Before I began my own journey with addiction I loved an addict. If you read my post, My Best Friend Died, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t read it, go read it and then come back.
First of all, if you are loving an addict know this: you are not alone.
I loved an addict and I get a lot of questions in regards to how I did it. Here’s how: I removed the label and I loved the person. I loved her by reminding her that she was strong. I loved her for her heart, a piece of her that drugs couldn’t take away. I loved her because she was worth fighting for. I loved her because she was kind, caring, and hilarious. I loved her because she was my best friend. I loved her because she was my favorite person. I loved her because she was Cali. When I looked at her I never saw just an addict, I always saw her for the person she was within. After everything I chose to continue to support her. I chose to let her move into my house, to call her my sister, to have her become part of my family. I CHOSE TO. And then addiction really set in and I still chose to love her. I chose to answer every 3am strung out phone call. I chose to put myself in danger to rescue her from scary situation after situation and to call the police time after time. I chose to sit with her during come downs and hold her down while she was lashing out. I chose to get screamed at, cursed at, and told that I was hated over and over again. I chose to put myself last and put her first. I chose to try to save her. And then I realized that me trying to save her was in fact doing the opposite. Not only was I not saving her, I was destroying myself. I was choosing to let my soul become so heavy. I was choosing to help her, then go home and cry because my help wasn’t actually helping. So then I had to make the hardest choice of my life – do I continue to hold the rope close or do I create some distance? I’m sure if you’ve loved an addict you’ve asked yourself that same question. You don’t want it to seem like you’re giving up on the person you love, because you aren’t, but you also can’t continue to go through what you’re going through forever. So, I began learning how to love Cali from afar. I let her know I would always be there but that I couldn’t keep saving her, she had to learn how to save herself.
If you’re loving an addict in active addiction I’m sure you’ve been through everything I have. You understand the pain. You get it. Here are some things I’ve learned/found helpful while loving an addict:
- Remember that addiction is not a choice, it’s a disease.
- Know that the addict you are loving is not themselves, the things they say/do are their addiction taking over. Be forgiving, but also stand your ground.
- Don’t give in to manipulation. Addicts are master manipulators who will do anything to feed their addiction.
- Accept that you can’t change them. You can do everything you can, but you can’t do everything. They have to want to change themselves, they have to want to recover.
- Be supportive, but do not take the blame for problems created by addiction.
- Learn what healthy boundaries look like. Don’t provide financial support, don’t make up excuses for them, don’t bail them out. As hard as it may be, they have to learn to fight for themselves.
- Be optimistic. There is hope for the person you love, even if it’s hard to see.
If you’re loving an addict in recovery, here are some things that I have found extremely helpful as an addict in recovery:
- Actively listen. Your loved one just wants to be heard. Listen intently to their needs, concerns, and thoughts.
- Encourage a healthy lifestyle. Exercising, healthy eating, and keeping busy will be so beneficial in their recovery.
- Suggest a support group. Whether it’s AA, NA, or a therapy group it is so important for your loved one to be surrounded by people who have been through what they’ve been through, and are now in the same stage as them.
- Find a therapist. Don’t force them into therapy, that most likely won’t help. But definitely encourage it.
- Set expectations. Don’t be afraid to hold them accountable to rules/expectations you have set, especially if they are living with you.
- Relapse. It does happen. The way you react to your loved one’s relapse can be a huge piece in how they rebound from it. Recovery is about progress, not perfection.
- Be patient. Recovery is a lifelong journey and is so extremely hard on all people involved.
And if you’re loving an addict, don’t forget to take care of yourself.
- Find a support group for YOU. There are so many support groups for families/friends of addicts. People there will understand you and everything you’re going through. You’ll be amazed by the community you can create for yourself.
- Go to therapy. Loving an addict is one of the most exhausting, difficult things you can ever do. Get some help for yourself, go talk about it.
- Treat yourself. Buy that coffee, go get your nails done, have a spa day. You are fighting, too, and you deserve it.
- Rest. Your days are probably consumed by so many different emotions. Resting is so important.
Here’s my point: I understand how hard loving an addict is. I know that it is one of the loneliest things you can do. I get that it’s exhausting, defeating, and unfair. I get it, I really, truly do. There is a very fine line you have to walk when loving an addict: are you just loving or are you loving and enabling? Here is the best advice I was ever told when it comes to loving an addict: “If the addict is happy with you, you’re probably enabling them. If an addict is mad at you, you’re probably trying to save their life.” Hard words to accept, right? I thought so, too. But they are the truest words I have ever heard, and something I learned very quickly when loving Cali. So if the person you are loving is furious with you, accept it and know that means you are doing something right. Figure out how to help them and love them, but don’t forget about yourself. Don’t forget that you are worth fighting for, too. And if you need to reach out, I’m here. If you need to talk about it, message me. You are strong. You are worth loving. You are worth peace. Thank you for being brave enough to not give up.