Living Around Addiction

When living around addiction it is all too easy to keep your focus on what’s going on around you.  The external.


And it’s easy to do, because there is sooooo much going on in “the external”. Those who live around addiction know that even when it doesn’t seem like anything is happening there are 1,000,001 things that could be happening or could upset the delicate balance of the ecosystem that you are desperately trying to preserve.  


That’s why we focus on the external.


But, it’s essential to turn inwards and look at how living like this can affect our nervous system.


Let’s touch on a few responses that can easily occur in a nervous system living around addiction:


  • Chronic Stress


Chronic stress is a persistent baseline of stress that your body has been operating at, so much so that it becomes normalized. Our systems are equipped to handle stress.  Big stressors, little stressors, good stressors, and bad stressors (oh my– this sounds like the beginning to the world’s worst Dr. Suess book)– our nervous system can fully handle those. But, this constant strain is not how our nervous system is designed to operate.


The hard part is that you may not connect this feeling to having anything to do with the addiction you are living around.  “I’m stressed about my grocery rearranging the produce section again, so I can’t find the grapes that my family likes, and this is going to make my shopping take even longer, and I already didn’t have enough time to get everything done that I wanted to get done today… this has nothing to do with ________’s addiction. It’s 2024!  Everyone’s stressed! WHY WOULD THEY HIDE THE GRAPES!”  


Uh, yeah, I know that feeling. But, keep in mind that the uncertainty that constantly surrounds addiction has your nervous system in a state of unease.  This unease can show up as a constant level of stress that you don’t even realize you are dealing with at the time– this can lead to some surprising stress-induced outbursts about grapes… or whatever pops up for you.


  • Hypervigilance and Micromanaging Behaviors


Paying extra close attention to your surroundings, to the mood of those around you, to the reactions of those around you, to the weather, the time, to any and every stimuli that could possibly wreak havoc on the delicate balance of the life you’re living around addiction!!… yep. That’s hypervigilance.  


Living around addiction is unpredictable and can feel unstable– sometimes we try to create a false sense of stability by paying ridiculously close attention to our surroundings in the hope that we can see any problems before they occur and solve them before they snowball into something bigger. It’s exhausting.


Micromanaging behaviors go hand and hand with hypervigilance. Spending so much time being hypervigilant can easily lead into a desire to control every little thing that goes on around you.  It’s almost like the nervous system’s response to not being able to control the addict in your life’s behavior– Can’t control a so how about I control b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j…? You get the picture. 


It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like this is helpful for whoever is dealing with addiction (uh, hello 👋been there!), but that’s simply not the case and this response isn’t sustainable.


  • Depression


The persistent strain that living around addiction can put on your nervous system can sometimes show up as depression. A system that has been operating under such big emotions, uncertainty, and intensity may begin to retreat, withdraw, and shut down.  It goes without saying– but I’ll say it: this is in no way a sign of weakness; this is an act of survival. 


It’s not pretty, but these are just a few of the nervous system responses that we can experience as we live around addiction. 


As we work towards healing, though, remember: it can be ugly, it can be messy, but it doesn’t have to be permanent.  You can get UNSTUCK (check out my current routines and how I stay UNSTUCK here….it’s a totally free pdf that uncovers my most impactful habits for helping my nervous system heal from ALL the things)!!


How These Feelings May Show Up In Your Body


Reading through those examples of responses you may have just had the lightbulb moment: “YES! That is totally me!  THAT’S what I have been going through!”  But in real time it can often be harder to identify what is happening in our nervous system.  


20/20 hindsight, am I right?


Luckily, even if it is difficult to put a name to these responses in the moment, your mind-body connection may be sending you hints, signs, clues– whatever you want to call ‘em– to let you know that something in your nervous system is off. 


Here are a few of the ways these hints may manifest physically:


  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Digestive issues
  • Weakened immune system
  • Skin problems
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sleep disturbance


Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list, by any means, of what your nervous system may be experiencing as you navigate living around addiction.


Likewise, this list isn’t here to make you feel defeated. This is here to highlight the mind-body connection and maybe explain why you are experiencing some of these symptoms– it doesn’t mean you have to be stuck like this. 


Noticing the connection and learning to listen to your body is just another step on your healing journey. Congrats! We just keep taking those steps to heal. 


Sometimes, it may feel like linear movement forward.


Other times, it may feel like 1 step forward and 14 back. 


Other times, it may feel like a dance lesson you didn’t sign up for and you have no idea the steps are taking you…


All of these experiences are welcome.  Keep dancing.  Keep taking the steps and moving towards healing.


“Yes, I absolutely connect with these responses… What now?” 


As we jitterbug our way towards healing (this may be my last dance reference, but I can’t promise that…), it’s key to find some practices that are healthily within your control to support your nervous system.  This is where I reallllllly lean on what I often refer to as my “Daily Practice”.  


There are also other somatic practices that I practice as consistently as I can or as they feel needed.  I love a cold plunge (or more so, I am learning to love it and love what it does for my nervous system) read more on this here.  I am always up for an impromptu dance party– with the people I love or, more often than not, solo.  I practice journaling, meditation, and breathwork.  


In short, I find practices that feel grounding for me and practice them consistently. And movement based Somatic Therapy has been a true game changer for me.


Next Steps


Feeling a nudge to explore somatic therapy?  Let’s talk next steps!


→ Join my Free Somatic Recovery Sessions– no strings attached.  Movement, breathwork, meditation, and connection… the perfect first steps for exploring healing through somatic practices!


→ Reach out and we can chat about working together 1:1 through somatic coaching.


Always, here on this journey with you!


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