I don’t feel like we talk about what this looks like enough. In my experience and all I have seen around me is either enabling out of love, or disappointment that turns into numbing. Saving or not feeling. WE CAN DO BETTER! We can choose to feel AND love…. BOTH. I can feel sad for my addict and disappointed when things don’t go as I hope they would, AND love without enabling.
The thing is. Its the harder path to take. It is easier FOR US to save, and its easier FOR US to numb. For me, it takes intention and mindfulness to feel and then separately love. Addiction can bring to clarity what conditional love looks like. Our addicts will receive our love and warmth if they do what we hope they will do, otherwise we are cold, distant, or negatively reactive.
—–On a side note. I realize that we are imperfect, and especially in the beginning years we are in survival mode from this awful circumstance that no one really knows how to deal with the right way. I get it. On this post I’m just trying to point out another angle for loved ones that I rarely see or hear. The part where WE GET TO GROW TOO. We get to stretch too…
The result of us learning and changing is ironically the SAME result that we are wishing for when we enable, punish, scream, or save which is……. THE BEST case scenario for us AND our addicts. This is why I think we can do better. If that is true…that the best result for both us and our addicts is for us to detach with love, then why don’t we do it. I think that we do it because of what it does for US and here is how……
Saving and enabling has a payoff for us. Numbing and reacting has a payoff for us. And yet, it is the worst thing for our addict.
- Boundaries are vital for the recipe of feeling AND loving our addicts. “Empathy without boundaries, is not empathy. Compassion without boundaries, is not genuine. Vulnerability without boundaries, is not vulnerability.” -Brene Brown
- Number 2 is a question. Do you trust God? Do you trust God with your addict? Does God love your addict as much as you do? Are you trusting God, if you’re always trying to control?
- Setting boundaries can also help you to stay on your side of the street. FOCUS ON YOU. YOU YOU YOU YOU YOU YOU. If you’re spending all your time thinking about your addict, you’re A. wasting your precious energy B. part of the problem C. missing out on the growth that comes from working on yourself. When we live on our addicts side of the street we are giving advice, living in expectations, making decisions based on how it affects our addicts, obsessing over what isn’t in our control, etc. and because of this codependency we are often tired and resentful. When you find yourself focused on your addicts problems, shift the focus back to you. Believe it or not, changing them will not solve your problems or make you happy.
- Setting a boundary to HELP only when you are asked can help you stay on your side of the street.
- Learn about Addiction. Show up to meetings. I personally think its important to consistently go to an addict meeting in order to really gain an understanding of the disease our loved ones are fighting. ( if not NA AA or ARP, then Coda or Nar-Anon Al-Anon Family Groups) Would we take the recommendation of a Business Owner, for a diagnosis of our mental health? NO. So why do we get mad when our addicts don’t listen to our advice when we have no clue what they are going through. We can’t empathize with our addicts if we are so unaware of what addiction is.
- SUPPORT instead of enable. Support can look like going to meetings with them, recognizing progress, separating the addiction from the addict, and a whole lot of empathy. “Empathy is not feeling FOR somebody; it is feeling WITH them” -Brene Brown. It doesn’t have to be a burden to have empathy. Practicing empathy with our loved ones is HARD. It still takes a lot of work for me to just sit in the pain with them instead of trying to fix it, or automatically reacting because I hate that my addict is struggling. But I don’t have to feel FOR him, I just need to feel WITH him. “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable” -Glennon Melton Doyle
I can add on that list forever, but we will just take this gulp together because it is a lot. WE CAN DO BETTER. We can hate the addiction and LOVE the addict. We can feel sad and angry AND sit in those feelings without reacting or numbing. We can love without saving and support without enabling. We can detach AND love.