Recently I have received a lot of emails from readers who have a struggling addict or alcoholic in their life. Most of the time they explain a situation in which they got into a relationship fairly recently and did not realize the extent of their partners drug use until it was “too late.” Now that they can really see the light, they are disturbed and sometimes overwhelmed with the situation.
On the one hand, they have grown attached to this person in their life and have grown to genuinely care about them and love them. On the other hand, it is only now that they are truly seeing the addiction for what it is and they realize that they cannot continue to live with someone who is at this level of addictive behavior.
And so they are in a state of wringing their hands; they do not want to leave the relationship, but they wish that the addict would magically change.
These are heart breaking emails to receive because there is simply no magic wand to wave in the air and fix this type of situation. Here is what I can recommend though:
1) Get help yourself – seek local help. This is important so that you can look out for yourself first and possibly learn how you can help the addict in your life. The quickest way to go about this is to attend Al-Anon meetings and try to learn what you can there.
2) Don’t support, condone, or participate in using drugs or alcohol with the person.
3) Don’t enable them in any way.
4) Allow them to face the natural consequences of their actions. No rescuing.
5) Decide on boundaries for yourself and communicate them to the other person. No idle threats allowed. Say what you mean and follow through with it. Decide what you will and will not live with.
The tough part of reality is that at some point you might have to make a decision about whether or not to leave the relationship. How much is your sanity worth to you? Go to Al-anon and ask for advice from the people there after you tell your story, and see what they think. There may come a time when you decide that you would be better off single, painful as that may be at first. The addict in your life may never change if you do not detach completely from them.
I just want to give a quick shout out to the drug addiction therapy guy who has a really solid message about recovery. Be sure to check him out and see if his message resonates with you…