Saturday, July 20, 2013

Caregiving is Part of Your Sober Life

Former First Lady Roslyn Carter said, “everyone has been a caregiver, will be a caregiver or will need a caregiver” so we may be assured that family caregiving is, and will be, part of our sober lives. In fact there is a direct correlation—the longer we are sober the more likely that we’ll do some caregiving. So we should think about it—and learn some things before that day arrives.

Some of us will have fair warning; our parents are aging and we know we’ll be called on to help out, make decisions and to manage medical crises. Others of us will be thrust into caregiving by one unexpected phone call or siren or accident or a doctor saying, “I don’t like the look of this.” And suddenly we are driving to more doctors, hospitals, chemo and dialysis.

No one is really prepared of course. Even when you see it coming it’s not what you see. We never see the emotional pain or the confusion ahead of time. But as we get wiser as our recovery progresses we can –as truly wise people do—learn from other people. So we pay attention when people in meetings talk about being a caregiver, and we listen as if our lives depend on it when they express what they struggle with and what they are learning. Because of course, our lives –and our recovery—do depend on it.

I have done a lot of family caregiving over the years—brothers and sisters who were very ill, a mother with many injuries and disabilities and then my husband with cancer. I have learned a lot. I know how to pack for a hospital appointment and I know how to advocate in a medical setting. And I keep reading books about caregiving because I know there is more to come.

One of my new favorites is “The Caregiving Wife’s Handbook” by Diana Denholm, PhD, LMHC. Her handy paperback is subtitled “Caring for your seriously ill husband, Caring for yourself.”

That’s the trick isn’t it? How do you care for yourself when caring for a very ill partner? Yes, we’ve been told ad nauseam about that airplane advice, “in the event of an emergency put on your oxygen first then assist others.” Yeah, yeah. What most caregivers actually know is that the plane has already crashed. Now what?

And for those of us in recovery we have another layer of discernment: What is selfish and what is self-care…and what is good caregiving versus what is crazy codependence. Again, not easy.

So I love it that Denholm has a chapter called “The Big C” and she is writing about codependence in caregiving situations. Bravo!

This is a book worth having. It’s paperback so you can tuck it in your bag when you have a doctor’s appointment. And having a copy on your shelf means you have one to hand to a sponsee or recovery friend.

You can learn more about Denholm and her book right here:

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