Loved ones of addicts: 10 things you can relate to
(Originally published on Addiction Blog on April 3, 2015)
If you are related to, in a relationship, or simply love an addict, life can be filled with many highs and lows. So, what are some TRUE DESIRES that you might have in common with someone else going through the same process of acceptance and self-help? We explore here. Then, we invite your questions, comments, and feedback at the end. (In fact, we try to respond to all comments about being in a relationship with an addict with a personal and prompt reply.)
10 Wishes: What loved ones of addicts really want
1. We wish we could silence the voice of fear.
Our greatest fear is that our loved one will die from a drug overdose or the long term effects of alcoholism. This fear fuels a multitude of unhealthy behaviors, especially enabling behaviors related to codependency. The loved one becomes as sick as the addict. We need to learn how to replace fear with faith.
2. We wish we could let go of our anger.
Addicts are masters of manipulation. They steal from us, lie to us, yell at us and blame us for their addiction. “If you weren’t a better companion, I wouldn’t drink so much.” Often we respond in anger. While this may provide temporary relief, “letting off steam” only contributes to the problem.
3. We wish we didn’t keep family secrets.
We hide our shame by pretending that everything is “just fine.” What parent wants to broadcast that her son or daughter is homeless or in jail? What wife wants to admit that her husband was charged with a DUI? Unfortunately, these scenarios are all too common. We lead double lives and make believe that all’s well in our families.
4. We wish we could stop enabling.
Addiction craves enabling like plants need water. We assume responsibility for our loved one’s behavior. Our instinct is to help loved ones in distress. Yet, enabling only prolongs addiction. We need keep our spoon in our own bowl and let our loved ones experience the consequences of their behaviors. Letting go with love is our most difficult challenge but can be done with the help of family addiction support systems.
5. We wish we could set and keep boundaries.
Setting boundaries is essential to our well-being. “If you don’t stop using, you can’t live here.” But often we waiver and fail to follow through. This keeps the co-dependency dance going. Our loved leads by manipulating and we follow by enabling.
6. We wish we didn’t indulge in self-pity.
Self-pity can be as destructive as narcotics. Yet it’s as easy trap in which to fall. Who can blame loved ones for feeling sorry for themselves in the midst of unremitting chaos? We need to recognize that self-pity provides only momentary pleasure. It diminishes us and feeds our weaknesses not our strengths. Often, an attitude of gratitude cancels out a bout of self-pity.
7. We wish we were less judgmental and more compassionate.
Addiction is a disease of the brain. Until we acknowledge that fact we will judge our loved ones to be morally weak and selfish. They are sick both physically and emotionally. They are sad and depressed which makes sobriety seem like an impossible goal. These facts can help us judge less and empathize more.
8. We wish we could accept the things we cannot change.
No amount of nagging, enabling, or cajoling will get an addict to change. In fact, these behaviors are counter-productive. We need to accept the fact that only the addict can change when she is ready. When this occurs, we should step in with love, understanding, and support.
9. We wish that we didn’t lose hope.
Relapse is part of the disease of addiction. When a loved one refuses to stop using or bounces in and out of recovery, we abandon hope. We need not despair because there are no hopeless situations only people who become hopeless. Hang onto the good news that 23 million former addicts and alcoholics are in addiction recovery.
10. We wish we could enjoy life.
We may avoid social functions because of shame and embarrassment. We may stay home to keep an eye on the addict. We may lose sleep at night because we worry. These behaviors trap us in the cage of our loved one’s addiction. With help and support we can free ourselves from sorrow and suffering. We can recover and reclaim our lives.