5 Must Read Books For Loved Ones Of Addicts/Alcoholics

5 Must Read Books For Loved Ones Of Addicts/Alcoholics

If you’ve got a loved one struggling with alcoholism or addiction, chances are you’re wondering how you can best support them and take care of you.  It’s not easy being on the opposite end of an addict, that’s for sure. I suggest reading several books on the topic, as there are some wonderful books available.  Here are five of my favorite. 

  1. Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie

This best-selling book on codependency is a must-read if you’ve become a bit loco trying to navigate life with an addict or alcoholic.  After all, it’s hard not to get all involved in trying to help and fix those that you love, but when you get so far in that you’re suffering, something’s gotta change.

Do you feel you’ve lost yourself or control over your own emotional life dealing with an addicted loved one? Here, you’ll get a firm grasp on what codependency is, whether this is a struggle for you, and practical tips and tools for managing or overcoming codependency.

I always advise my clients to read this book whether they’re with an addict or a non-addict who may be extremely selfish, narcissist, mentally ill, emotionally unavailable or just a big jerk. Beattie talks about learning how to set boundaries, actually keep them, getting a strong support system, forgiveness, lovingly detaching, and more.

This was the first book I read when I learned I was struggling with codependency and I learned so much about MYSELF.  Get the book and read it.  It will give you hope, set you on a path toward healing, and freedom from the madness that oftentimes comes from being with an addict/alcoholic.

  1. Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help Change People

A must-read for families and friends of those who struggle with drinking and/or drugging. You want to help them, right?  In fact, chances are you’ve tried time and time again. Well, here’s a book that’s different than many others. It’s going to help you learn how you can best support YOURSELF first. 

Yeah, you.  I know, I know, it’s them that are the problem, but dear one, there’s some pretty good evidence out there that suggest that how you respond and relate to your loved one MATTERS. And, when you can model kindness and unconditional love, well…

Wow.  It can help them change for the better!

This book has the clinical evidence to back it up. That made my ears perk up.

Filled with practical examples and exercises, this book will give you hope for a better life for you, and for your loved one.  Note that you won’t be told how you can make your loved one change, but you will be guided on how you can help them WANT to change.  Big difference.

Get it and read it slowly.  It’s a lot of information…great information!

  1. Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Townsend

If your loved one is struggling with addiction, you must begin mastering boundary setting. Because if you don’t, you’ll continue to struggle emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and perhaps even physically. 

Here’s a book that will help you learn what boundaries are and how to set and keep clear, healthy boundaries with your addicted loved one and others. I remember being such a people pleaser that I just couldn’t say no to anyone – especially my partner.  Time and time again I’d let people cross boundary lines, say nothing, and then hate myself for allowing it yet again.

Here’s a book that will help you realize that you can draw a line in the sand and not feel bad about it.  You’ll learn some practical tips on how to say no, what to do if you’re saying no upsets someone, and what are healthy boundaries you should be setting.

A must-read!

  1. Get Your Loved One Sober: Alternatives to Nagging, Pleading, and Threatening

The title is appealing, because chances are you’re tired of nagging, pleading, and threatening.  Here Bob Meyers, champion of the Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) approach for loved ones of addicts, teaches you about the CRAFT method.  This book came before Beyond Addiction book, and I find it to be an easy read that gets you into a new frame of mind regarding your loved one.

It’ll give you hope that your perspective and reactions can help your significant other WANT to make positive changes. Because, let’s face it: nagging and pleading didn’t do the trick, right?

You’ll find some exercises in the book that you can practice, along with clinically proven strategies to help you get your loved one sober.

  1. Don’t Let Your Kids Kill You by Charles Rubin

books for loved ones who are addictsAs a parent, I know first hand how we want more than anything for our children to be healthy and happy.  And, we’d do just about anything to help them achieve that, but when they’re struggling with addiction, we find out in a quick minute just how powerless we are.  When they’re in the self-destruction mode, hijacked by the monster of addiction, it’s devastating and oftentimes paralyzing.

I read almost every day parents that come on the forum and they’re heartbroken and petrified that they’re going to lose their precious child.  They’ve no idea what to do for their child or themselves. They’re stuck.

