The only limits you have are the limits you believe. - Wayne Dyer
A plethora of information is available on how to change limiting beliefs that block happiness and success. An Amazon search includes 18 pages of books on this topic with titles such as, “Getting Free,” “Mindset Master,” “Lose the Limits," “Don’t Stay Stuck,” “Break Through Your BS.” Blog posts in Psychology Today also address this topic. For example, Steve Sisgold (link) writes: “Beliefs are literally the lens through which you view the world.” They can slant your perspective in either positive or negative ways.
Some experts claim that these beliefs often begin in childhood (link). Most agree that we can benefit from examining and changing them. Family and friends of loved ones who abuse drugs and alcohol experience negative thinking and feelings of helplessness. Therefore, we too can benefit from identifying and working to change our limiting beliefs.
Living in the Past
We often might recall times when we exploded in anger because our son, daughter, husband, wife, or sibling wouldn’t stop using and ignored our pleas asking them to seek help. And those times when we manipulated our loved ones so they’d do what we wanted. “If you go to your NA meeting, I’ll let you have the car this weekend.” Drudging up past hurts and disappointments leads to guilt and shame. My adult son has bounced in and out of recovery for many years. Like me, he tends to dwell on his old, destructive behavior which fosters guilt and shame and delays moving forward. I remind him that he can’t do anything to change the past; he can only learn from it and do his best in the present. Good advice for both of us. Taking one day at a time is healthier than dwelling in the past.
Worrying about the Future
Because of my son’s up and down pattern, I worry. “When will the next shoe fall?” Too much “what if” thinking. What if he winds up in the streets and homeless, lands in jail, or dies from a car crash or drug overdose. Unfortunately, these events are all too common. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from 1999 to 2015, more than 183,000 people have died in the U.S. from overdoses related to prescription opioids. (And these figures do not include other drugs and/or alcohol.) In fact, my home state of West Virginia has the highest rate of deaths due to drug overdose, with nearly 3,000 victims in the past three years. Recently, a dear friend’s twenty-seven year old nephew died from an overdose. When confronted with these cold facts, it’s difficult not to fear the future. No one can know the future, and my best hope for my son’s permanent recovery is as likely to occur as my worst fear.
Repeating the Same Mistakes
I’ve often heard that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same things over and over and expect different results. Enabling behavior presents a significant challenge for family and friends who try to control and fix loved ones. It feels counter intuitive to abandon a loved one when he or she is in trouble. Family bonds are strong. Even sacred. But it turns out that enabling harms rather than heals. So we’re urged to confront our co-dependency and detach with love. But there’s a fine line between helping and enabling. I often feel as if I tip toe on a tightrope between the two. My goal is to not repeat my co-dependent behaviors. I’m not always successful, but I learned to no longer beat myself up when I do.
Holding on to Resentment
A good friend once said, “Fran, no expectations, no resentments.” Sound advice, but difficult to practice. We can resent our loved ones who lie and manipulate. We can resent family and friends who don’t understand the family dynamics of addiction and give us unsolicited advice. We can resent the stigma still attached to addiction. We can resent having to deal with chaos, crises, despair and helplessness. We even can resent that there aren’t enough facilities available for recovery. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 23.5 million persons aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol abuse problem in 2009 (9.3 percent of persons aged 12 or older). Of these, only 2.6 million—11.2 percent of those who needed treatment—received it at a specialty (link). Granted not everyone seeks treatment but when a loved one is ready to enter a facility, he’s often placed on a waiting list. Then there’s the expense. It’s not uncommon for detox centers to charge between $3,000 to $5,000 for admission. Often families cannot afford it and loved ones die (link).
Putting Yourself Last
One of the first things I heard when I attended a session for loved ones was the importance of taking care of myself. That failed to resonate because I’d spent an inordinate amount of time taking care of my adult son. Doing his laundry, paying his bills, lending him money, buying him food, cleaning his apartment, listening to his complaints, and giving him advice. I had become as addicted to my son as he had become addicted to illegal substances. I had to learn that putting myself first wasn’t a selfish or self-indulgent. That it was okay to indulge in simple pleasures, such as sharing a meal with friends, taking a walk in the woods, attending a concert or lecture, reading a novel, scheduling a massage, working in my garden, or eating an ice cream cone. Since I’ve been taking better care of myself, I’ve been able to better manage my relationship with my son. I’m calmer and more centered. Less judgmental and more forgiving.
If any of the above limit you, consider a change. Here are a few resources to get you started.