Do you live with or do you have a close relationship with an addict? Has your life become unmanageable because of worries and concerns over your addicted loved one?
If you answered yes to the previous questions, you are certainly not alone. Research tells us that one in every seven Americans, age twelve and older, has an addiction of some sort. So, for every fourteen people you know, there is a good chance that at least one or two of those people are struggling with an addiction.
It is mind-boggling to think that addiction can start at such a young age. The brain of a twelve-year-old is not even fully developed. Brain studies show that it takes an average of twenty years before a person has attained enough skills to make good decisions.
When growing up in a home with addicted adults, children are the victims of a very unhealthy environment. Adult children of alcoholics are more likely to continue the pattern of living with an addict.
“More than half of all adults have a family history of alcoholism or problem drinking, and more than seven million children live in a household where at least one parent is dependent or has abused alcohol.” Quote from National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.
Living with an addict is exhausting and heartbreaking.
Standing by and observing the certain destruction of someone you love can be devastating. Trying to make sense of life with an addict is impossible. Alcoholism and drug dependence can affect all aspects of the life of the addict, as well as friends and family.
The most serious and troubling effect is the damage that occurs in the brain and the thought processes of an addict. Emotionally, a person cannot mature much past the age where addiction takes hold. Socially, things can be very lonely for the addict. Friends that have long since moved on into loving and healthy relationships find it difficult to maintain their relationship with the addict. The healthy person will spend their time making a happy life with others. An addict’s life is taken up by thoughts of how to keep their addiction going.
Sadly, living with an addict will mean that your need for love and attention will be neglected. Addiction is completely self-serving, and your addicted loved one will choose their addiction over all other concerns.
Spinning out of control, the addict has no intention of stopping for the sake of others. You may begin to feel as if you are being taken for a ride. Remember merry-go-rounds in the park? All the fun was in building up speed for a longer ride. Having a friend to help you push made it even more fun. If the ride slowed down, riders could speed things up again by stepping one foot on the ground and pushing.
But what if you shouted, “STOP, I am getting sick.”? What if you were getting dizzy and faint, but your friend pretended not to hear you? What if they just kept pushing faster? What an awful feeling it would be to have to endure someone else’s idea of fun.
Trying to have fun with an addict can be a lot like being stuck on a merry-go-round with a bully.
You thought you were in this together, but, in reality, you are only along for the ride. That’s a real buzz kill!
Watch an addict, and you will observe a person having a very private party right in front of you, and you are being ignored. People that are drunk or stoned have no concern for the welfare of others. They are in a bubble of chemically induced bliss. The gambling addict loses track of time and the people around them. Alcohol, drugs, gambling, and porn are all activities that need no other players. For the addict, the party happens with or without you.
Your heart will tell you that you love this person. Your head will tell you that this is not good for you. Life may have been fun at the beginning of your relationship, but it doesn’t take long before the fun times become more and more difficult to remember. Life will become unmanageable for you.
At some point, you will have to ask yourself this question:
“How long am I willing to continue in this unhealthy relationship?”
Healthy partners do not hurt each other by their behavior, however, loving relationships enrich our lives.
Here are a few ideas that might help you deal with the chaos of a relationship with an addict.
- Keep a positive outlook. Think of addiction as a disease… but a very curable disease. Do not lose hope.
- Understand that you are not to blame for the addiction. Do not buy into any guilt. You have done the best you knew how, and you are now making better choices as you learn more.
- Leave the past behind; do not long for the “good old days.” Your future with your loved one will look completely different from the past. Without addiction to controlling your life, you will find new ways to enjoy life and be happy… maybe even together.
- Maintain a sober and positive atmosphere for yourself and those around you. Attend a support group like Al-Anon for help on how to make changes for a better life.
- Remain open, but never waste your energy trying to communicate with an addict when they are under the influence. Step away and don’t allow yourself to be pulled into a losing battle.
- Be realistic about your ability to change another person. You can choose your thoughts to build a better life for yourself, but you cannot be the thinker for another person.
Do not wait for someone else to change. When change happens from the inside, your outer world will begin to reflect the new you. You can make a difference when you take good care of yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!