I’m not an addict. But, I’ve loved one!
I’ve been sitting on this post since I wrote it 14 months ago. I hummed and I hawed on whether or not to post it. It reveals a vulnerable side of my life, one of which I tried to hide for many many years, On the other hand, with the personal development work I’ve been doing lately, I decided to own it. I was hesitant to post it because I felt it showed me as weak, rather than someone who was loving and supportive and was ‘trying’.
I’ve only had two serious relationships in my life and the irony is that BOTH have been addicted. I came quickly to realize – different type of addiction, different person – same scenario, same lies and same excuses. I’ve heard them all.
My hope by publishing this post, is that if I can reach one person – who’s going through it, or one addict who is on the fence and it sparks something within them to want to change their circumstance, situation and journey to an improved life, then it was well worth it.
When an important person in your life is struggling with an abuse or addiction, it can be just about as hard on you as it is on them, if not worse. You’re the one at the other end, emotionally dealing with their master manipulation, lies and excuses. You’re the one having the addict turn the tables on you for asking questions, confronting them about their addiction or telling them that they look silly. They learn to place the blame on the non-addicted, shaming them for not providing support or for failing to believe the addict’s outrageous lies. Then when the spouse has finally decided to draw the line, the addict/abuser, whatever you want to call them, does one of two things, or both. Try to tell you it won’t happen again and manipulate you into staying, or, turn the tables on you, faulting the spouse — they will even try to tell you that THEIR issue is YOUR fault!
I’d like to focus a bit on prescription drug abuse. Everyone knows the reality of recreational drug and alcohol abuse, but Rx drug abuse has been on an exponential rise over the last years. People think that since they are Rx the meds by their physician(s) that they are NOT addicted or abusing it. FALSE!
The most common types of prescription drugs abused include:
- opioids (used to treat pain),
- benzodiazepines (used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders), central nervous system depressants and;
- stimulants (used to treat attention deficit disorder).
Let’s be VERY CLEAR here …. If you or a loved one takes a medicine in a way that is different from what is prescribed or as was directed , it is prescription drug abuse/misuse and yes you can be addicted!
It could be:
- Taking a medicine that was prescribed for someone else
- Taking a larger dose than you are supposed to
- Taking the medicine in a different way than you intended (crushing and snorting or injecting them) OR taking them at times for which the Rx was not prescribed e.g. taking sleep Rx at 6:00 PM and not for the intent of falling asleep
- Using the medicine for another purpose, such as getting high
This blog is very personal to me and to be honest is meant to focus less on the abuse and abuser and more on the person on the other end of it, the significant other.
I have never ‘done’ drugs. It’s never been my ‘thing’. I never caved to peer pressure when I was younger and I was surrounded by them my whole life – I wasn’t even remotely tempted (I tried marijuana twice). I have always been too paranoid and I take over the counter Rx only when absolutely needed …. my head has to be pounding like the Dickens for me to even take an Advil. I went years living with severe insomnia, to finally ask the doctor for help so I could get 5 hours of sleep per night. I’ve never found a thrill getting high.
Living with an addict is a roller coaster ride. When you love an addict, you spend a lot of time and energy hoping he or she will change. You put up with a lot of unacceptable behaviour, things you even considered “deal breakers” at one time. The addict lies and makes promises that he/she doesn’t keep. They promise you the sun and the moon and that it will get better, that it’ll NEVER happen again, but it always does. You eventually find the relationship has run its course or that the abuser hits “rock bottom”. The question is which will come first????
I stopped telling myself “if he loves me, he’ll just stop”, because the truth is if he could simply choose to stop, he wouldn’t be an addict. Loving an addict is painful. Trust me I know. I tried to be supportive, but was taken advantage of. I offered help but they’d refuse. The more I screamed, yelled or threatened, the more they’d try to blame me. I stood in the doorway of the bedroom and plead with him that I just wanted things to be the way they were. I watched the person I fell in love with disappear right in front of my eyes … I watched long enough, that I found, I was starting to disappear too. The person I fell in love with only showed up part of the time to the relationship. It’s like I was with someone with two personalities. I realized, I was truly powerless over the addiction, and the love that I once had was no longer, it was tainted with resentment, anger and hurt.
