It’s 2:35 am. Despite the time you’re still wide awake: Ears alert to a call on your phone or tires pulling in the driveway. Eyes strained in the low lighting of the living room. Stomach churning. Mind racing as to the possibilities of where your daughter may be. —– It’s 5:45 pm. You come home to find your husband on the couch. Drinking his fourteenth beer of the day. He’s been drinking since you left for work nearly ten hours ago. His words are slurred. The house is a mess. You find out that the kids had to walk home from school because dad wasn’t there to pick them up. —– It’s 12:20 pm. You’re at work. You get a frantic call from your sister. She’s out of money again. The electricity is about to be shut off at her apartment. She’s weeks late behind on rent and the landlord is threatening eviction. She hasn’t eaten in three days because she can’t afford food, and her car is broken down. —– It’s 4:05 am. The phone startles you awake. It’s your son. From jail. Again. He was caught with a small amount of heroin and needs to be bailed out. —–
What do you do?
When you love someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol – you experience extreme highs and extreme lows. When you love someone in active addiction, drama, worry, guilt and fear can plague your life. You give away money, you pay other people’s bills. You spend energy you never knew you had. Addiction is the only disease that tells a person they don’t have it. Addiction is also the only disease that can make a person not want to be saved or changed. Addiction doesn’t care about your time, energy, money, or tears. If you’re sacrificing sleep, obsessing, raging, blaming or lying to cover for your loved one – the problem may actually extend beyond the actual addiction to drugs or alcohol. Every member of your family has in one form or another – suffered from the disease. Whether it be financial hardship, neglected relationships, physical or verbal use, or shame.
Your Reaction to the Disease of Addiction
You have put time, effort, love and energy into this disease. However, by doing so – you’ve been reacting to choices that another person is making. Choices that you can do absolutely nothing about. You’re so caught up in the actions, behaviors, and decisions of your drug-addicted son, daughter, sister, husband, etc… that you find it difficult to separate yourself from him or her. Whatever issues they’re facing, you find yourself facing. Their problems are your problems. Their excuses becomes your excuses. You can’t remember the last time you stopped thinking about them. I can’t remember what you’re supposed to be thinking about. Not having a dramatic reaction to a loved one’s addiction is much harder said than done. On one hand – the intellectual side of it – you know that you need to stop focusing on your loved one and his addiction. On the other hand – the emotional side of it – you feel completely unable to do so.
Continuing to Love, Learning to Detach
Whether the person in your life who is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction is your child, sibling, parent, friend, spouse or significant other – your relationship isn’t healthy; it’s full of drama and full of pain. The words “detach” and “love” don’t seem like they belong in the same sentence – in fact, they seem almost contradictory of one another. However, detaching with love does not mean that you stop loving your loved one. Detaching with love means that you must make a conscious decision and effort to stop putting every ounce of your time, emotion and energy on someone else. Detaching with love means that you choose to no longer allow addiction to destroy your life, too. Detaching from a person in active addiction requires patience and work on your end. Here are three things to keep in mind:
Detach from assuming responsibility of your loved one’s actions. By now, you may have heard the “3 C’s” of addiction. You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, you can’t cure it. You may be able to recognize that you are not the perfect spouse, sibling, parent, child, etc. – to your loved loved one. However, your mistakes are not the causes for your loved one using heroin, Oxycontin, or alcohol. Whether you yell, cry, plead or threaten – you cannot control another person’s decisions, behaviors, or actions – especially when it comes to addiction. And finally, you cannot assume the responsibility to cure your loved one’s disease – all you can do is support them and encourage them to get treatment. By detaching from the responsibility of your loved one’s addiction, it will give you some sense of peace and self-love.
Detach from the emotional roller coaster of addiction. Just as you cannot control your loved one’s actions – you can control your actions. You can change your actions and reactions to addiction. As the spouse, sibling, parent or child to an addicted person, your responsibility is to get healthy mentally, spiritually, and emotionally so that you can truly be there for your loved one. By detaching from the emotional roller coaster of addiction, you focus on your own emotional and spiritual well being.
Detach physically from a loved one in active addiction. This one is especially tough. However, keep in mind that you need to be motivated by what is truly best for your loved one. For example: If your son is using heroin in your home and shooting up in his bedroom, you are showing him more love by kicking him out of your house, than if you let him continue to get high in your home. You see, by detaching physically, you are better able to detach from the emotional roller coaster and the feelings of responsibility of your loved one using. Would you feel responsible if your loved one overdosed in your own home? Genuine detachment means that you are able to break contact with your loved one in order to let him or her assume the responsibility of their own actions.
Detaching is Difficult
Detaching from an addicted loved one is both difficult and scary – but it is necessary in order to start the healing process. As you learn to detach with love, you learn to allow your drug addicted loved one to be himself. By detaching with love, you allow her to make her own choices and live her own life. At the same time, you will be able to preserve your energy to building your own live and developing a sense of self-love. By detaching, you are still able to love the individual in active addiction, without destroying yourself. You don’t have to rescue; you don’t have to fix – instead, you can grow and become stronger, allowing yourself to live the life you were meant to live.