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.
Because I am very progressive by nature, I often have moments of enlightenment. Usually is a concept derived from a truth I already know, sometimes it’s knowledge I already had. Yet it seems new because it just makes sense in a different light.
I had one of these moments yesterday.
I have this new understanding of the process that addiction is. For a long time now addiction was an old topic. Anything about or related to it felt redundant. But yesterday everything changed.
Mainly the realization of truly letting go. I don’t know how it didn’t occur to me until now. Truly giving up your life to God. Separately, but both for the Addict, and for loved ones. The words themselves register as simple basic knowledge, but when you put effort in applying them it is powerful and life changing.
Letting go of control happens when we strengthen our relationship with our creator. When we know who we are, and what our purpose is, it makes it so much easier to hand our lives over.
I wish we could all strip the paradigm we see through. We could be more authentic, and free, and trusting.
The reality is, it has been 9 years of loving my addict. 9 years longer than I ever would have imagined.
During these past 9 years, I have felt extremities of what it means to feel alone, terrified, hopeless, and broken. I have felt heartbroken. Real pain in my stomach through my heart and then to my throat and mind. How did I end up here? How did I end up alone? Why do I feel so disconnected?
I didn’t see rest or peace as a reality for me. Miserable with, OR without. I felt like I didn’t deserve to suffer this much, to believing its exactly what I deserve. I felt abandoned, not understanding how I could be married alone. I felt embarrassed, like somehow this made me a failure I always deep down knew I would be.
I felt today like I wanted to offer connection. Share your story with me. Let me share mine. Walk with me. Read and feel that you are not alone. Find empathy, acknowledgment, or hope. Whatever you need.
“Grace is that thing that whispers, its dark and hard in there. I cannot make it hurt any less, I cannot make it go any faster all I can do is remind you that you walked through this before.” -Glennon Doyle Melton
Today I feel bad for myself. I’m upset that addiction causes this much stress and strain on my soul.
I feel confused because it’s my choice to stay and to be subject to the consequences of loving an addict. I hate what I go through. I know that the emotional roller coaster I am on, isn’t right. I hate what kind of damper it puts on my heart and the weight I carry with me. But …
I love him. So much that it hurts. So cliche right.
Besides all the many different choices I could have made to end up any place but here. Here is where I reside. I am here. So what now.
I hate addiction. I love him.
What is healthy? What steps do I take? How can I help myself.
It’s hard to feel like there are good answers to those questions. I already know the answers any normal person would give me. But as of yet, nothing sits well with my soul. Don’t confuse that with wanting an answer that sidesteps pain. I just want peace even if it accompanies pain.
It’s so interesting to me how perception can change so dramatically day to day. Somedays I see a world that is in a million pieces, and others I am thankful for my trials.
I haven’t gotten to the point where I keep my more optimistic attitude all the time. I still have bad moments. But I do feel like I know the recipe for peace.
My Savior. I am so thankful for a loving Heavenly Father who made sure we had all the tools we needed to return back to Him.
Although this life is extremely hard, especially while loving an addict, I know that the nearer I draw to My Father the more I can see with an eternal perspective. It always takes me awhile to get there. But when I do, I see that all I really need is so readily available to me.
One day a stranger looked me in the eye and asked me if I believed in God. I answered confidently, “Yes”. And then he said, “but do you trust in Him”. Then went on his way. Since that day, I have spent a lot of time pondering on his words.
What does it mean to trust in God. Do I trust in God? Because surely if you believe that God is real, you would trust in Him wouldn’t you?
I am still trying to learn how to fully give over my life to God. Naturally, when dealing with addiction we try to control everything we can. I cannot tell you how many times a day I catch myself making decisions in hopes it will positively change the outcome of this fight, I drive myself crazy trying to use my will to make this all better.
In reality peace will only come by trusting in God and taking advantage of the gift of the atonement. If we really believe in God, we would also trust in Him.
Day 6. No better than the past 5 days. In some ways, it’s worse just because it’s not better.
I often wonder how something so ugly and horrible could exist. How can there be such strong evil. Don’t get me wrong, I know why evil exists. I just can’t quite comprehend the evil of addiction. It’s different to me. It robs you of your agency, binds you up. Then when you want to change, you still feel like there is a lifetime of fighting ahead of you. It makes me feel helpless and angry. Like we’re the evil we are fighting is a million times stronger than we are.
The more I learn about addiction through time, the less answers I have. I get more lost. Maybe that’s the cycle most people go through? Starting out with a bright and perfect hope, then diminishing through the seemingly never-ending struggle.