Here’s a great book – well, recovery guide – is a must-read if your child is an alcoholic or addict. It’ll help you learn how you can consistently practice self-care, so that you don’t slide down a dark path yourself.  There’s spiritual and practical teachings that will help you learn how to best be supportive to your child without enabling, as well as resources for your help should you need.

How To Tell If My Husband (Or Wife) Is Using Drugs

How To Tell If My Husband (Or Wife) Is Using Drugs

How To Tell If My Husband (Or Wife) Is Using Drugs

 

Not knowing if your spouse is using drugs or not can cause so much anxiety.  Maybe they’ve got a history of drug use or maybe you’re seeing some sketchy behaviors.  Have you caught him in a lie? Is he slurring his speech? Have you found paraphernalia?

Drug use is more common than we all want to admit. From pain pills to benzos to alcohol to pot-brownies – there’s plenty of it going around.

But not in your house, right?

Or is it?

The Maddening Feeling of Not Knowing For Sure

Wondering if your spouse is using drugs or not can have you thinking and doing things you thought you’d never do. Once I was with a recovering addict and this person had been prescribed pain pills after a surgery. I thought, “Oh no. She’s gonna get addicted.” So, I did what any codependent partner would do: I counted her pills regularly without her knowing. 

I’m not proud of it, but I wanted to know if we were headed for addiction trouble.

Good news is that I worried for nothing, but that’s not the case for many spouses.

How Can I Tell If My Husband Is On Drugs?

This is the million-dollar question.

Well, you may not always be able to tell, but there are certain signs to be on the lookout for. Now, when I say watch for them, I don’t mean go all hyper-vigilant and watch his every move.  Don’t go snooping through all his things and trailing him through the city. 

What I’m saying is don’t go and get all addicted to his behavior.

Now, what you can do, while taking good care of yourself, is be on guard for the following signs of drug use:

Physically

  • Has he dropped quite a bit of weight fast?
  • Is he sleepy a lot or nodding off more than usual?
  • Does he look like hell?
  • Does he skip meals now?
  • Is he stumbling around?
  • Slurring his words?
  • Are his eyes bloodshot? Are his pupils tiny, tiny or really enlarged?
  • Does he have burns on his fingers? Lips?

Mood-wise

  • Is he progressively becoming irritable and aggressive?
  • Is he paranoid?
  • Overly anxious?
  • Does he head to the bathroom in a so-so or grumpy mood and come out all “Oh, what a wonderful world it is” mood? Then, a bit later he’s passed out on the couch?

Behavior-wise

These are more long-term changes to be on the lookout for:

  • Has he given up doing things he used to like doing? Hanging with the guys? Fishing? Playing with the kiddos?
  • Is he all secretive? Always has his phone within reach and gives you a horrible look if you even glance at it when it beeps or rings?
  • Gets lost headed to the store, coming in hours later?
  • Makes secretive phone calls?
  • Starts hanging out with that sketchy guy from work?
  • Have you caught him in lies?
  • Does he freak out and get all angry when you approach him about your suspicions?
  • Does he miss more and more work?
  • Does he genuinely act like he’s falling apart?
  • Is money missing?
  • Is he selling stuff?
  • Are the medications disappearing faster than they should be?
  • Is he going out all hours of the night when he used to be in bed at 10pm?

What’s The Verdict?

After looking at these signs, what do you think?  You think he’s using? 

It’s alright not to know for sure. Don’t make yourself crazy. 

If you’re concerned and some signs are there, it’s time to start learning how to approach him.

Don’t run to him in a tyrant screaming, “OMG, I can’t believe you’re on drugs!”

That’s not going to get you far. 

Confronting someone using drugs takes delicacy and strategy. You’ve got to prepare and plan.

For more information on how to do that, tune in for my next blog post.

Addiction & Neuroplasticity: What’s The Deal?

Addiction & Neuroplasticity: What’s The Deal?

Addiction & Neuroplasticity: What’s The Deal?

