Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
Keeping Secrets For Your Addicted Loved One Is Deadly
You’ve probably heard the old saying, you’re only as sick as your secrets. Everyone’s had secrets at one time or another. But if you’re addicted, secrets can kill you. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines the word secret as: keeping information hidden from others. For substance abusers this information is their addiction and hiding it, is a full time job. Addicts hide what they use, how much they use, when they use, how they use, how they get their substance, how much money they’re spending on it and who they’re hurting in the process. People with substance use disorder don’t realize how sick they are. Addiction is a brain disease that hijacks your thinking. It impairs your reasoning and replaces honest thoughts, with dishonest ones. Addicted folks minimize their usage and become defensive when confronted on it. They will blame those closest to them for their behavior and avoid responsibility by manipulating the truth.
To complicate matters further, many addicts have been diagnosed with a mental illness that may or may not be accurate. Depression, anxiety, and mood disorders are only a few of the mental health issues that addicted individuals use to justify using. Working in a dual diagnosis clinic I speak with people who state they use because they’re depressed, or bipolar, or feel anxious, or suicidal. Friends and family buy in, and feel more compassionate thus enabling their addicted loved one to continue spiraling downwards. Families are uncomfortable confronting their sick loved one and might make excuses for them, such as; they wouldn’t be using if they weren’t depressed/anxious/etc.
To accurately diagnose a mental health condition, you must have all the facts. This is where things really fall apart. I have yet to meet an addict in active addiction who will tell the truth. Not because they’re bad guys, but because they’re sick and delusional. Imagine this, you’ve been on a crystal meth binge and you haven’t eaten, slept or showered in days. You walk into your doctor’s office and tell him you’re not sleeping or eating. You describe the energy you had – you cleaned your entire house, tried to write a book, and even painted a few pictures – but the energy you were feeling then and which kept you up and wide-awake for days, is gone. Now you’re too depressed to even shower. What you don’t tell your doctor, is that you were using crystal meth. Without all the facts the diagnose you receive, is likely false.
People who struggle with addiction bend the truth. And they’re not the only ones! Their friends and families do, too.
When your spouse is addicted you feel angry, hurt and betrayed. The love of your life is cheating on you – with their DOC – and you can’t compete. You know something’s not right and eventually you catch on. You may even threaten to kick them out if they continue to use, which they do. So out they go and then it begins. You wonder where they are, who they’re with and what they’re doing. Your imagination goes wild. Are they dead? Are they cheating? You feel so anxious thinking about what they might be doing, you change your mind and ask them to come home. Thus starting a revolving door which might go on for years. You make excuses for them because you don’t want other people to know what you’re willing to put up with. Your miserable and your behavior becomes just as unhealthy as theirs.
When your child is addicted you feel guilty and anxious. Your instinct is to protect them, and fix all their problems. You worry that their addiction is somehow your fault. You blame others for not having enough empathy. You walk on egg shells. You don’t want to upset them by saying what’s really on your mind. You give in to their demands because you feel anxious when they’re mad at you and you don’t want them to dislike you. You’re consumed by their illness and can’t stop worrying about them. Because you over-function in your role, you create a crippling, dysfunctional and dependent relationship that enables your adult child to avoid the consequences of their actions and under-function in all other areas of their life.
When your friend is addicted you feel concerned. You’ve witnessed them getting wasted and you’ve probably joined in. Only you could stop, and they couldn’t. You know all their secrets – secrets that their spouse or parents likely have never heard. These secrets weigh heavily on you and you wonder what you should do. You know they’re headed for disaster but you don’t want to get them in trouble by telling. You’ve been pals since high school and you never ratted one another out. But you’re not in high school anymore and your buddy is clearly killing himself. The thought crosses your mind to walk away, but a little voice inside your head knows better.
The above are three different scenarios, but we all know or love someone whose life has been affected by addiction. Loving someone who struggles with this illness is like being between a rock and a hard place. There are no easy answers. No matter what you do, you’re going to feel guilty for doing it. If your addicted loved one is pleased with your actions, you’re probably enabling their illness. If they’re mad at you, you likely made the right choice. However whether they’re happy with you or not, is not the issue here. The real concern is their life. To put it bluntly, if you’re keeping their secrets – you’re helping them to die. The most loving and compassionate thing you can do for anyone struggling with addiction, is to reach out for help and tell someone.
If you or someone you love needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance 1 888 614-2379.