Addiction is a disease that has a devastating impact on everyone close to the one struggling with addiction.
Living with a child or spouse who is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol causes havoc in the home and in the heart. We want to help them get better as much as we want to run away from their problems. We may feel anger when promises are broken, we may cover up for them by lying, we may rescue them when they are stranded, we may be manipulated into giving them money…the list goes on. In the midst of our loved one’s insanity, we often lose ourselves. We act out of fear, often enabling their behavior because we fear how they will react to boundaries.
Here is an example: My first spouse, the father of my children, struggled with alcoholism. Looking back, I realize that I did not understand why he drank until he fell asleep. I felt alone and betrayed. I lied to the kids, telling them “Daddy does not feel well.” I felt that if I loved him enough, he would stop. I tried to prove my love, but in essence, was only enabling him to continue in his addiction. I also thought that if he loved me enough, he would stop. This thinking led me to believe that something was wrong with me. Addiction can break down relationships, self-esteem, and families. Knowing how to take care of ourselves is the first step in the right direction for all involved.
Here are some steps to take to get your life back in order:
- Educate yourself – Learn about the addiction your loved one struggles with. Learn about the recovery process and risks/reasons for relapse. Work on a plan together with your loved one.
- Self-care – Caring for yourself does not mean that you are being selfish.
- Acceptance – Acceptance does not mean that we have to continue taking abuse. Acceptance means accepting your loved one for where they are in their addiction or in their recovery process. Acceptance is the realization that this is their journey, not ours. When you accept this, it becomes easier to set boundaries to protect yourself and your home.
- Boundaries – Knowing what we can handle and how we will handle upcoming situations will give us some peace of mind. Discuss your limits with your loved one, and stick to them. For instance, if your spouse repeatedly comes home drunk, set a rule that they must sober up before coming home.
- Enabling – Know the difference between helping someone and enabling them to continue their wrong behavior.
- Rebuild your life – Having goals and aspirations of our own takes the focus off of the other person and puts it back on ourselves. Find your passion. Do things you love to do. (Go back to school, work out, train for a marathon, etc.) Having a sense of your own needs will also help you set boundaries so that you don’t feel so tied to your loved one’s problem.
- Avoid Blame – Keep in mind that addiction is a disease. It is not a moral failing or lack of willpower. Your struggling loved one is probably dealing with their own guilt and shame. Blaming yourself or your loved one will not help either of you to move forward in a healthy manner.
- The Three C’s – Keep in mind that you did not Cause their addiction, you cannot Control it, and you cannot Cure it.
Staying sane amidst a loved one’s insanity is not always an easy feat.
Have faith that things will get better. Take care of yourself so you can be there for your loved ones and for your own life. Many treatment centers offer family therapy, and there are Al-Anon meetings all over the world. You are not alone, and loving someone with an addiction is nothing to be embarrassed about. Seek help for yourself, and your life will follow!