 

With millions struggling with addiction globally, something’s got to break treatment wise. Sure, some progress is being made, but not nearly enough.  There’s a lot of theories as to what needs to happen, and among the top contenders is the topic of neuroplasticity and addiction treatment.

What is Neuroplasticity?

For many years, science told us that the brain wasn’t really “changeable”. Researchers implied that damaged brains were not able to repair themselves. However, the ever-evolving research in neuroscience has something different to say, and the study of neuroplasticity is pretty exciting.

Neuroplasticity is essentially the brain’s ability to change in associations and structure.  It’s the magic wand of reorganizing itself and forming new neural pathways. Though it’s not well-known in some treatment circles, the idea isn’t new. In fact, Psychologist Donald Hebb coined this term back in 1949.

The brain is a highly complex system that acts a lot like a machine that follows certain processes.  For example, when you make the same decision repeatedly, your brain perks up. It notices that you’re doing that thing that you do (like wake up and have a cup of coffee) over and over. Because it’s efficient, it makes a nice, comfortable space for that repetitive decision, creating neural pathways or connections.

This is neuro (brain) plasticity (change) in action. It’s brain “conditioning”. It’s neurons firing together & wiring together, otherwise known as Hebb’s Law.

How Does The Brain Heal?

The human body with all its organs and systems is extraordinary, and it will try to heal itself time and time again. The brain is no exception. It wants to heal. And, when you learn how the brain heals, you’re much more apt to be excited about your future whether you’re struggling with addiction or anything!

Think of a weight lifter who lifts regularly, building some decent muscle. He’s created a habit and the brain takes note. The brain has fired neural connections surrounding the thought of lifting and the actual lifting behavior.  It produces those endorphins and other chemicals that bring about some good feelings. The weight lifter’s positive habits have solidified those neural pathways.

Now let’s look at an addict who drinks or takes a drug repeatedly. By doing so, he builds his “addiction muscle”. Each drink or “hit” trains the brain. The brain perks up, takes note, and begins solidifying neural pathways that fire to re-wire the brain to crave that behavior over and over again.

So, the brain makes NEW connections that change the way the brain will fire between the synopses of the brain, causing the person to want to repeat that behavior.

The Mind Instructs The Brain To Change

How many times have you changed your mind?  Plenty, I presume. You change your mind and you change your behavior.  See, the brain is plastic, or fluid. It’s changeable, malleable. I really want you to see that the brain is changeable!

Now, guess what gives instruction to the brain to change…

The mind.

Yes, your thoughts. You change your mind, you change your brain!

Think repetitive thoughts don’t matter? Oh, they do, and they do big time.  Repetitive thoughts REWIRE the neural connections going on in the brain.

“Recent research on neuroplasticity (the brain’s plastic or physically adaptable nature) seems to confirm that the thoughts of the mind direct the activity of the brain and actually cause this supercomputer to physically rewire itself to function more efficiently.”

Addiction Recovery Through Neuroplasticity

Now what does all this mean to those who struggle with addiction to alcohol or drugs?

Let me start by saying I’m believing for better statistics for addiction treatment.  There are far too many addicts falling through the cracks, coming out of treatment centers and doctor’s offices STILL addicted or prone to relapse within months.  There are also many who label themselves with a diseased brain that will cause them to suffer the rest of their lives, and I just don’t believe this.

Is recovery from addiction able to come through a better understanding of neuroplasticity?

Yes, because people become addicted THROUGH neuroplasticity! Addicted is caused by repetitive actions creating new neural pathways and addiction can be treated by repetitive actions creating DIFFERENT AND BETTER neural pathways!

Addiction treatment can be a time when a person learns ways to pave new neural pathways that don’t involve drinking or drugging. A dedicated time to retrain the brain and make better neural connections.

But here me on this. You can’t just put the booze or pills down for a week, because those old connections are still there. They don’t just disappear in a week or two and it wouldn’t take much to jumpstart those old connections or habits.

Just because you no longer drink or use your drug of choice doesn’t mean those addictive thought processes aren’t quietly waiting somewhere in the brain, itching for reactivation.  Like an old drinking buddy who says, “Hey, come on. Let’s tie one on for old times sake!” – itching for you to follow the rabbit hole just one more time.

