Love and caring are necessary components in helping someone to kick a drug habit, but unfortunately, they aren’t all what’s needed!
(I originally published this article on another site, but it’s relevance rings true for many!)
Why am I bringing up this topic at this time?
Well, actually, a close relative has a good friend who’s husband is trying to kick a meth addiction, and I’ve been drawn into the discussions. (Please note that when I refer to “she” or “spouse” when referring to the non-addict, I’m keeping the gender true to the example I’m portraying. Of course, this could easily be the husband who is supportive of a wife battling addictions, so feel free to mentally apply which gender best describes your own situation!)
At this point it isn’t clear at all if he actually wishes to kick the habit, or if in country vernacular, “He’s just shining her on”, meaning he’s just telling her what he thinks she wants to hear in order not to lose his marriage (and his meal-ticket, since she pays all the bills).
As anyone knows who has been through the emotional roller-coaster of being with someone who is an addict, (and I have with my first husband who was an alcoholic and a cocaine addict), the issues are very complex, and the more a person tries to ‘help’ someone, the more one can get drawn in.
She had come to feel responsible for her husband’s sobriety and future well being. She feels a huge burden of loyalty, to him and to her marriage, and feels it’s her job to help him find the path to wellness.
All very well and good, but as so often happens with addicts, he has manipulated her overtly and covertly so much over the years, that she has come to feel she bears the burden for what he is equally responsible for: from earning money to contribute to the household, to raising the children and on to his own responsibility for his emotional health and sobriety.
Addicts are very much like controllers, because they slowly make people around them do what they want… through emotional manipulation.
Women get sucked into it big time… but in truth, all the family changes to accommodate the addict’s/ controller’s moods and caprices.
If we want to put a word to this emotional state, we certainly can call it co-dependency: he depends on her to be able to continue abdicating his personal responsibilities, and she has become drawn into his game, and feels he needs her, or he won’t be able to get along without her.
On some level both agree that this situation has become toxic, and has poisoned their marriage. He is however an addict, and addicts who are still using will say anything to appease people around them, the purpose being solely to be able to continue on the path they are on.
She, as with almost every well-meaning and loving spouse, takes the words of the addict as being spoken in truth, and will believe that the addict truly wishes to quit their habit and will be able to by sheer dint of willpower, and that their word is golden.
So when the addict breaks down crying, and begs and pleads to be given another chance so their marriage won’t end, the spouse allows themselves to believe the addict’s seemingly heartfelt words, believes them with her whole heart, and then feels terribly hurt and let down when the addict returns back to their ways, and even *gasp* proceeds to get worse.
I’m not mocking anyone, or this process. I have lived it and I believed all those heartfelt words too. The problem was, I simply knew nothing of the grip of addiction or of the complex path to recovery.
I too believed that all I had to do was show my husband how very much he was loved, and the sheer force of my incredible love would inspire him and heal him. Then, when he would regularly return back to his addiction, knowing full well the cost to him, i.e., that he was about to lose his marriage, I would feel terribly hurt and then angry that he had ‘rejected’ my love and my help.
We tried the route of his going to AA and NA meetings (Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous), but that wasn’t enough for him, since he would still use between meetings. I didn’t have any idea yet on how my own behavior was also affecting the situation.
It was only when he entered a residential recovery center and all access to drugs and alcohol were removed from his life, that he was able to dry out. Then came the very long process of working with counselors and attending group meetings where he started to look at the reasons why he used drugs and alcohol, and how to heal from that.
He had to learn many tools to be able to live life. Even with all that he was learning, he still had relapses, and needed to return to the residence a couple more times.
On his third time he was told he needed to look inward and develop the strength to take responsibility for his recovery and his life, because he was transferring his dependence to the residential program.
It took years for him to go through this process. I stuck it out with him, but the toll it took on our relationship was huge, and the personal toll on me was enormous. I developed chronic Shingles from the stress. I was deeply religious, so leaving him wasn’t an option that seemed open to me then.
During this up and down roller coaster time, it was suggested to me that I go to Narc-Anon, and Al-Anon, both support groups for friends and families of addicts and alcoholics.
I went half-heartedly in the beginning, because I was shocked and hurt to hear that I had a part in the unhealthiness of our relationship.
“How could that be? I was the good one! He was the screw up! How could these people be so unkind to say I was playing a part in all this? I wasn’t making him drink or use drugs! I wasn’t making him lie to me or to steal from me! That was all him! How could they blame me?” my brain was screaming.
I learned about co-dependency and enabling. I learned that my own feelings of self-worth were so tied into the relationship that I had become a martyr, so I could find my own self identity and meaning. I learned I was just as unhealthy and out of whack as he was, just in different ways, but instead of using drugs or alcohol as he was, I was using his addictions! I was addicted to the addict!
