Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
Addiction And Valentine’s Day Can Equal Love
Valentine’s Day conjures up images of happy couples strolling hand-in-hand down, children giving out heart-shaped cards in their classrooms, flowers for Mom, chocolate hearts for that special someone, a diamond necklace for your wife, long romantic dinners, or cuddling on the couch with candles flickering in the background. Whether you like it or not, February 14 is all about love. Love is in the air- but not everyone is feeling it. For the addicted person’s family, Valentine’s Day can be just another day to suffer through. They’re not likely to receive chocolates, cards, jewelry or flowers. Instead, what they might get is another request for more money, and a lot of grief if they say no. Or worse, they might get nothing at all. No phone calls, no arguments- nothing. Some families won’t hear from their loved one. They have no idea where they are, or if they are even alive Those suffering from addiction are not purposely trying to hurt their families. They’re driven by a pathological need that consumes every waking minute. Their desire for drugs or alcohol surpasses everything else. Unless you’ve been addicted it’s hard to understand. Drugs and alcohol look like the culprit, but they are only a symptom of something much deeper going on below the surface. Addicted persons suffer from denial, delusional and self-absorption. Many also have underlying, untreated, mental health issues. They can be oblivious to the vast stress and pain they create within their family systems. Some will even argue they are not hurting anyone but themselves. To bring peace and balance back into the equation, the addict’s family puts the needs of their sick loved one above their own. They overcompensate by doing for their addicted family member what the family should be doing for themselves. The families live with shame, frustration, guilt, fear, bitterness, anger, rage, financial difficulties, extreme stress and verbal use. For some, living with a broken heart becomes normal.
Truthfully, addiction is an ugly disease and if you’re doing the right thing, setting boundaries and helping without enabling, you won’t be thanked for it. Most families have no idea how powerful this illness is, or what they’re up against. Families often feel responsible for their addicted loved one and burn themselves out by caring for them. Without education and support, help becomes enabling and fear becomes control. Addiction is cunning. You may believe your loved one is the same person you have always known, but they are not. Because you don’t always see the physical changes in them until much later, you may not be aware that continuous ingestion of drugs or alcohol has altered their brain. Reasoning, impulse control and logic are impaired. Simply put, the drugs are doing their thinking. It’s natural to feel hurt when someone you love is neglecting you. However, it’s equally important to balance out your pain by spending time with people who are healthy for you and who are there for you. Putting your needs first is not selfish, it’s crucial. It’s easy to get sucked into the chaos surrounding addiction. Families can unknowingly cross the line into codependency, if not careful. When helping the addicted person is hurting you and everyone else in your family, it’s time to stop. Suffering, misery and martyrdom are not signs of love, they are signs of codependency and enabling. If your heart is broken this Valentine’s Day, reach out. Please understand those suffering with addiction are incapable of meeting your emotional needs. Not because they don’t care about you, but because they are extremely sick. They’re self-centered, terminally ill and caught up in their own struggles. Maintaining a drug habit is a full-time job. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for friends and family. If you’re miserable, exhausted and worn out, you have crossed the invisible line into enabling. It’s easy to do. Well-meaning families constantly struggle with helping, versus enabling. Without boundaries, it’s easy to become a puppet to this disease. This Valentine’s Day give yourself the gift of love, compassion and respect. Be willing to let go of shame and blame. Know that the person you love is not at their best right now. Drugs and alcohol have made them flat, lifeless and depressed. You won’t be able to get your emotional needs met with them- but that doesn’t mean you’re alone. Millions of family members are in recovery. There are safe, supportive groups in every community across North America. These people are your tribe. They understand. They’ve walked in your shoes and they know what it’s like. You can lean on them, they will listen to you, support you and care about you. This Valentine’s Day, don’t forget about you. You don’t have to wait for someone else to show you love. Your happiness relies solely on newly constructed messages. Messages of love, hope, value and possibility. Make February 14 a day for you. For these 24 hours, focus on you. Peace is reached when one accepts the things they can’t change and changes the things they can. It’s important to remember you do have choices and practicing self-care should be number one on your list. It might seem improbable, but Addiction and Valentine’s Day can equal love. This February 14th, start a new tradition – the tradition of self-love. Healing starts with you. You have the power to change. You are deserving of all that is good. You come first. You are worthy. You are strong. You are love. Happy Valentine’s Day to you! If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 888-601-8693.