Become A Student Of Your Brain

We have this incredibly complex brain, yet most people have very little idea how it works.  Not saying you have to be a neuroscientist, but it can sever you well when you learn a bit about how your brain works.

See, your brain is always at work. It’s a constantly moving machine. It’s being affected by every thought you’re thinking, every decision you’re making, and external circumstances. You’ve heard the phrase, “My brain never shuts off”. Well, the brain really doesn’t shut down.

Remember studying to take an exam? You went over the material repeatedly to learn it. To memorize it. Your brain memorized it!  That’s how the brain works. You take in information and think thoughts and your brain is paying attention.

Just like your computer will pour more processing power to your favorite apps, your brain does the same thing with the things you think about repeatedly. It dedicates more processing power to those thoughts. The thoughts you repeat program and customize your brain, rewiring and reshaping it all the time.  

For example, when you play a musical instrument, your brain will make an adjustment and dedicate more neural connections and space to playing music.” (Gaser & Schlaug, 2003) If you’re a taxi driver, your brain will dedicate more connections and space to storing and processing maps.

If you’re an addict and using booze or drugs to try to feel happy, your brain will adjust. It will dedicate more neural connections and space to process thoughts of using substances more efficiently. Like when I used to drink a lot, I’d actually find myself thinking a whole lot more about when and where I could drink.  I started basing my schedule around drinking, as my brain was onto my thought life.

Addiction happens for various reasons, but let’s not rule out that it happens because your brain has become adapted to the repetitious behaviors. Your brain becomes efficient at drinking or using.

The Brain Is A Slave To Thoughts

Your brain is a slave to your thoughts. I can’t really say it any simpler than that.  Your brain can be a slave to positive or negative thoughts, and regardless of what you think, you do have some power over that.

See, your thoughts can create habits. And, your habits can be a process that accommodate excessive drinking or drug use. This is neuroplasticity in action.

In 2002, Schwartz & Begley did some research on the topic and found that addicts who quit using drugs oftentimes quit because they changed their thought patterns. They began decreasing “using” thoughts and increased better thoughts.

They began to rewire their brains, limiting the repetitive negative thoughts and increasing the positive. An addict, due to repetitive behavior, will keep using because they’ve created familiar neural pathways. The brain LOOKS for such pathways, so when they stop, the brain will be looking for new paths.

And, you have the power to give it new paths and new habits because the brain will adapt.

But I Want A Dopamine Surge!

We all like a good dopamine surge. Whether it’s from the initial buzz from a drink, high from a drug, good feeling from eating a Krispy Kreme donut, and so on.  We want to feel happy, and our brains are adept at providing chemicals to help us feel happy.

Chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. The brain is pretty good at letting loose these chemicals when we exercise, enjoy physical closeness with another, or even just think about doing something that we enjoy.

But when you drink or use drugs, your brain chemicals are altered.  The brain is like, “What the hell?” and gets out of whack because the brain is what’s supposed to be dosing out these chemicals.  When booze or drugs get ingested, the brain gets hijacked and you’ll begin to feel that buzz or high or relaxation you desire to feel.

But only for so long.  Before you know it, that high is wearing off and your brain will start begging for more.  Your brain will want another hit, and if it doesn’t get it, you’ll pay for it in the form of withdrawal symptoms. With a “crash”. With negative emotions.

Oh, the hell of the come down.

Addiction Recovery

As you probably know, there are many different strategies and avenues for addiction recovery. From treatment centers to 12 Step groups to retreats to the deep jungle with indigenous Shaman.  I’m not proposing one to be better than another. We are each unique and our recovery will be unique.

However, I do believe that a holistic approach to addiction recovery is essential.

Whether you’re working on addiction recovery at home by yourself or you’re working with substance abuse professionals, there are some things to keep in mind.

Addiction is a learned behavior, so recovery will be a learned behavior as well.

You must begin to take notice of your thought life. Your mindset, emotions, and behavior, because they’re connected. To recover from addiction, changes at that level must be made, rather than to just abstain and hope for the best.

