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It’s always hard to step out of your comfort zone – even when there’s nothing remotely comfortable about the zone your life currently occupies. That was one of the most troubling realizations that came to me when a perfect storm of difficulties descended, capped by my child’s addiction.

From a family life that was happy by all standards, my world slowly began to crumble as a long series of hardships descended. A loved one’s terminal illness, older parents needing care, financial difficulties as my ability to work was compromised by the demands of caregiving. When addiction entered the mix, my daily existence turned into a darker, even more desperate place.

That place became my new normal. As bad as it was, I had become comfortable in that zone. The crises with my loved ones eventually eased, to the point where my child’s addiction was the only remaining nightmare. But, I had become so accustomed to the daily battles, sleepless nights, and anxiety that I just kept going with what I knew.

What I didn’t realize was that in caring for others, I had become sick, too. It wasn’t until I discovered my tribe – rooms filled with others experiencing the same issues – that I understood that I had to step out of this “comfort zone,” and work on taking care of myself.

Just like my addicted child, I saw that my life had become unmanageable. I needed the support of others – and I had to work a program. That program included Nar-Anon and parent group meetings, step work, focusing on my mental and physical health, and discovering things that brought me joy.   It wasn’t easy at first, especially since the constant crises of an actively using addict was still a constant. But, little by little, I did feel the dark cloud I carried with me begin to lift. Gradually, I smiled more, laughed more and felt more engaged in life.

I also learned to work on my enabling, rescuing and controlling. Doing so eventually helped move my child toward a sustained recovery. Today my comfort zone is a place of relative calm. If the darkness begins moving in, I know how to lean towards the light, rather than be consumed by the gray. Life is healthy and hopeful. I’m so grateful for my new normal — and I’m nurturing it, one day at a time.

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