Everyone, every family, has a story. When we love an addict, our stories seem very unique, and they are. And, although this is true, there are many elements of all of our stories that are the same. Relationships might be different, drugs/processes might be different, progression of whys and wherefores might be different, but some things are exactly the same.
When we love an addict we experience panic, anger, frustration, fear, anxiety, pain, disillusionment, self-doubt, and general malaise. Some of us experience some of these, some of us experience all of these. Much of the time we feel lack of control and even take on a victim role. Why me? Doesn’t our addict know what his/her use is doing to me, our family? What did I do wrong to make this happen? Do I love too much? Did I not love enough?
In all my years of research and interviews one of the main things I have learned as a loved one of an addict is that it is not about us. In most circumstances, it has nothing to do with us at all.
When I faced the fact that I focused much more time on my addict and his addiction than he did, I began to reevaluate my role. I realized that I had choices.
It is important, before we are able to make our choices, that we understand that at some time we must accept what is. After we do this, we can make good choices for ourselves. In my own experience, it was a lot of work and I started with very small baby steps, but with profound results.
What kind of choices can we make? Generally, I started making choices that made me feel more comfortable. There was always judgment, advice, criticism, and urging to do one thing over another (addiction brings on a lot of this whether you are suffering with the problem or one who loves that person). I stopped doing things for my loved ones that I resented. Did this help the addict? Not necessarily, but it helped me have a bit more peace and calm in my own life. I stopped reacting to and being drawn into arguments, developing simple tools to help “on the spot”. I began to put “me” first, in a caring way, not a self centered way.
Thinking from this perspective changed my life.
Most would say that when a child is suffering, a mom suffers too. Yes, I believe that is true. But, think about this. I took charge of my own thoughts and feelings, not knowing what the outcome would be for my son, a heroin addict. What would happen when he found his way to a manageable and productive life and looked back at the destruction he caused? Most addicts learn to take responsibility for what damage they did while using and recognize the destruction it caused in a family. Is there guilt? Is there blame? Are grudges held?
Many people around me felt I stopped loving my son when I began to think about myself. I just knew it was a good thing to do. Results? When my son became clean and sober and the blame, guilt, shame, and accusations got sifted through, mom and son had a bond like no other. One reason, he did not have to suffer the guilt of ruining my life because I didn’t allow it to happen. And he was grateful.