There are various paths to recovery, so my advice is to see what works for you.  What worked for Joe may not work for Mary and you know what? That’s ok. Stop judging and be open to try various models.  Think “holistically” in terms of mind, body, and spirit. Think “whole self” – emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual.

Besides just putting down the drink or drugs, you’ll most likely need to think about learning new coping skills, better communication skills, basic life skills, anger management, and more.

You’ll need some good support, personal and professional.

  • Contemplative Practices

There’s enough research out there that shows that mindfulness and meditation are helpful in addiction recovery.  By learning how to quiet the mind, you can become more of an observer of thoughts. You can better foster new thoughts and behaviors. This helps create a gap between cravings and actions.

Here are some great contemplative practices to consider:

Meditation, mindfulness, yoga, acupuncture, acupressure, urge surfing. 

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Use in combination with other strategies.

SMART Recovery is a support group founded by Dr. Joe Gerstein that helps people recover from addiction, including addiction to alcohol. SMART stands for Self-Management And Recovery Training.  This type of recovery group in not based on the 12 Step philosophy like you find in AA or NA.

It’s a program based on four points:

Point 1: Building and Maintaining Motivation

Point 2: Coping with Urges

Point 3: Managing Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors

Point 4: Living a Balanced Life

SMART helps people learn how to empower themselves, control addictive behavior by dealing with underlying thoughts and emotions, and go on to create good lives. It focuses on learning tools and techniques that help people make changes. Meetings are educational in nature and include open discussion. It’s an evidence-based approach to recovery, leaning on the latest scientific knowledge of addiction recovery.

And, it’s science based, so as science advantages, SMART adds and updates their philosophy, tools, techniques, and so on. This is one thing that 12 Step groups DON’T do, and one reason I really like the SMART program.

Tools that you may learn include the basic stages of change, how to cope with urges, role-playing and rehearsing, self-talk awareness, and various worksheets.

There are more than 3,000 meetings across the U.S. and SMART is recognized by the National Institute on Drug Abuse as being an effective strategy to overcome addiction.


  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy

 

{Part 2 of this series that will go into more depth on treatments to come next week}

Toxic Person? Relationship? Detach, Dear One

Toxic Person? Relationship? Detach, Dear One

 

Detach From The Narcissist/Addict/Emotional Abuser In A Loving Way

 

Codependents sure know how to attach.  In fact, some attach like a famished blood-sucking leech. It’s easier than you think to become obsessed with another person, such as your children or your partner, especially if you struggle with low self-worth. 

Not much else matters except pleasing your object of attachment because you get affirmation there. You lean on them to help you to feel like you matter.  In fact, you oftentimes forget to take care of yourself because you are so busy taking care of others to get what you want: love.

The problem is that you have a hard time receiving the love that may come because deep down you loathe yourself or at the very least, dislike who you are. 

“I love you, but me? Eh, there’s so much I can’t stand about myself.”

Here, Take My Power

The attachment is unhealthy. The longer you stay in the toxic relationship, the more you give away of yourself, you power, your self-esteem, and your self-worth.

You back yourself into a corner. You imprison your spirit. Their approval of you is pretty much the only thing that matters.  When you don’t get it, you’re extra sad, you self-sabotage, you resolve to try harder. It’s a hellish cycle.

Detach, dear one.

In order for you to continue to heal and recover, you must learn how to detach in a loving way. I say loving because you’re learning how to step into YOUR POWER. And, in doing so, you’re not taking his or her behavior personal. It is what it is, and you’re not willing to put up with it anymore or react harshly.

Now detaching can mean different things to different people and the thought of it can produce much anxiety. Like peeling a leech off of its tasty host, some pain will occur, but I assure you it is vital for your recovery and your potential to live life in freedom and joy.

Detaching can play out in different ways. For one it may mean completely cutting off all contact for a while. For another, it could mean limiting time spent and time thinking about that person.

The best approach is to sit down and discuss your issue with a good therapist and your partner.  Be honest about your unhealthy attachment and come up with a solution that works for both of you.

