The other morning the quote below surprised me in my Inbox, and I feel it directly relates to the struggles with addiction as well as the difficulties which it triggers in relationships. Feel free to sign up for their daily “Notes from the Universe“!
You are not meant to bear that which you find unpleasant, you are meant to change it.www.tut.com
Boom, The Universe
Addiction issues are just as serious and difficult to deal with when I first wrote this piece, as they are now!
Love and caring are necessary components in helping someone to kick a drug habit, but unfortunately, they aren’t all what’s needed!
A close relative has a good friend whose husband is trying to kick a meth addiction, and I was 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 old rural 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 then 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 often get sucked into it big time… but in truth, the entire 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 so drawn into his game that she 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.
When the addict breaks down crying, begs and pleads to be given another chance so that 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 might even proceed 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, much less, how I was enabling him to continue because of my well-intentioned efforts.
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 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 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 them.
He had to learn many tools to be able to live life. Even with all that he was learning, he still relapsed 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 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 keyword 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. I continue the lessons I learned in the next book Developing Happiness When You Can’t Find It.
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 are a few!
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 the 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 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 for 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 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.
(***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!
Useful links: (Let me know if there’s a great website for resources I can add to this list!)
SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
Overcoming Drug Addiction – HelpGuide.org
Resources – Families for Addiction Recovery
Start Your Recovery: Substance Abuse Resources & Support
Treatment and Recovery – National Institute on Drug Abuse
Addiction Resources (Websites That Help Drug Users)
I’m sharing more posts that may be helpful for you:
- 10 Steps to Owning Our Happiness
- Setting “Boundaries with consequences”
- Making a change… “How do I take that first step?”
- Affirmation: Today is a new day! I can do this!
- As we practice being gentle and kind with ourselves, we actually help to speed the process of helping our lives become more positive!
- Always believe that wonderful things can happen!
- A healthy outside starts from the inside!
- Brain Rewiring
More good stuff:
Teaching ourselves to like, even to love ourselves is the best gift we can give ourselves!
By changing our inner dialogue, we change EVERYTHING!
Challenge: When a negative thought enters your mind, think three positive ones. Train yourself to flip the script!
Red Ocean or Blue Ocean? How do you think?
An answer to dealing with the Inner Critic!
My top 10 most viewed posts, plus a few bonuses!
A helpful trick to be able to overcome negatively Comparing Ourselves to others…
Do you only accept yourself if you look a certain way?
Please go to my Archived Posts page to find more wonderful posts to check out!
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https://tamarakulish.com/ Archived Posts: https://tamarakulish.com/archived-posts/
My books: Developing Happiness When You Can’t Find It and How to Heal Your Life on a Deep Heart Level are available in paperback and Kindle. Audio book available!
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Removing Inner Blocks, Anger Journal, Guided Anxiety Journal Joy & Mindfulness Journal My Boundaries Journal My Inner Thoughts Journal
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10 thoughts on “Is Love Enough to Help Someone Kick a Drug Habit?”
“the more a person tries to ‘help’ someone, the more one can get drawn in.
You can’t make someone love us.”
And everything you say in your post – such brutal reality is realize, heal and overcome – so many deep tender layers. Deep Breath. Truly profound 🙏🏼💛✨
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Thank you! It took a lot out of me going through it, but I feel I gained so much more by doing the inner work on myself that I needed to. It was brutal to face my own truth, but so freeing once I did, because those were patterns that I had absorbed from my childhood. Thank you for your support!
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You are very welcome 🙏🏼 I am very blessed to know you.
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Thanks! I feel that way too about you! Have a wonderful day! 🌼🌼🌸🌸
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Wow – that is a lot of good information. I haven’t gone through that recovery process with a spouse but I relate to the frustration of doing all this work and still losing the relationship. Yes, it seems some relationships are part of our path just because they cause us to do the work and then we need to say good-bye. Hard to accept and go through but I’ve come to find my gratitude for them after the fact.
Thanks for sharing your story and this post, Tamara!
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I appreciate your thoughtful feedback! 🥰
Yes, I too believe that some relationships are part of our path, because out of all the possible people who we could connect with we seek to gravitate towards people who connect with something inside of us! If we ourselves are still damaged from our pasts, we will filter out sometimes healthy people because we identify with something inside of the other person. It can be many things, but I have found that as we heal we no longer feel drawn to or can identify with the potential life partners who aren’t!