The more and more I dig into addiction, incarceration, and the loss of my father, the more I see how closely they correlate with one another.
Then I start thinking about other issues such as divorce, mental health, losing a job, depression, suicide, dementia, cancer, and of course there is many more.
What separates and connects them all is the emotions they make us feel, the people they affect, and the ways we choice to deal with them, whether that is action or inaction.
Lets talk about emotions first; guilt, shame, anger, confusion, sorrow, anxious, or pity. These are all natural feelings that need to run their course before someone can move on or even grow from the situation. So, who does it affect, besides the individual who is incarcerated, just lost a significant other, going through depression, fighting cancer, grieving suicide? That answer is everybody in their lives; family members, co-workers, friends, or acquaintances.
I recently read in a book called Option B, and it talked about how most times these situations create an “elephant in the room.” That is because most people in your life have not went through whatever you are going through, so they don’t know how they could possibly help.
This then creates a bridge or divide and they pull back and even though they may want to help or comfort, they don’t. This often times can lead to damaging that relationship, because the person trying to cope may have expected help, and was hurt even further when they didn’t receive it.
Then you have the strangers or the people you don’t expect come out of the woodwork and truly help, I know I have more then a few in my situation such as my buddy’s mom Diane, my cousin Kim, and my aunt Susan.
This inability to act does not happen for everyone because some people in your life might be able to relate and there is a good chance those individuals will reach out. These are all painful topics that want to be avoided at all costs and that is understandable, but what is not understandable is then doing nothing. I mean what do you say to parent who’s child just committed suicide? How about “I can’t begin to imagine what you are going through, but if there is anything I can do, I am here for you.” That might be enough, and they may not take you up on the offer, but you at least put the ball in their court to make that decision and offered them a helping hand.
We need to start acting on our suspicions; if you think someone is going through something like depression ask them about it, lend a hand to someone who is dealing with an incarcerated loved one, lend a shoulder to someone who is coping with death of a loved one, and assistance to someone who is struggling with addiction.
When I was personally dealing with my addiction I had a few people lend a hand, offered to pay for my treatment, others offered me a place to stay, but I didn’t take them up on it. I wasn’t ready, but once I was ready, I knew exactly who I could turn to and lean on.
There is a technique that was also discussed in the book Option B, and that is journaling. There is just something about writing your thoughts down that help you analyze them deeper. One of my favorite statements in the book, “writing can be a powerful tool for learning self-compassion.” (pg.62) As soon as I read that I though, “that’s it,” that is what is about in most cases, forgiving yourself. So often when dealing with the topics I have discussed in these blog posts it comes down to blaming and typically the one that gets blamed the most is yourself.
I know that was the case for me, and until I learned to forgive myself I knew I wouldn’t be able to grow from my situation. I didn’t start writing until I started doing these posts with my sister here on the blog (5 years in prison), and even as it was happening I didn’t completely know where it was going, or the impact it would have on my own life and recovery, but i feel like I have grown up 5 + years over the last 12 months, and the 5 years prior to starting to write here I was simply standing still.
In one of my next posts I am going to talk about my favorite concept from Option B and that is “Positive Traumatic Growth.” Thanks for listening!
(Noah also wrote a a really good post on how to lend a helping hand if you missed it you can read it here: Who have you helped today?)