People lie about addiction all the time. And often, we expect their dishonesty. We grow used to lies about where they’ve been and why they need the money.
It’s the families and friends -- the enablers — you have to watch out for. They can be just as dangerous as the drugs themselves.
“It’s just a phase; she’ll grow out of it.”
“He can have a couple beers; it won’t hurt him.”
We sugarcoat the truth because it’s easier than admitting just how far out of control we really are. But the reality is, we often have to watch as our loved ones destroy their own lives.
We get front row seats to relapses and arrests, and families and relationships get sacrificed for just one more fix.
After a while, it seems better to just ignore the truth. Rather than confess a death sentence, we convince ourselves things aren’t as bad as they seem.
It’s a dangerous complacency, one that ruins more lives than just the addict’s.
No one ever tells the truth about addiction, and because of that, we have no idea how to cope with it.
How do you live with an addict in your life? How do you support someone without enabling the person? How do you love someone when the person is breaking your heart? And throughout all that, how do you take care of yourself? How do you stay sane?
Well, I’m here to tell you the truth I’ve come to understand throughout years of dealing with addicts.
It may not be everyone’s truth, but it’s mine. And I’m not going to sugarcoat it for you, either. I’ve come too far in my own recovery to lie anymore.
You want to know how to live with an addict? It’s simple. You don’t.
When you have an addict in your life, your own well-being is often put on the back burner.
You sacrifice health and happiness in hopes you can save the hopeless.
But disappointment and heartbreak are always just around the corner. And it can get even worse from there. (I developed a wicked anxiety disorder that threatened to break me completely.)
You put so much of yourself into this person and this toxic relationship, you lose yourself completely. I lost my identity. I came to define myself based solely on my relationship with an addict.
That’s all I was, and until I could get help, that’s all I was ever going to be.
With an addict in your life, it becomes impossible to move forward. Relationships with other people are strained at best, and trust and intimacy are all but impossible.
You can’t think about a future because at any moment, your entire world could implode.
For the longest time, I convinced myself I could never have kids. How would I ever raise children in a setting like this?
When you live your life for someone else, for an addict, you're not really living.
Everything outside that relationship fades into the background of chaos and destruction. You shrink inside yourself, always fearful, but wishing for things to turn around.
"Maybe it will get better. Maybe this was just a bad day." But deep inside, you know the truth. And until you can admit it, you will never be able to live with yourself.
The truth is, there is nothing you can do to save this person. You can only save yourself.
And speaking from years of trial and error (and copious amounts of therapy), I can offer you a few pointers.
Redefining your relationship with an addict is hard, heartbreaking work. But, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
First, you need to take a step back. Remove yourself from the equation. Don’t let yourself be sucked in and suffocated by the drama.
If you’re going to keep an addict in your life, do it on your own terms. Set boundaries.
Create a set of rules and stick to them. There are no more second or third chances.
This is a one-time offer, and if this person blows it, you are moving on without him or her.
Next, get some therapy. Whether it’s a psychologist or an Al-Anon sponsor, find someone who understands what you’re going through.
Talk it out and let it out. Don’t just come to terms with your demons; accept them, embrace them and then let them go.
Hit rock bottom. Recognize those brutal truths about yourself, and then forgive them. Only when you start taking care of yourself will you really be able to thrive, with or without an addict in your life.
You don’t live with an addict; you merely survive. And that’s not much of a life. But, you can learn to live with yourself and live in such a way that’s better than ever before.
You just have to put yourself first. You have to love yourself more than you love the addict, whoever he or she might be.
You deserve it. You deserve love, and you deserve happiness. No matter what happened, it’s not your fault.
And while there may not be hope for the addicted, there is hope for you. Starting here, starting now.