What is “The Loop” and how do you break it?

June 23, 2023
A text quote that reads, "You told me I would find peace, and I was like no way. I did not believe that. I definitely have peace." - Steph, Former Client

If you’ve been hanging around Tipping Point Recovery for a little while now, you’ve probably heard me talk about “the loop.” It’s a key part of our family-centered recovery framework that we teach in our 12-week Recover My Family program, both in regards to your loved one and yourself.

We cover it a bit in our introductory training, Stop the Chaos, which you can access for free inside our online community, Friends of Tipping Point.

Yesterday inside the group, I brought a client, Steph, onto a live with me to talk more about her experience with identifying her loops during our last 12-week program and the impact finally breaking them had on both her and her husband’s well-being. (If you haven’t joined the Facebook group, go do that so you can catch this and other lives.)

But first, what even is “the loop”?

With addiction, there is a loop of experiencing pain, self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, acting out, feeling shame and regret, and then doing it all over again. But addicts aren’t the only ones caught in a loop. Family members end up in a similarly compulsive pattern of behavior; we just self-medicate with something else.

So the first step I give to all families is to identify two things:

  1. How have you become unwell?
  2. And what is the behavior you are repeating?

It might not only be one thing. Often we have multiple loops. And with each loop we break, there’s another that emerges. Like all recovery, it’s an ongoing journey, and we get to continuously go deeper in our healing.

So go ahead and ask yourself…

How have you become unwell?
What behavior are you doing that’s got you in a perpetual cycle of unwellness?

Here were some of Steph’s loops when she first joined our program:

“I was spying, constantly checking the bank account, watching him go out to the car because he would sneak out to the car and drink. I would check all his hiding places where he would hide his stash…I was constantly anxious and in fear. I was starting to get really bad headaches. I wasn’t doing well at work, either, because I was focusing on all the crap that was around me, so I was having a hard time focusing. It wasn’t a good feeling.”

Yet despite how sick she was becoming, Steph still had an almost impossible time giving those behaviors up.

You see, your loops start out as coping skills. They’re your tools. They are how you’ve gotten through life. They’ve been your solution to a painful situation, just like substances are an addict’s solution to their pain.

They’re the same.

And there’s a direct correlation between you starting to unwind your own loop in the way you want your loved one to and their readiness to do that work themselves. It’s freaky how direct that is.

So how do you break your loop?

The same way an addict gives up substances: you detox.

The assignment I give is to identify your behavior that’s perpetuating your unwellness, and detox from it for 72 hours.

I give this as homework in Week 1 of Stop the Chaos (seriously, if you haven’t taken it yet, I can’t recommend it enough), and it is common for most people to not even last a full day in detox. We tend to relapse right away, because that’s how ingrained in us these loops have become.

But relapse is a part of the recovery journey. And being aware of your loops, catching yourself in them, makes them that much easier to break.

There are other steps you can take to help you along the way:

“I’m doing step work, so that helps,” Steph shared. “And meditation and journaling. Like I’ve been journaling in the morning, and if I’m starting to be fearful, I’ll write it down to try to get it out. I also have a therapist.”

Finding a support network is one of the best things you can do to keep yourself on a recovery path.

“Connecting with other people who know what you’re going through is huge,” Steph said.

And even though she still has loops—different ones than she used to have, but loops all the same—Steph isn’t in chaos anymore.

“You told me I would find peace, and I was like no way. No way. I did not believe that. And I definitely have peace.”

I’m curious, what loops have you identified for yourself? Leave them in the comments below.

If you want to watch my full conversation with Steph, you can catch it inside the Friends of Tipping Point community. And if you’re ready to find your own peace, join us for our upcoming Recover My Family 12-week program. Enroll now to take advantage of weekly jumpstart sessions leading up to the official start date in July.

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