Love and Addiction – So You Love an Addict
The confusion that besets a family member who has a loved one with substance use disorder is tremendous. When addiction takes hold, a million thoughts and feelings take us captive and we begin the journey of searching for answers and a possible solution. Love and addiction
The person you gave birth to or the man or woman you married was fun loving, humorous, generous and kind. But where has this person gone? He or she isolates himself or herself, they lie and manipulate you in every possible way, and they can’t seem to show up in any meaningful way.
We try to figure out what went wrong and the question arises of what can I do to fix it? It’s not what you had imagined your life or their life to look like. This is so common when someone you love is an addict or an alcoholic. We still try to find the real husband, son or daughter somewhere in there and we try and treat them as if there is no problem.
But due to the deception, stealing, lies and no shows; we begin to lose faith and trust in a better tomorrow. After this has gone on for sometime, we peg the patterns and our responses start to change. We begin to see the truth and we find ourselves reacting differently and it almost feels cruel because we are no longer willing to pay for their gas, let them borrow money, or even live together any longer. We ask ourselves how can this be? We can only manage these behavioral changes for so long and then the entire family starts to struggle.
Individuals with substance use disorder will do anything to get that drug or a drink. It is not a want any longer; it is a necessity. But when they realize the drink or drug is no longer working for them, it is a dark moment, hour, day, week, month or sometimes year. The first year of sobriety is one of deep pain. They have not been managing life well up to this point and when they decide to get sober, they are feeling their feelings for the first time in a very long time. Pain motivates all of us to change. So when you love an addict, the most essential thing they need is to allow them to feel whatever comes up. There are no quick answers or solutions.
Is My Helping Being Helpful?
I wanted to believe I was being helpful, but I was the handicap all too often. I had to learn by making many mistakes and had to realize that my helpful wasn’t actually being helpful. I was providing a way out for him or her and in my heart I was not convinced they could stand on their own. I robbed them of their dignity to figure it out on their own. Over time, if they are serious about getting well, they will stop falling down as often and graduate to crawling, then walking, then running with their heads held high. It is possible for them to do this without me hovering and monitoring every action. I did these things out of love and concern and I also had an ulterior motive; I wanted to be able to have peace in my life and not obsess incessantly about where and what they were doing. The anxiety was killing my spirit.
When I let go and let be, we both got better. I am not suggesting we cannot be helpful; but, check yourself and ask if they can they do this themselves and am I getting in the way of them leaning into being a responsible member of society?” I realized I was standing in their way rather than actually helping.
Loving an addict and being addicted to them is tiresome and heartbreaking. Through the trials of living with alcoholism and addiction, I was finally at my breaking point. I arrived at my bottom. I could not live with the worry and anxiety and fear any longer. The shame and fear that my family was different made me want to crawl under a rock. So I hid indoors and I isolated. I stopped socializing with friends and other family members.
I came to realize I was an addict myself. I was addicted to the alcoholic and needed to find a program for my obsessive thinking and the need to control them. Perhaps you can say I was addicted to the chaos or thrived at the thought of being needed and felt good at being able to take care of others. I finally found help for myself. I wanted freedom from the bondage of the disease that I had allowed to define my entire life. Quite frankly, I did not want to become a member of Al-Anon or any other formal group where people were going to sit around and talk about more problems that would keep my mind sick. I was fortunate to find a group that introduced a way out of my messy thinking and was solution based. Somebody once said to me, “If you love an addict, find your own recovery.” I contend that my behavior and thinking was sicker than the addict in my life.
In my recovery today I have the benefit of being able to help others. My mind can periodically get cluttered with worry and anxiety from time to time. The solution in my life today allows me to get up everyday and be thankful for all that is in my life and to think of what my experience through addiction has taught me and how I can perhaps give hope to somebody else who may think their situation is utterly hopeless.
So if you love an addict, let them know you love them and get help for yourself and perhaps your whole family. This will provide for the opportunity to heal together and then to share the gift of recovery with countless others.