It can be damaging trying to get through a loved one's addiction without learning to practice self-care. If we aren't careful, we will come out much worse than how we went into it. The years of stress and worry will leave their marks behind and we will have little to show for our troubles.
I'm sure you've heard it said that God can use anything for your good. But what is our responsibility in hard times? What part do we play in making sure that we are healthy, happy and whole? Is passing the buck and trusting God, enough?
Well... not completely. We've got to do our part!
Let's say I want to lose twenty pounds. Sure, I can trust God to give me strength but the fact is, I have to also stop eating the muffins. And start exercising. And again, with the muffins- I have to learn to walk away! (Even when they're freshly baked blueberry crumble- mmmmmm). I can sit around and complain about my weight, eating muffins and trusting God but it's not likely to bring about any victory in my health.
A better plan would be to trust God to help me with self-control and endurance. I would intentionally resist the muffins by finding recipes for healthier, low-fat snacks (like blueberry yogurt bites!), commit to exercise for thirty minutes twice a week, replace all high-sugar beverages with water- you get the idea.
In an effort to resist codependency, enabling, intervening in natural consequence and all the other things we're told not to do, we tend to have the first, "I'll trust God!" mentality and in it, we find little to no success. There's a practical position we need to take, generally based on commitment, when it comes to "waiting on God" because waiting on God is not an inactive state- it's an action!
I have found addiction to be no different from anything else we come up against; God will give us the wisdom, the resources and the ability to do the work for the reward.
I'll give you an example:
When my husband was diagnosed with bipolar disorder neither him, or I, knew anything about it. Fast forward one year and he still knows little about it while I have become a bonafide expert (okay, not at all actually, but I've read extensively on his diagnosis, go to the psychiatrist with questions and certainly understand more than him). I watched his patterns, I paid attention to try and figure out his triggers, I researched his medication.
Some may call that codependent but you know, it helped. It helped so much that for the first time, he got on a medication he accredits to him being able to maintain sobriety.
"Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.'”
-Genesis 2:18 (ESV)
Take this verse and think about it- out of context of a man and wife, and look at it from the perspective of all people. Men are by nature providers, they find solutions, they are protectors and women are nurturing, compassionate, excellent helpers. Notice a group of volunteers the next time you go to a charity event, the majority of them are going to be women.
Women make excellent, selfless, helpful partners but too often, we forget to help ourselves.
We can't simply "trust God" to make our lives better (He isn't going to take away the muffins!) but we can trust that God will provide the means, the wisdom, the strength and the know-how to do it.
Today is about you.
One of the gifts God gave women is their beauty; both a love for it and possession of it. I was in the beauty industry for a long time and I know how much of an issue looks can be for women. Whether it's a lack of confidence or way too much of it, we women do not manage the gift of our beauty well. If you run in Christian circles, you may have been told to emulate the Proverbs 31 woman:
"Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised."
-Proverbs 31:30 (CSB)
Proverbs thirty-one is a mother telling her son what qualities to look for in a wife. Certainly, when my boys grow up I want them to marry a woman who is more than beautiful but also fears the Lord, however, I'm not going to hate on her if she's also pretty!
I don't personally buy into the whole, "We're more Godly if we spend less on clothing and don't wear makeup". We don't want our looks to become an idol and our everything but ladies- God wants you to feel good. If a little bit of bronzer and a new hairstyle help with that, go for it!
I also know that when it comes to addiction, we ladies sacrifice too much, too often. We become so used to denying ourselves that we don't even know what healthy looks like anymore. Our loved ones are spending all our money, ruining our weekends, we spend all our time protecting and sacrificing and then we lose ourselves in the process. It can quickly get to the point where we don't even know what it is we're trusting God for anymore.
On the flip side, too much of a good thing isn't good either. Too much skin, too much makeup, too much time spent obsessing over our looks- not good.
We need the healthy, well-balanced, low-fat muffin, blueberry yogurt bite recipe for our self-care. Ready? Here it is!
Step One: Mix your beauty routines.
Routines help us to not go crazy when it comes to our looks. If beauty is an area you have trouble in, book an appointment with your hairstylist or an esthetician for a "practice session". Let them show you exactly what products you need for your hair and skin type (and listen to them, don't try to replace it with the cheap version- it won't work no matter how hard you try to make it happen).
The same goes for our waistlines! Book a one-on-one appointment with a physical trainer, your favourite yogi or a local nutritionist and ask them to give you a manageable plan you can implement at home.
As I said above, God will make available to us all the wisdom and resources we need so if you can't afford a professional, hey, no problem! There's this super awesome tool called the internet that's usually used for evil and perversion but every once in a while there's a really positive use for it...
Step Two: Carve out soul-time.
I say "carve it out" because let's be honest, our quiet time isn't usually the first thing we prioritize. Find something in your life that can wait until tomorrow. Maybe that's the dishes, maybe it's time with your husband, maybe it's volunteering for the school fair- whatever it is, cut it out and make time for God.
Step Three: Let yourself simmer.
There's a reason cooking instructions rarely say to set a timer when it comes to simmering; there are too many variables that can change the time it takes! The same goes for us. So please, throw out any expectations you have about your "timer" and allow yourself to simmer. Let the people around you simmer. I know it's difficult but let things take time. It will take time to find the right routine, it will take time for our waistlines to lose their muffin tops and it will take time for our loved ones to find healing and wholeness.
"Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart be courageous. Wait for the Lord."
-Psalm 27:14 (CSB)
Step Four: Serve the Lord.
One of the best things we can to help ourselves is to serve others. As I said above, women make excellent helpers. There is something in our nature that drives us to serve. In doing so, we do a number of things including getting our mind off our own troubles. Serving cultivates gratefulness, humility, patience, compassion and a host of other good characteristics.
Help another woman who is helplessly helping and you'll both benefit from the fruit of your labour.
Lastly, repeat again and again.
In the midst of hard times, we can repeat this self-care recipe over and over, as many times as we need, until we get it right. Self-care is not always easy but it's important so please don't forget about wonderful, amazing, beautiful- you!