Self-Care for Caregivers: A Twelve Step Approach Book Excerpts
“For a time, I visited Mom every day and still tried desperately to ‘save’ her. Even when she could no longer recognize or communicate, I felt obligated to go often. With every visit, I became more depressed and resentful. Why does this have to happen to her? I want her back. On Mother’s Day, for several years, I stayed home. But gradually, through working the First Step, I have been learning to let go. I am giving myself permission to not go to the nursing home so often. I realize I cannot save her, and I cannot make her the center of my life.”
Step Four asks us to stop and think about our habits and how they affect others as well as ourselves. This is called doing a moral inventory. It is an important step for caregivers because it allows us to look at the difficulties associated with caregiving in a fresh light.
It’s a little like spring housecleaning. We dust off an polish the things we like as they are, and we repair, redecorate, or throw away the rest…. We begin to see and appreciate our positive habits of caring and competency. We also shed light on our self-destructive behaviors and the harmful ways we treat others–ways that may have left us feeling ineffective and unhappy. We can acknowledge the fears, the loneliness, the anger, the jealousy, the chronic grief, the dishonesty, the embarrassment–all the feelings and actions that cause us pain and get us in trouble.
When her daughter, Marietta, was first diagnosed with leukemia at age five, Odella had an overwhelming need to be in control. She kept a detailed notebook tracking every test and its results. She begged friends to keep their children from saying anything to Marietta about her condition. “I would focus on things that weren’t really important, thinking I was in control. But I wasn’t.” After a year of this, says Odella, “I figured out I couldn’t really be in control.” She began to surrender, accepting whatever came and trusting that God was walking with her.