Keep in mind that detaching does not mean “breaking up” (though some do); it simply means to lovingly let go of your obsessive thoughts and behaviors when it comes to your partner. It means taking time to take care of your needs, time to find yourself and begin to learn how to love yourself.

You are responsible for you first.  Self-care can become a wonderful friend. You deserve to have a life of your own and not be enmeshed with another.

Reach Out For Help

You can attend individual or couples therapy if you find you need help.  The process of detaching in a healthy way and unlearning some of the negative skills you’ve been employing takes dedication, time, and a good therapist can help. 

You want to detach from the unhealthy attachment and not detach completely or in a rude way.  I’ve known some that just shut down and completely detach, which does not help in any way. It actually makes matters worse.

Once you’ve lovingly detached so you can have ample space to work on your own issues, you will then be more apt to reattach in a healthy way.  After I detached, which I did find to be challenging, my head began to clear and I saw things that I hadn’t seen when I was so caught up in the relationship.  I saw how immaturely I had acted at times and how I repelled my partner by my neediness and low self-worth.  Having some time to yourself unattached to your partner may be super good for your soul.

Ask yourself:

     –Is my world wrapped up in my partner/children?

     –Who am I without my partner?

     –How can I lovingly detach and work on me?

 

 

Life With An Addict: Lessons Learned

Life With An Addict: Lessons Learned

Life With An Addict: Lessons Learned

{Guest Post by Kristi C.}

 

No doubt if you’re living with a loved one who’s struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction, you’re weighed down with worry and stress, feeling lost. You feel you’re going crazy and that your whole world has just stopped. You can’t plan ahead or even plan tomorrow because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. 

Let me begin by saying you are not alone!  You are not crazy!  There is hope and support!  Right here, right now you can begin a new journey.  A journey to not only better understand your addict, but a journey of self-love and self-care for you. 

saying noI’m sure you are thinking, “How can I worry about myself when I have to take care of my addicted loved one?” Or perhaps you are thinking, “There is no hope until my addicted loved one gets clean. Then life can go back to normal”. 

I thought the same things not all that long ago actually.  I am here to tell you from experience that it is possible to love your addict, not lose yourself, and still love yourself. 

The following words are my life, my story.  The purpose in sharing my story is that hopefully others will find strength, hope, answers, and support where they are in their lives.  I want my negative experiences to be used in a positive way.

Opioid Addiction

My husband was a recovered opiate addict when we met. I knew his past. I knew he had been clean for quite some time when we met. Two months almost to the date before our wedding day he was hit from behind in a terrible car accident that should have killed him. He was rushed to the hospital via an ambulance. They pumped him with pain meds. He endured 2 back surgeries within a few months. Within a month of the accident he relapsed fully.

It’s been a roller coaster ride full of recovery and relapses our entire marriage of a little over 5 years. The longest time in between was two years and then another relapse a few months ago. 

I Lost Myself in His Addiction

I was angry. I was playing detective, I was losing myself very quickly. I was full of anxiety and could not focus on anything other than my husband’s addiction. My relationship with family and friends was suffering because I began isolating. My work was suffering because I could not focus. I was going from, “I’m done with this!” to “Well, he admits he needs help and is going to get it” and everything in between.

I have reached out for answers, help and support for years.  All I ever got out of that was from friends & family. My close ones I could trust with the information that my husband had yet again relapsed. They had the same answers and advice: “Leave him. You can’t live your life like that forever.” Or they’d say, “Move on. It’s never going to change”. 

Eventually some would even get tired of hearing about it and would distance themselves from me after a while.  Not very hopeful for someone grasping to hang on to an addicted spouse. Grasping to get the clean the person that I love so very much back.  The only methods I knew were to beg, plead, scream, argue, break down and cry, threaten, give ultimatums and then start all that over again. 

It was truly a battle because I did not have the correct insight on addiction.  I also was putting all of the blame for my turmoil on my husband.  Yes, his choices had put me in the position I was in, but as I learned I am the only one responsible for my reaction.  

Only recently I learned that I needed to deal with me.  I needed to take a look at myself.  Not fun!  When it was brought to my attention that I may be “addicted to my addict” or may be “codependent”, I was frustrated. 

