I love you. You are easily the best person I have ever known. I feel so much hurt at the thought of what you’re going through now and all your life. I deeply believe that you are doing the best you can and no matter what does or doesn’t happen it will be okay, you will have done enough. I’m thankful for every single part of my life with you. I wouldn’t change any of the worry, pain, or struggle. As deep as my struggle and pain go, is the height of my hope and dependence on God and Christ. I really do believe the same for you. They are the way. When all of us fail you, He is there, perfectly. Usually I struggle with either saving or not feeling, but today I can do better. I choose to feel. To feel sad for you, hurt for you, love for you. But I can’t save you. I’m trying to step out of the way; stop being your Savior because I can’t, but He can. Let God work in your life. Lean on them. I will be loving you every minute of every day.
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.
1. We admitted we were powerless– that our lives had become unmanageable.
The reason why the 12 steps are always the answer, is because there are layers and layers in each one. There is beauty in something that you can build upon forever.
“Little does the addict, or any of his or her critics, realize that when any of us face a problem of insurmountable proportions, we are actually facing the greatest truth we can ever know in mortality-the nature of our true relationship to God, that of ourselves we are “nothing” while in God all wisdom and power reside”
I remember one particular meeting I went to where we were on step 1. I brought my sister in law with me. My husband, is her brother. We had the same qualifier. At this point I was working on Step 3, and she didn’t see how recovery applied to her. How she started her share confirmed this: “Even though my life isn’t unmanageable….”
GUYS. BIG MOMENT FOR ME. That was the very moment I woke up. I realized what a blessing it was to know that my life was unmanageable. Regardless of the circumstances that got me here, it got me HERE. It showed me my nothingness. I became so thankful to be in a place where I knew that I couldn’t do it on my own. Anything powerless, needs power and because I knew I was powerless I could now look to the only one who is all powerful.
Right now I was supposed to be a mom. I was supposed to have 3 kids by now and my job was supposed to be taking care of the kids, not taking care of the bills. I was supposed to be worried if I’m doing a good enough job as a mom, not worried if my car would start. I was supposed to be stressed about whether my husband will like the dinner I made, not stressed about whether my husband will stay sober this time or not. While my best friend is in the hospital having a baby, I’m in the hospital because my husband overdosed.
Ultimately, my reality is that I am married to an addict, I have no kids, and I have to support myself. The life I was supposed to have… has died. So I guess now I am greiving. It’s funny because as I write that, I realize I’m kind of in denial. (The mere fact that I wrote ‘kind of’ confirms this) I don’t think I have been still enough realize that this life past away a long time ago. And if I keep living there, it will kill the life I ‘could’ have now.
In the middle of the messiest years of addiction, I truly thought that was my only problem. The chaos consumed just about all the energy I had, and I was living in a constant state of survival mode. When I was so hyper focused on my husband and his addiction, I fantasized about how great life would be IF ONLY he were sober. Surely all my problems would disappear and life would be perfect.
Well I’m here to let you in on a secret. That thinking was inaccurate on so many levels. First on my addicts side of the street, drugs were the solution not the problem. So when you take drugs out of the equation, you’re still left with the problem. Then on my side of the street, I was so busy blaming everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING) on the addiction that sobriety became my teacher of reality.
My lessons continued as my addict was changing, and working on his problems. His slowly started to disappear, and behind them were MINE. All my crap was hiding behind all his. Or really I was so busy looking at his that I couldn’t see mine. It took time to see what I hadn’t for a long time. I realized that blaming the addiction for everything left me with no power to change. If I’m not the the problem there is no solution. Its hard, yes, but it’s also empowering to acknowledge responsibility because it means I can do something about it.
Long story short, I still have a lot of work to do, but my recovery began with working the 12 steps myself. Now that I see all my own character flaws, and can take responsibility, I can turn to those steps to live in a solution.
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