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}