“THE PROBLEM IS NOT ME!!!  IT’S HIM” was my very first thought, followed closely by “HE IS THE ONE THAT NEEDS HELP!!  NOT ME!!” 

Addicted to the Addict

Turns out that I WAS addicted to my addict.  My life revolved around him and his choices 24/7.  The first time I heard the phrase “detach with love” I admit, I huffed.  My thought, “Oh, I’ll detach alright, but it will NOT be with love!”  Being only 4’11” and having been called a firecracker by those that know me, my favorite quote is by Shakespeare:

And though she be but little, she is fierce.”

FIERCE! That’s what I was!  I was not handling it with LOVE this time. I’ve tried that for many years previously. Now, I’m ANGRY! 

I got over myself.  I decided my previous efforts had not worked and there had to be a different approach. It was my last effort in salvaging my husband and our marriage.  

What is Codependency?

And by the way, what in the world does “codependency” even mean?  I went head first into learning.  After researching, reading, soul searching, and taking a step back to evaluate my actions, I’m definitely on the codependent side as well.  Now what?  How am I supposed to deal with myself when I’m far too consumed with dealing with my husband?  I don’t have time or energy to deal with myself too!   

First and foremost, I had to learn that:

I AM NOT IN CONTROL OF HIM, I CANNOT CHANGE ANYTHING OR ANYONE BUT MYSELF & MY LIFE, I CAN ONLY MAKE CHOICES FOR MYSELF.  Trust me when I say IT IS HARD!!  By hard, I mean it is a daily process!!

Things I’ve Learned Along My Own Journey:

  • I cannot control an addict’s choices, actions and behavior. I can only control my reaction/response to these. Crying, begging, yelling & screaming, making threats, giving ultimatums and not sticking to it –none of those solved anything. They only caused me more stress.
  • Being consumed with an addict’s addiction is only hurting me. It is not going to help or change the addict. Only the addict can help themselves.

  • If I do not put myself first – my health, my emotions, MY LIFE – nobody else will.

  • Addicts are consumed with fulfilling only their “needs”. They live for today only. They go into their own “survival mode” and will lie, steal, deny, manipulate and play on their loved one’s emotions and wear them down to achieve their goals. Whether that be a place to stay, money, food, etc. they will do what it takes to make it happen.

  • If an addict is so set on taking care of themselves and their “needs” and making it happen(see previous) shouldn’t I be just as consumed with taking care of MY needs and making it happen?

  • I cannot feel guilty when I place boundaries and stick to them. An addict gives sob stories and plays the victim when THEY caused the consequences they are facing. I’ve learned this is hard, and it hurts but it’s what needs to happen.

  • I need to practice self-love, self-help and forgiveness of myself daily. Minute by minute, day by day. And, I am worth it!

  • To gain support of those that have been through or are going through what I have been going through. Nar-Anon, Al-Anon, and online forums. I have friends that I vent to and that will support me, but they don’t fully understand this disease. Unless they have been through it themselves with a loved one or perhaps have even been an addict themselves they do not fully understand.

**Don’t get me wrong, having friends and family that are aware of the situation is a MUST!! You have to have that, it’s a weight off of your shoulders to have that relationship. But experienced support & advice is something that has been a life saver for me this time around that I have not had the previous 5 years.

  • To gain all the knowledge I can about addiction and living with an addict in order to better understand the disease but also to better understand how to take care of myself. “Beyond Addiction” & “Codependent No More” are my go to books! Nar-Anon group reading materials provided at meetings are amazing too

I don’t know what the future holds for myself or my husband or even for our marriage. I don’t know if we will make it through this time, I don’t know if he will find successful treatment and gain lifelong recovery. I am going to have to make decisions on my own based on what is best for me and my future. I’m not perfect, nor have I perfected all of the above, but I can work daily to try.

I am so thankful for this site and all of the valuable information contained here. However, it saddens me to see that there are so many battling addictions and so many that are grasping for what they can to hold on to a loved one that is an addict.

