The hardest and most selfless thing I’ve ever done in my life is loving an addict. I actually love many. I am not a person to claim the role of a victim and the last thing I want is for anyone to feel sorry for me. I keep a positive outlook on life, despite what I’ve been through.
Talking about addiction is not easy, in doing so I hope it will help others in healing and maybe better understand an addict in their own life. Confronting an addict is heart wrenching and will test you in every way imaginable. I’ve been laughed at straight in my face and called a liar. My feelings have been completely disregarded, I’ve been bullied, and torn apart emotionally. I drove myself crazy with worry and finding proof of lies to make a point. In reality I never needed to. I realized if I needed to prove a liar more than once I was the fool. Addiction is all-consuming in its need for attention, by the addict and by the people who love them. I’ve learned what enabling is and how incredibly hard it is to distinguish between it and love. In loving addicts I have learned so much about the kind of person I am but more importantly the kind of person I want to become.
The most giving hearts is the ones who addicts like to surround themselves with. The most vulnerable people are the path of least resistance. They want you to enable them. It’s validating and gives them no reason to stop the destructive behavior. There is so much pain within them that it spreads, it seeps out and into everything they touch.
For loved ones it’s the pain of deceit, the pain of having them take advantage of you, and the pain of feeling like you don’t matter is what hurts the most. There is pain in knowing their selfishness is most important. What has been hardest for me is the realization that I’ve had to push them away. In showing the effects of their actions I needed to be harsh. A stark reflection of how they affected my life. Whether they want to see it or not it hurts. In every single way it hurts to witness the pain. It hurts being disliked and even hated for this when all you wish is for them to heal. I did not let the pain of this take hold on me. I do have times of sorrow, as does everyone but, it does not define me. No matter how hard it is to grasp for air sometimes I don’t let pain caused by others weigh too heavy on my soul.
In confrontation an addict will fight it. They will back you into every corner and make you feel as bad as they do. The pain inside they are trying to numb will exponentially grow in the realizations of hurting loved ones. Love can fight back even harder. Help them in every way you can without being taken advantage of. Help them gain the tools to cope but stay true to your words. If you give an ultimatum stick to it. Buttons get pushed and limits tested but keep standing strong and know that addicts can recover and trust restored. We are all human. We all make mistakes. We live, learn, and grow to become better if we want to.
Forgiveness is key. Forgive them. Forgive yourself. Forgive and grow. I do my best to not be pushed around by their demons, or my own, and learn from my own mistakes and frustrations.
Strength comes in knowing that you could save their life. Holding them accountable may nudge them out of the state of denial they put themselves in. It will quite literally feel like going into battle. They will not want to stop. It will hurt them physically and mentally to do so. Everything in them will tell them no. The high they chase is in control and will not want to be diminished. The worst part about addiction is that the body loves responding to pleasurable things and loves dopamine. As the addict gets deeper into addiction the levels of dopamine they need to feel euphoria increases. The urge will always be there to push for more. The need to survive can even come second to the need they feel in fulfilling the addiction. I’m not trying to claim that I fully understand the inner struggle of an addict. This is just my thoughts from what I’ve seen. But, I do know what it feels like to watch someone you love, even more than yourself, struggle with it. It takes a lifetime to conquer addiction.
I’ve dealt with other people’s addiction my entire life. It took my childhood. It forced me to overcome. It taught me to push myself in the need to thrive as an individual, as a leader, and as a caring human being. It showed me what to avoid and what to question.
The key to truly loving someone is honesty. So many people fail in this. Honesty is the way of happiness. To do this I had to look inward. What was I doing in response to the addict that contributed in perpetuating the behavior? I became brutally honest with myself about my actions. When you’re in a relationship with an addict, your behaviors become just as important as theirs in addiction and in recovery. I changed my habits. I had to change the way I live and the person that I am to love an addict. If you trust someone nothing stands in the way of that relationship. It leads to feeling good about yourself and the only way to truly live your best life.
In having this knowledge and understanding I believe that loving an addict is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There is a fine line between being there for someone and knowing when to say that’s enough. In this there are many times I have failed. Many times I have had to pick myself back up and literally say out loud, “yes, it is worth it.” Loving someone isn’t always butterflies and rainbows. It’s a war zone, and you have to treat it as such. You have to protect what is worth fighting for and stand your ground.
In loving an addict you have to understand their limits and see if they’re willing to do the right things to save themself. You have to continue being selfless. I will spend my entire life trying to fully understand this. To recover from the selfishness of addiction, it takes selfishness of an opposite kind to overcome it. Loving an addict and being okay with this fact without resentment takes a special kind of love. In the pain of addiction, the beauty of recovery is so rare. Witnessing an addict who recovers and stays true to themself is inspiring. The transformation of a person learning to love who they are every day is beautiful. It takes extreme inner strength and perseverance.
So much of the person I am is because of addiction. My outlook on life is molded by my decision to not let an addict take me down that dark path. My need to create something positive in my life is from seeing all the negative self destruction of people I love. The way I have learned to love is because of addiction. Not a day passes that I do not feel its effects. I will always have hope in human beings to overcome. In these realizations the meaning of what it takes to love has changed for me. Loving someone isn’t just saying I love you over and over. It’s in every action you take. Its need is deeper and more intentional than I ever thought. After losing trust in someone they have to give back to you 10 fold before expecting you to give anymore of yourself to them. To regain that level of love within a relationship is rare but, achievable.
As a mother, I worry in a very real way, if my children or grandchildren will struggle with it. Addiction is due 50 percent to genetic predisposition and 50 percent to poor coping skills. I can’t help the genetic aspect of this. It is an major issue on both sides of my children’s genetic pool but, I can prepare them in understanding the dangers. I hope I can help in recognizing the signs if it becomes an issue they are faced with. I have faith I have learned enough and can provide them with the right tools to avoid it. It is a very real thought I have in raising them. My childhood and most of adulthood was impacted with the real effects addiction can have on a life. I will do everything in my power to not let my children live with the negative effects of this disease. Strength in honesty and truly connecting with one another.