A Lesson in Getting Over Myself
When my daughter was a toddler, we got into the habit of doing a “check brush” every night before bed. This meant that, after she spent a little time brushing her teeth, we would hold her in our laps and gently brush all of her teeth to make sure nothing got missed. She was great at this, but I distinctly remember one night where she put up a fuss. This was unlike her, and I didn’t like it. It didn’t seem like I was expecting much, and this was a regular part of our nighttime routine, so I was determined to make it happen. She cried and refused and the more she squirmed and squealed, the more determined I became. It was a battle of wills and I wasn’t going to lose. After a half hour of crying, she fell asleep on my lap in the bathroom. I didn’t feel like I won anything. A couple of days later, we found that she was growing a new tooth. That explained the toothbrushing disaster, and it made me feel like a horrible parent. I had made that situation so much about me that I didn’t leave space for anything but my ego. I wasn’t able to ask myself, “Why else would she be refusing to do this normal thing right now?” I didn’t even think, “Maybe I shouldn’t force this since she’s a two-year old and it’s the end of her day. Maybe today she’s just having a hard time with this.”
(Please bear with me while I tie this to something far more serious than clean teeth.)
Recently I’ve become more involved with work to support people with substance use disorder, and it’s made me reflect on my relationships with people suffering from addiction. Earlier in my life, I saw every way that those addictions manifested as an insult to me. I saw those actions as ways that my loved ones were showing me that they didn’t love me enough to change. Just like that story above with my daughter, I was wrong. It wasn’t about me. It was about something I couldn’t see. It was about a bunch of things that the people in my life had been through—situations that had shaped them and hurts that they were struggling to heal—that had nothing to do with me.
There’s a quote floating around that I’m seeing more of these days, and I like it. It goes, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” Let’s make things less about us, and be stingy with our judgments and generous with our support. This is especially important for all the people who we love that are touched by addiction. They need to know that we are there for them, and our desire for their recovery is greater than our egos.
Brendan Schauffler is the Network Facilitator for the Oxford County Wellness Collaborative, a group devoted to making Oxford County the healthiest county in Maine and one of the most desirable in which to live, work, and raise children. Want to get involved? You can reach him at 739-6222 or Brendan@healthyoxfordhills.org.
He works for Healthy Oxford Hills, the local Healthy Maine Partnership and a project of Stephens Memorial Hospital.
Reprinted with permission from the Advertiser Democrat