Let me close by saying that I am not an expert by any means as far as educational studies of addiction or codependency.  I am not a counselor, therapist or psychologist.  I am simply an average person that has lived & still lives this life, walked this path, and endured all that comes along with loving an addict. 

I can honestly tell you that my life as I have known it has changed tremendously for the better since I have found help, support and knowledge.  I feel that I am living proof that people can change for the better, no matter how difficult the situation they’re in.  (Even if their addicted loved one doesn’t get clean/sober)

Please be assured that no matter where your journey takes you, there is HOPE & SUPPORT.  Live, Learn, Love –simple words used very often, but these are the steps of life when you have a loved one that is an addict.

Best Wishes,

Kristi Cowart

{If you have a story to share, please submit to dominica2257@yahoo.com}

For The Days You Want To Give Up

For The Days You Want To Give Up

For The Days You Want To Give Up

 

“You never give up, even when you should.” ― Kelly Creagh

Whether you’re in active addiction, recovery from drinking or drugging, or codependency recovery, I assure you that there will be days when you want to give up.

Give up hope, give up caring, give up sobriety, give up thinking you’re actually able to get your life where you want it to be, give up thinking your loved one will EVER get sober, and so on.

I get it.  I know there were (and still are) some days where I wanted to pack up a suitcase and run as far away as I could from everyone and everything – somehow thinking that would actually help me feel better.

But you know what?

I learned that I could feel that “I want to give up” feeling and not have to “do” anything. 

I learned that I could just feel it, sit with it, and give myself permission to just feel crappy momentarily without having to figure out how the heck to get rid of such a feeling.

And you know what else?

It was worth it; the hanging on, I mean.

The NOT giving up.

The clinging onto that thread of hope that would someone always find me in my deepest, darkest times.

Listen, friends, there will be days when you want to give up. Where your regrets and fears will paralyze you. Where shame will tie a rope around your neck and ask you to jump. Where you’ll look around at others and see them living good lives and you wonder how in the world THEY can have it all while you’re living in misery.

Oh yeah, you’ll be tempted to give up,

But don’t. 

I’m telling you to hang on.

I’m telling you to get yourself to a space where it’s quiet, preferably outside in nature, and BE quiet with yourself for a minute. Just slow-the-eff-down for a short time and listen.

Just listen.

No, not to your ego. Not to the hamster wheel of negative thoughts running through your skull.  Not to the screams of your spouse, wicked step-parent, boss, kids, or whoever else has spewed angry words at you.

Rather, listen to the silence. The birds. The rustles of leaves blowing in the wind.

Breathe deeply a new breath of life and exhale all the garbage you want to let go.

Let go, I said.  Just.Let.Go.

And for real, let God.

Let God what, you ask? 

Let God give you the courage to carry on.  To help you feel the pain you’ve been running from and numbing…I mean really feel it and not freak out.  That pain won’t kill you. The alcohol, drugs, or lack of self-care is what may kill you!

But that emotional pain? It’s not meant to kill you. It’s not meant to make you live a miserable life. 

It’s your opportunity to stop for a moment and ask “why”?

Why am I feeling this pain? What can I do to NOT feel this pain that doesn’t involve something harmful?

And let me be clear:  This isn’t easy to do.  It’s easier to run and numb. It’s easier to stay imprisoned within yourself, wearing a mask so that others will think you’re alright.

But you CAN do it…

You must.

Consider this a definitive moment where you promise yourself to never give up again.  To NOT let your fears, your past, or your emotions cause you to keep living a life marked by addiction, codependency, lies, shame, depression, etc.

Consider today a breakthrough kind of day.

A “I’m drawing a line in the sand” kind of day!

A day where you commit to persist and carry on with faith in something bigger than you. A force greater than us all!

Call it God, Spirit, Nature, Universe, Higher Power, or whatever you want, but know that

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

And, you don’t have to keep running, numbing, or escaping.

Stay.

Stay for you, stay for me, stay for your friends and family.

Ask for help if you need; a counselor can work wonders. A friend can help ease the load.  A support group or online forum can be a lifeline.

My point is that there will be days when you want to give up.

But don’t.