Sounds strange doesn’t it?! It does to me… now! Back then it was terribly shocking! I needed to recover? Preposterous! Wasn’t it? So my own road to healing was rocky too, because I needed to learn to separate myself from him, so intertwined we’d become in my mind. I truly believed the Biblical verse: “The two shall become as one”.
The key word I hadn’t understood was “as” one, not actually becoming one! I needed to learn to respect myself, to see myself as an individual, and worthy of value all by myself!
I read many books, I spoke with many people on my healing journey. It was a steep learning curve, and much later I was able to write those lessons out in the book How to Heal Your Life on a Deep Heart Level, so other people could have a go to resource, written in easy to digest portions, before moving onto the next step.
So what’s the final word of advice I can give for someone in a situation where drugs and alcohol are being abused? Actually, there’s a few!
- Don’t try to do this by yourself!
- There are community resources available, please reach out to others and ask for help!
- Please attend group meetings, both to learn and to get the support you need!
- This is a process, the time frame is different for everyone! It can take a long time, because our spirits need time to heal and to learn new ways!
- Please read books and other literature available to help you on this journey… do keep the info on hand, because as we heal and learn, we see more each time we re-read something at a later time!
- Extract yourself emotionally from it; take a few steps back and get emotionally healthy… this feels awful, like a huge betrayal, but the truth is you can be in way too deep for what is healthy. These steps are what is needed to move towards a healthy balance.
Another hard lesson for me to learn: once the two individuals go through their own healing journeys, the relationship may not survive!
“What? What? I can go through all of this for nothing? My relationship may still end?” you may ask.
Unfortunately, yes. “How could that possibly be? Won’t our love be enough to get us through?” Well, maybe not… here’s why:
Once the two people in a relationship, even if it’s just one person, start to change, a process is set in motion. The people who emerge from this healing process aren’t the same ones who went into it!
As someone once told me, “Once one person changes the steps in the dance, the whole dance changes!”
Some people realize that they no longer have anything in common with each other, once the unhealthiness has changed! It isn’t a question of assigning blame… it’s no one’s fault, but probably better to accept that changes have occurred for the better, but that this chapter has ended.
I didn’t want to accept the end of that chapter in my life, I was bound and determined to make a good marriage from an unhealthy one, to be able to have some rewards for all my years I invested! I didn’t put in all the work, just to walk away! The seeming unfairness just rubbed me the wrong way!
The only thing is, he didn’t feel the same way. I felt betrayed by that, and terribly hurt. He unfortunately chose to leave me for another woman, instead of just leaving, which just complicated things for us.
In my zeal to “make the marriage work”, I had strongly stood by my ideals, which unfortunately made him feel trapped, that he didn’t have a choice in the matter. I still had a lot to learn about letting another adult make their own choices, and to live with the consequences!
I did learn, later on down the road, after the marriage had ended, that we can’t make someone love us, nor can we make them love us in the way we need to be loved!
So where does this leave this woman whose husband is still doing Meth?
Well, last we heard neither one had started on this road to recovery, both for themselves or their marriage.
At this point she has gone back to him, to “help” him. She can’t conceive of separating herself from him, or from his behavior, and they both still believe she’s very much responsible for it. She feels like a failure when he goes back to drugs, and can’t see it isn’t her burden to shoulder, but that’s the extent an addict will go to in their blame-shifting!
She has yet to go to a single support meeting or to read a book or brochure to help herself. He’s still using drugs, and hasn’t gone to a meeting either, but wants her to ‘set up an appointment with a counselor’ for him.
Yes, she has been made aware that he needs to take responsibility of making appointments and getting to meetings! That he may still need to hit rock bottom before he can do it, and some people need to hit rock bottom a few times! She has been told that not all addicts are able to get clean and sober, and stay that way! She does know she needs to hand back the responsibility of his life back to him, but the doing is so much harder than the knowing, as we all have experienced in life, in various forms!
How will their story end? I have no idea, since their recovery hasn’t started.
***Will we be there for her? Yes, as a support and possible resources, but to a limit. We still need to maintain our healthy boundaries, and not be overly drawn into their drama, so we don’t become part of the problem.
(***Since writing this post she has left him and returned back to him a couple more times, and because of lies and unfortunate circumstances, we’ve needed to severely limit our relationship with her.)
This isn’t harsh, but healthy. Each of us is responsible for our own lives, and finding the solutions and the tools.
We can help each other, share our stories and our wisdom. We then become part of a larger circle, part of the array of resources available!
I wish you well as you take the next steps of healing in your own life, whatever your form of healing needs to be!
Please feel free to share this with anyone else!
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