You’ve been putting up with crazy, unrelenting bad behaviour for weeks, months or years now. The person you love is unreasonable, irrational, completely self-centred and self-absorbed a lot of the time. They’re a mess emotionally and physically. But sometimes, every now and again, they’re back to normal and so you hang on. You hang in there hoping that this time it’s real. This time they’re going to stop drinking or using drugs or shopping or gambling or gaming (or whatever). You have them back!
Or maybe you’re that person who just suspects something’s amiss. There’s lots of excuses and bad behaviour and then all of sudden there’s the making up, the flowers, the chocolates, the apologies. Then 2 days or 2 weeks later it’s on again. Sometimes it even sounds reasonable and plausible and yet there’s that small voice telling you that something’s wrong. The cycle starts all over again.
Meanwhile, your life is unravelling.
You can’t think about anything else except this person.
How can you stop them?
What do you have to do to make this right so that they don’t need to do x, y or z?
Maybe if you:
- looked nicer?
- lost weight?
- went to the gym?
- learned to cook?
- bought them a new __________ (fill in the blank)?
- said nothing?
- laughed more?
- went on holiday?
- had yet another talk to about their drinking (using etc.)?
- joined in?
The list is endless.
All the while you realise that you’ve totally underestimated the power of their need for whatever it is they’re using. It’s so strong.
You have no idea what to do now.
And still, you’re not 100% convinced. A part of you suspects it and is reasonably sure it’s happening but you could be wrong.
And then one day it’s out.
The big secret comes pouring out and the admission is made. Now what? Now, what are you supposed to do now that your suspicions have been confirmed? All of a sudden it’s a whole new thing; it’s a reality. It’s your real life, you didn’t make it up.
So how are you supposed to get through this? Your darkest thoughts and dreams are actually becoming your true? Before you could pretend that you were wrong. And what’s even worse is that what you’re dealing with has got to become another thing you have to hide as well. It’s like you’re driven to keep the secret. Don’t tell anyone. Don’t tell anyone that it’s really, really scary right now. It’s just too real, just too true. And whatever you do, don’t tell people that you don’t know what to do.
Welcome to addiction.
And, welcome to the other side.
The addiction conversation often centres around the person who suffers from the substance abuse or behavioural issue that’s ruining someone’s life. There’s not a lot of talk about the people who love that person. Those people: the partners, parents, relatives and friends are suffering from addiction too. A person does not have to be the one who’s engaging in the activity to suffer. Those people are living with the effects of someone else’s addiction. And that’s a very hard place to be. That’s also a place where Recovery is needed.
The bottom line is that the behaviour and difficulties that come with addiction are affecting your life and are causing you to feel desperate and without hope sometimes and often very, very alone.
Here are a few things about addiction and loving someone who’s in it that might help you:
- you need support too
- your own life is getting pretty messy
- the truth about what you’re going through will set you free when you seek support
- understand that you didn’t cause your loved one’s addiction
- you won’t be able to control it no matter how hard you try and no matter what measures you take
- you certainly can’t cure it
- you’re never going to be able to control another person
A word about support.
Get help from a trusted person. Know that the kind of thinking you have now and the kind of thinking that has kept you in this state of mind is not the kind of thinking that will get you well. You need to change your thinking. Yours, not theirs.
Along the way, you might need to change a lot of other things too. Recovery from addiction to a substance or behaviour is a lifelong journey. Recovery from co-dependence is also a lifelong journey.
A few final words about loving that person. This bit doesn’t get mentioned much at all. Don’t feel guilty. You are not bad for loving them. It’s not bad to still love them even though you don’t love what’s happening to them. It’s possible to find peace regardless of whether they’re still drinking, drugging or using (or some other behaviour). That person’s life is still important and addiction is not ALL of them; it’s only part of them.
If your situation makes you unsafe either physically or emotionally get help. You need to ensure you’re safe. That is your responsibility for yourself and for any others who you might be responsible for.
Recovery from this side of addiction is possible. It’s available for you too.