Loving an addict: a personal guide to a new you.
It’s always a fairy-tale in the beginning, I suppose. Like they say in the classics, first comes the good part, for better and then, the bad part comes around, for worse…loving an addict. For me, my sweet princess turned into a devilish damsel filled with anger and rage. I watched my entire world collapse; the sun was setting on my love story.
You can go to any resource centre in the world and read a number of books about addiction but here’s something; let’s break the rule and get straight to the good stuff, the conclusion, the finale; the solution. It’s a goodie, I promise.
Loving an addict – Let them go.
Three words so heavily loaded they are almost too heavy to say, let alone follow. The odds are that the addict found you because you, my overly caring victim of love, are a helper or as we in the world of addiction rehabilitation know it as; an enabler.
When my princess dropped out of the sky and went back down to the forest of addiction I pulled out every piece of work every written on addiction, I went to the meetings; I met with counsellors and I received every participation award possible on one too many trips together with her to rehabilitation. You could not wish for a better example of being there for another human. And I had plans. Every relapse that happened I formulated better plans, better solutions. I don’t think there is a doctor or therapist on the planet who knows more about the fall and the return and the efforts to fix an addiction than me.
And therein lies the problem. All the blueprints for fixing the problem were mine, and not hers. So when do you need to let go? Here are a few of the lessons and ideas you need to look at to make that decision. It will be worth it in the end; it just might not feel like it in the middle. (I did say we are going to skip to the end of the book, remember!)
Loving an addict – Firstly,
You need to set some solid boundaries. When these are crossed, stick by the consequences you have set up. Enough with the extra last chances and final warnings. These are YOUR boundaries and you need to stick to them. Some people may have a high tolerance level; others will feel the cracks early on. Set the boundaries you can live with and be happy. Also, be prepared to follow through. If you say no stealing or spending family money to fund the habit and they do, follow through on the consequence. Divorce, separation, the police. Whatever it is, do it. Do not back down.
Easy to sit there and read it here…
But how do you let go? Be your own opposite. What does that mean? Simple, do the exact opposite of what comes naturally to you. Chat to a counsellor and they are most likely going to tell you that you will need to swim in the opposite direction of the way you usually swim. Honest reaction? Probably the same as mine i.e. NO WAYS! That sounds mad and gut feelings are always right, why go against it! And in that moment it will come to you. YOU make the plan. YOU chart the course. YOU pay the bills. YOU need to do this to make yourself feel better. If like me, you are tired of feeling embarrassed, sick, and upset and you are desperate to make the pain go away and replace it with healing, then you will need to go against the gut!
You are also going to need to let your loved one feel the consequences of their actions. Stole something? Return it. Got a fine? Tell them to pay it themselves. Lost an important document? Guess it’s time to sort it out then, huh? Stop tidying up the mess and let them for once be in control of their own mess ups and solutions.
Loving an addict – You need to stop the flow
Of help. Love, support and encouragement must be the only (and they are wonderful) gifts given to them. It may very well be one of the worst things you, a helper (note: enabler) could possibly do; stop helping but trust me when I say this, you are robbing your loved one of the opportunity to build their own self-esteem through addressing the mistakes on their own.
Another important thing
You need to immediately educate yourself. Wait just a minute! If like me, you have read all the books on rehabilitation and addiction, what more could you do to educate yourself? Well, it’s not so much about reading than it is about learning about the various ins and outs of rehabilitation from the viewpoint of an addict. Don’t settle on literature only; go to as many addiction rehabilitation meetings, courses and therapy sessions as you can to be part of the solution as an active factor rather than a passive factor. You will learn more in ‘real world’ scenarios than you would in any book or blog. ( And yes I do realise the irony of writing that on this very blog).
Loving an addict – Stronger
Once you have found that you are stronger than you first believed you were, it’s time to build a circle of support and use it. When my princess fell down the rabbit hole of addiction I kept it a secret. It was about their dignity, as well as mine I suppose and I felt like I had to keep it intact and honour them. The truth of the matter is that when you are loving an addict you end up protecting yourself more than anyone else and this is not going to be conducive to the overall goal of learning to love yourself and stop you from enabling. Opening up the issue will bring in love, support and unfortunately judgement. Be prepared for that. Take only what you can use and toss the rest. You are the one living with the decisions, those giving you advice (sage or otherwise) often, are not.
Loving an addict – my final bit of advice
While we are on the topic about you living with the advice, it’s time for my final bit of advice for you. You need to find the map to the new you and head to the destination that is a new you. My life and everything in my future was built around my princess and everything that came out of that magic life (children, the dog, the house and friends etc.) and when I realised and accepted that my reality had changed because of how my addict lover had changed, I learned to embrace that change.
Once you do you begin to build a new life, and unpack some old dreams that had maybe been kept in storage for far too long. You begin to learn things about your life and do things that you had not done before (dinners, dishes, car washing and school projects in my case) and you took control of my life. Or rather, I retook control of my own ship. When loving an addict you should always have compassion. Many understand that it is a disease. You don’t hate a person because they have a disease but you take precautions so that it doesn’t end up infecting you, right?
Addicts recover one day at a time and so should you. Be strong, face the storm and overcome.
I believe in you.
For more information on how to help drug addicts or substance abuse and getting yourself into rehab to start a new life, call Houghton House now:
office hours: 011 787 9142
24/7 emergency help line: 079 770 7532