Aaron was distraught. He finally realized that he left his abusive childhood home only to recreate it as an adult. This was not his intent. He wanted more for himself and his children. The peace he longed for had never been achieved either within himself or in his environment.
His mother was an abusive alcoholic who died in a drunk driving accident. His wife didn’t drink but became addicted to Adderall after taking some of their son’s ADHD medication. Her behavior went from normal to hyper to chaotic in a short period of time. Now their whole household was in turmoil as she said and did whatever it took to keep taking the drug.
Addicts turn abusive when they feel deprived of their drug of choice. Aaron was blamed for everything that went wrong as his wife continued to spiral downward. Even though Aaron wanted to separate, he was afraid to leave the house for fear that things would get worse for his wife and kids. Instead, he chose to stay and try to keep some sort of peace until his wife agreed to get help.
But how does a person find peace in the face of abuse and addiction? Here are some points.
- The absence of conflict is not peace. Living in harmony often requires confrontation especially when there is abusive or addictive behavior. Overlooking the harmful behavior does not promote peace; rather it delays it further. Instead, a well-timed chastisement done in love and kindness is more appropriate. When his wife acted abusively, Aaron would verbally identify the behavior (“This is belittling behavior,”) reset his boundary (“Because I love you, I won’t tolerate it,”) and then deescalated the conflict by walking away.
- The goal is to live in peace. Aaron reset his goals during this time to be intentionally focused on living in peace. This is both an inward and outward process. Inwardly, he stopped being mad at himself for recreating his childhood experience for his children. Instead, he changed his inner dialogue to one of grace and understanding. Outwardly, he often verbalized his goal of a peaceful house to his wife and kids. He set a new expectation of living peacefully together.
- Act untroubled by harm. In the face of danger, a peaceful person acknowledges the potential for harm, works out a plan for safety and sees it through. In this way, they appear to be untroubled by harmful behavior. This is how a person can be still and yet present in the face of danger. Using his wife’s past abusive behavior as an indication of what could happen in the future, Aaron thought out some scenarios in advance so he could decide ahead of time how he wanted to behave. This allowed his goal of living peacefully to be achieved.
- Silence does not equal peace. Instead, silence can be used as an illusion for peace. In the past, Aaron would remain silent during the abusive behavior. He did this because he was shocked by his wife’s reactions and triggered by his mother’s. Inside, he was deeply troubled despite his quietness. Being at peace with yourself means the inside feelings should match the outside expression. Not that the outside expression needs to be at the same intensity as the inward feelings, but they should at least be on the same spectrum.
- Don’t become like the abuser. At the core of abusive behavior are manipulation, deceit, dishonesty, and deception. To have peace, a person does not have to become more like the other person. This is especially true when the other person is an addict. Harmony cannot happen when a person joins in with the abusive behavior; two wrongs don’t make a right. Rather, the heart of a peaceful person begins with joy.
- Peaceful spirit leads to a healthy body. A troubled spirit can destroy the strongest of bodies. Jealous is a perfect example of this. Jealousy produces the adverse effects of anxiety, stress, anger, resentment, and destruction. All of this negative energy eats away at a healthy body and spirit. As Aaron learned to release some of the negativity, he discovered that his muscles were less tense, he had fewer headaches, and his digestive system functioned better.
Aaron’s plan of creating a peaceful household worked. Eventually, his wife saw the stark contrast between his continued peacefulness and her constant discord and she sought help. After going to a rehabilitation hospital for several months, she got better and made peace her goal as well.