Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
Dammed If You Do. Dammed If You Don’t.
How To Deal With Your Loved One’s Addiction.
Joan – not her real name, took off her glasses and rubbed them vigorously. She set them in her lap, took a deep breath and turned to her group. “Do you mean to tell me, there’s no winning with this thing?” Joan had just received feedback after bailing her son out for the third time in the past three weeks. Only the week before she’d committed to her support group that this last time, was the last time, she would rescue her son. Up until then, Joan had a long history of paying his rent, cell phone bills and car insurance. She gave him money for gas, food and various other items. Her peers were trying to get her to see if she continued giving in this manner, there would be no reason for her son to change. Seriously, why would he? Joan’s son had someone to take care of him, pay his bills and shoulder the consequences of his every move. For Joan’s son, life was just one big party. Joan, on the other hand, wasn’t having any fun at all. She was exhausted and on the verge of collapse. Not only that, her generosity was causing marital problems at home. Her husband wasn’t pleased that she was giving away his hard earned money. He thought their son should get and keep a job, like everyone else did. Secretly, Joan thought her husband was too hard on their son, but she’d learned early on in life to keep the peace. Rather than speak her mind, she went behind his back and continued to enable their son. With their dwindling bank account, Joan’s husband threatened to leave. Torn between the two, Joan promised him she would stop. But unfortunately; she had blown it, again.
You might wonder why Joan is unable to follow through with her promises. Just as addicted individuals relapse, so do their family members. It takes time, commitment and hard work to facilitate healthy change. Joan isn’t weak, or unintelligent. Her ‘relapse,’ has nothing to do with her cognitive ability. What she suffers from is codependency and emotional compulsion. (Reacting to her feelings) Joan is a prisoner of her emotions. Instead of maturing emotionally, she spent most of her life avoiding difficult emotions by running away from them, or by people pleasing.
Without help, Joan will continue to give in to her son’s requests. Her marriage will most likely end and she’ll be left alone and destitute. Joan’s peer group is helping her understand her giving really isn’t about helping her son. Joan admitted she knew what she was doing wasn’t helping him, and yet, she couldn’t seem to stop herself. Joan acknowledged she was more comfortable feeling resentful and like a victim, than she was saying no and feeling guilty for it.
If Joan’s excuses sound familiar, they should. Addicts and alcoholics say the same thing. They make promises about stopping and in the moment, they mean them. But the moment passes and the next occasion occurs and in that moment the need to use, or enable, is so intense it overrides their past promises.
When your loved one is struggling with addiction it can feel like you’re dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t. You’re caught in a double bind. (A situation in which a person is confronted with two irreconcilable demands or a choice between two undesirable courses of action.) Should you choose tough love and allow the addicted individual to experience the consequences of their actions, chances are, they’ll be more open to seeking help for their illness.
However, not all will.
Some will hit the streets and become homeless only to enmesh themselves into a drug addicted lifestyle with people who are just as sick as they are.
Some family members will continue to enable their addicted loved one in spite of serious consequences. These families will fracture, while the addict and primary enabler grow progressively sicker over the years until one or both parties, pass away from their illness.
It may appear as if there’s only two choices to make when dealing with addiction. Send them to the streets, or keep enabling them. Neither is the best solution and playing Russian roulette with your loved one’s life, is not a good idea.
So what can you do?
Learn to hit the pause button.
The best thing you can say to your addicted loved one the next time they call needing something, is this; I need time to think about it. Then hang up and call your support group or treatment center to ask for advice.
Joan is on the right track. She has reached out for help. Involving professionals and joining a support group will benefit her physically, psychologically, spiritually and emotionally. With help, Joan can begin to feel more confident when making decisions regarding her son. She is becoming self-aware and understands the role she plays in his addiction. Joan is learning the difference between helping her son and enabling him. When she makes decisions based on support and education rather than enabling him to avoid her feelings of guilt, she’ll ultimately make better decisions for both of them.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 1 888 614-2379.