Let’s Talk About Choice ….
Truthfully, I don’t feel the addict is choosing a thing. They are neither choosing you, nor choosing their addiction. I feel that they are in the grip of a progressive illness that gets worse, not better over time, until they hit “rock bottom”, realizes that he/she needs help or family/friends host a successful intervention. Rock bottom looks different to each addict: to some it may be losing their relationship/friends, their entire family, some they’ve lost their job or a combination thereof. Some never hit that proverbial place.
The hard truth is, there’s not much, if anything, you can do to save your addict, but not for a lack of trying! Perhaps you have tried emotional appeals, tough love, anger, tears, manipulation, and ultimatums – I tried them all. There is a lot people do to try to “save” their addicted loved one. The sad discovery is there is nothing you can do to beat a loved one’s addiction – the addiction always wins, until THEY make the choice to want to change.
The one thing I’ve learned is that if nothing changes with love, support, interventions, offers of rehab, 2nd/3rd chances – then they aren’t likely going to change on their own (they have to want to change, I have seen people do it – it isn’t easy, but worth it) and you will have to make the decision to detach yourself or you will go down with the sinking ship. Detaching (whether temporarily or permanently) gives you the chance to clear your head and to see the situation for what it is.
FAMILY/FRIENDS/PARTNERS: Your loved one does not need an ENABLER he/she needs HELP and this is never going to happen if their behaviour has no consequences! The only way to force any change in an addict (they have to want it however), is for them to face consequences.
IF YOU AREN’T SURE WHETHER OR NOT YOU ARE AN ENABLER: an enabler is one that enables another to achieve an end; especially one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behaviour (such as substance abuse) by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behaviour.
I am not an authority on addiction, I hold no doctorates or degrees in this field. However, what I have learned over all of my years of loving an addict leaves me feeling fairly confident in my beliefs (and these are mine). A lot of people think they’re helping the addict when they’re actually making things worse. A user/abuser will take your love, your time and your energy, and leave you completely drained. They’ll break your heart, and they’ll break their promises, but, I do believe addicts can change their addiction and subsequently their behaviour.
The one thing I’ve learned is that addiction teaches people to be master manipulators. The kindest and sweetest of human beings can turn into the most destructive and hurtful people where addiction is concerned. When you’re trying to support an addict, you’re inclined to want to help in ways that you would help others who are down on their luck (which I was guilty of doing to a certain degree). Many will offer money or a place to stay; some will simply be there as a friend, while others will go as far as taking in and caring for an addict’s children. These are all enabling behaviours, and they contribute to prolonging your loved one’s addiction.
*** Every time you catch them when they fall, they are reassured that you will again next time. They are keenly aware of the control their emotional and psychological over you ***
Some of you may be saying as you read this blog “how the heck could she fall for not one but two addicts?” … good point, but not necessarily truth. I didn’t fall for them knowing they were addicts. The one I met at the age of 16, I had no idea at that age that he would turn to drugs or alcohol, frankly I’m sure at that time nor did he …. as for my most recent relationship, this started years after we started dating after a legitimate illness, and truth be told, it’s easier to hide when you don’t live together.
“The mentality and behavior of drug addicts and alcoholics is wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless over their addiction and unless they have structured help, they have no hope.”
~ Russell Brand: Actor, Comedian, Author
This blog is called My Better Life -> for you to live your best life, you will have to make difficult and heart wrenching decision along the way. Your decisions shape the quality of life. It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.
Thank you and stay tuned for Part 2 in the next few days.
Please take a moment to watch the Ted Talk I posted below … it’s important to remember that people are not their disease.
Why are some able to transcend their addiction while others are not? What do people really need to escape the shame of their addiction and achieve sustained recovery? Jacki’s talk focuses on answering these questions and demonstrates how resilience of the human spirit intersects with social contextual factors to set the stage for those struggling with addiction to choose a pathway to health.