has his phone where he can't hear it or is going to the bathroom or something very innocent. I'm not discounting being led by the spirit. You really can be guided and as I look back, I was told by the spirit every time I needed to be warned. BUT when you are in such an emotional state, it gets difficult to feel the spirit and you are just near crazy. This reaction to triggers is very normal and will get better with time and attention and practice. :) The interesting thing I have learned is that obsessing and even attempts to control will not change your loved one or fix his/her addiction. All it does is make me fall to pieces! :) More on that in the upcoming post on boundaries.
So, how do you recognize how you feel and feel it in a positive way? How do "you" stop yourself from cycling through. I put you in quotes because truly "you" can't. This is beyond your capacity to carry. You need God's help and you need a support system first and foremost! :) But, with help, "you" can get yourself in a good place emotionally and keep yourself there.
We were given a pamphlet (that is 47 pages) in on group counseling called "the toolbox." It helps us as partners to understand how we can get what we need to take care of ourselves and also set good boundaries (more to come in a later post) so we can be in a place that we feel safe and stay there while still living with our loved one. They encourage us to make a first aid kit. It doesn't have gauze or bandages in it, but it has things that will be just as vital when we feel hurt emotionally. It's something we design custom for ourselves. They encourage us to write a letter to ourselves, collect items from nature, add pictures or art work, reminders for self-care, music or other recordings, reminders to reach out and call someone in our specific situation, humor, and any other items such as religious reminders or positive affirmations that may be helpful. Place these items in a small box. Many choose to keep it with them at all times. If not, it's encouraged to keep in the place we spend the most time. Any time we may feel ourselves triggered or experiencing negative emotions, we can pull out our first aid kits and that alone can help prevent cycling through.
We also have a few tools in our toolbox. I'm not sure if Mark has the same ones or not? Reading each others' workbooks is a big no no...I would assume so because we are both dealing with addictions.
HALT stand for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired.
Take care of yourself so you don't get too of any of the above, recognizing that you have less control over emotions when you are in any of the above.
This is my most used: allow yourself 3 seconds to think your thought, but get rid of it before it becomes obsessive and replace it with something positive. Allowing the thought to linger past recognizing what you are thinking about can propel you into the cycle very quickly.
Throw your keys under your bed each night as you kneel down to pray. In the morning when you go to leave the house, you will remember that they are under your bed and you kneel again and pray. Prayer is vital to working through and overcoming this!
Don't allow yourself to be isolated. Share your situation with a trusted loved one, religious leader, find a 12-step, find professional help...don't continue in isolation! This can be difficult, especially if there are shame-based beliefs. (More in an upcoming post on shame)
Plan ahead a very specific visual in your mind that you will see whenever you being to obsess. Don't allow yourself to even go into obsession! When you find yourself obsessing, use your visual and just put the brakes on.
Have a time out. This is different from isolation and shame. :) Sometimes you do need to take some quiet time to be "away," and then come back when you are ready. Some suggestions may be quiet music, journaling, reading.
Don't become so serious and overwhelmed you forget to have fun! What do you like to do or have always wanted to do? Go do it! Give yourself the permission to do something fun and having fun while doing it!
Use spontaneous brisk exercise to release negative emotions.
Find humor and have a good laugh. You may have a favorite funny movie, or pick up the comics, or reflect on a situation or experience that always makes you laugh. Find a good joke.
In addition to the tool box, we create our own, personal plan of action. We customize it and can add to it or make changes are we get healthier and focus on overcoming other things. We break this down into daily goals.
So grateful to have tools in my tool box and to be more self aware. I know I didn't cause Mark's addiction and I know I can't cure it. As I look back, I realize that because I didn't understand that I was also cycling through, I felt like I had wilted (or was dying inside like I said at the beginning of the post). I can make the decision and take steps to get to a good place and stay there. That can happen regardless of Mark cycling through.
They showed us a powerful picture in our group counseling...
I have had more and more days when I feel balanced despite Mark occasionally feeling more low than his usual. I truly have compassion for him and tell him that I'm here for him if he needs anything from me, but I can still have a fabulous day! That is amazing to me! The super magnetic force that used to pull me down and I would tank whenever he would tank or sky rocket whenever he would, is not there as often as it used to be. Jesus Christ is becoming more and more of an anchor to me and I am truly grateful for His grace, and also for the professional resources that are helping me to be more aware of myself and my need for Him.