We all make decisions every day. Hundreds of them. Some big like deciding whether to move, change jobs, or get married, and some small like what to eat for breakfast or which outfit to wear.
And we all make decisions in different ways. Maybe you decide what to wear based on your mood that day, where someone else may first need to check the weather forecast, lay out three different options, and try them all on before settling on one.
Now, how do you make a decision when, say, your loved one calls from treatment and says, “The food sucks, the people are mean, they’re doing bad things, you have to come get me”?
Does your normal process go out the window?
The primary way we see families making decisions when they first arrive at Tipping Point is with knee-jerk reactions. They have a foot on their throat that they’re desperate to get off, they’re scared for their loved one, and they’re making decisions from that place of fear.
These decisions are reactions instead of responses.
Fear-based decisions rather than loved-based decisions.
Addiction-driven decisions rather than recovery-oriented decisions.
Here at Tipping Point, we often use fear and love interchangeably with addiction and recovery. And when you’re dealing with a life-threatening illness or an emotionally compromised relationship like often comes with addiction, it’s really dangerous to be making decisions from that place of fear. Fear keeps us in addiction’s grip; it keeps us in the chaos, and no one gets well from that place.
So how do you start to make recovery-oriented decisions instead?
Here’s what I do:
1. Stop making any decisions.
Obviously this isn’t forever. Just long enough for you to get yourself out of an activated state and grounded back in your body.
This can look like using phrases such as, “Great question. Let me think about it and call you back,” or, “I’d like to talk about this more, but I’ve got a meeting right now. Let me call you back.”
Your loved one may not like hearing that response. They want for their emergency to become your emergency so you’ll handle it for them. But you get to be the one to decide if that’s really what you want. Which brings me to the next step…
2. Reflect on the decision you want to make.
Ask yourself, “Is this a good thing for me and them? Is it in the best and highest good for both of us?”
Check in with your needs. And even harder, be honest with yourself about what those needs are. As backwards as it feels, you really do need to fasten your own oxygen mask before you help your loved one with theirs. Because if your needs aren’t met, you may not be able to be there for your loved one at all.
Is there a potential regret here? Could this decision build into resentment?
This mini litmus test helps me start to see if I’m acting out of fear instead of love.
3. Tell on yourself.
A mom I was working with once called me on the way to the treatment center to pick up her son. He’d called and asked her to come get him, and her knee-jerk reaction had been to say yes. She was halfway there when she called me and said, “I don’t want to do this.”
Making this switch isn’t the kind of thing where you just one day decide to only make healthy, recovery-oriented decisions, and just like that you stop ever reacting with fear. It doesn’t work that way. These are deeply ingrained habits we’re trying to change, and usually it’s only after you’ve made the knee-jerk reaction that you realize it’s happened.
By telling on yourself when that realization hits, by owning your stuff in that way, it helps you break the pattern, which makes it easier to catch the next time.
It’s also a way to get some support, because everyone can relate to making a decision out of fear. It’s one of the reasons our Facebook community Friends of Tipping Point exists, so we can have a safe place of support to turn to as we work on building these recovery tools.
The key to making recovery-oriented decisions is to know where your lane is.
You can learn how to do just that inside the guides of our free community where we’ve posted our introductory training, Stop the Chaos.
And remember, your loved one’s ability to get sober and stay sober is connected to the change the people around them are starting to make, and this change is best for you in your whole life.
Take it from a member of the group who commented, “What I am finding is I am using these tools with everyone in my life now…grounded decisions and mindful reactions.”
So let me know in the comments, how do you usually make decisions? Do you notice yourself sometimes making knee-jerk reactions?
If you’re ready to make the shift to recovery-oriented decisions but would like some help in making these changes, I’m now offering a 4-session coaching package so you can get 1-1 support from me in doing just that. Get it here. I’d love to help.