So, you finally admit to yourself that you can’t make your loved one change. Now what do you do? For many of us it seems that our only option is to stay stuck in a miserable rut. My client, Rob, thought that. A widower for 10 years, he discovered about 5 years ago daughter began using drugs at the age of 18, 7 years ago. After 3 rehab attempts and countless out-patient groups, Rob had given up on ever helping his daughter get clean. Now the two were going through a painful routine of
His home felt like a prison to him. His bedroom was locked day and night protecting any objects remaining that were of any value from being stolen and sold for drugs. He came home in the evening, unlocked his door and put away his car keys and his wallet before he could sit down to dinner. Usually his daughter would leave shortly after his arrival, sometimes she did not return home for days.
We talked about ways Rob could break free from this bondage. I reminded him that his daughter was an adult, in her mid-20s, and Rob was no longer responsible for her care and well-being. I also asked Rob an important question, one he had stop asking long ago. I asked, “Now that you realize you can’t stop your daughter from using, what do you want or need to feel better?” We worked on that question a long time.
Finally, Rob made changes in his own life. He admitted he was lonely and felt like no one would understand if he told them about his life. He wanted someone besides his therapist to know what he was going through. So he started going to Al-Anon and made some friends whose experiences were similar to his. Eventually his daughter moved away. Rob misses her and worries about her, but his daily stress is lessened. He can put his keys by the door; he can bring home a guest without worry; he can sleep at night.
It’s hard to break the habit of thinking about the Unreasonable Person’s unreasonable behavior. It’s true, if they changed, life would be better for everyone. But you can’t make that happen. So you have to shift your focus from them to yourself. Ask yourself, right now, how do you feel? How do you want to feel? What could you change about your situation to help change how you feel?