You listen for the key in the front door, waiting for her to get home. Petrified that this time, she’s wrapped the car around a tree. Or you anxiously scan his pupils, wondering if this erratic behavior is just him or triggered by drugs. You make the phone calls, the excuses, the adjustments to smooth the life of the one you love. Because he’s addicted.
Here’s a list of helpful things to remember when you love an addict:
- Accept the problem. Call it by its real name. Understand what addiction is and that your loved one is an addict. Not that he has a little drinking problem. Or that she does a few drugs. Face the facts. It is important that you are realistic. Because your partner is not.
- Grow a thick skin. You just can’t take this personally. Sure she would stop if she really loved you EXCEPT she is addicted. And she can’t. No matter what egregious acts she performs against you to perpetuate her addiction, remember, this is not about you.
- See no evil. Your addicted loved one is not a bad person. He has an illness. And people who are ill deserve your compassion, not your contempt. He needs treatment and you can support him, encourage him, love him. But you can’t make him get treatment. Only he can do that.
- Take care of yourself. Loving an addict is exhausting. You are constantly on worry patrol. It’s stressful. And time consuming. So make an effort to create balance in your life. Maintain your fitness routine. Get together with your friends. Plan fun events. You deserve it. Self-care is not selfish.
- Learn to say no. An addict will lie, cheat, steal and manipulate you to get his drug of choice. He will want you to cover for him. If you don’t call in sick for him he could lose his job. He will manipulate you in ways you can’t even imagine, and you will want to help him. After all, the consequences are dire. He really could lose his job. Heartbreaking as it may be, you must eventually stand firm.
- Establish boundaries. When are you helping and when are you enabling? It can sometimes be a fine line. You have to decide how much you will put up with. The trouble is, an addict will only change when the addiction is more painful than getting sober. You cannot stand between him and pain. You have to let him experience it.
- Hang in there. If you love an addict, you must be flexible. Open minded. His journey to sobriety—and yours along side him—will probably not be linear. There will be stops and starts. Relapses. There will be times when you have to supply the hope in the relationship because he will have lost it. Just recognize that there may come a day when you can no longer continue your supporting role.
- Ask what you’re getting out of this. You are in a relationship with an addict. There must be some benefit or you wouldn’t be doing this. So ask the hard questions. Do you need to be needed? Do you need to have someone weaker than you to make you feel strong? Do you need to be busy propping someone else up because if you weren’t, what would you do with your life? Take a good look at yourself to find out why you’re doing this.
- Get help. Some people spend years and years waiting for their loved one to get better. Even if you can’t make the addict in your life get help, you can get help for yourself. After all, your loved one’s addiction affects you deeply, and she won’t be able to help you. Facing the problem alone is tough. Seek a competent counselor who can be your ally and ease your burden.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: http://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.