We have a tendency to wallow in our own pain, and don’t consider that our struggling loved one is in agony. Addiction hurts… all of you.
The people we love do things that make us crazy and set our world spinning out of control. How many of us take it personally? THEY are the ones causing chaos. THEY are the ones who made unhealthy, dangerous choices. THEY have no idea how much they’ve hurt us. Loving is the last thing we are feeling, and empathy and compassion are crowded out because we live in fear.
Now stop for a moment. Your child or spouse or parent didn’t wake up one day and decide, “Today would be a good day to become an addict, mess up my life, and torture my family.” I don’t know anyone who chooses to go down a path that leads to misery, addiction, alienation, prison or death.
How did that cycle of drug or alcohol use (or any other self-harming behavior) begin?
While it may start with curiosity, experimentation or boredom, continued use is usually a sign of an underlying cause such as depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, loneliness or bullying.
Underneath the chaos is a person you love, who desperately wants to feel loved and accepted, and to be whole again. But addiction is a disease of the brain, and this disease runs their life. Their actions and words are a reflection of this.
Addiction is hell, and they don’t know how to fix it. More often than not, you jumpstart recovery with an intervention. Recovery may begin in treatment, but it is so much more than that. It’s intensive outpatient and a sober living home, AA and NA. It’s exercise and healthy eating, employment and recreation, a spiritual path and sober friends.
As important as all those elements are, so is the healthy love and support of you, the family members. But how do you love and support them when their addiction has become your personal nightmare?
You move out of hell and into calm, sanity, hope and love. This is where you look at yourself and at them with new eyes. You remember the person hiding inside, the person you love, and for whom you would do anything to help them get better. Every person deserves love, respect and dignity… even when, especially when, they make you crazy.
Your disappointment, anger and sadness can only feed the growing chasm between you. They get you more of what you don’t want. Seeing them only as their addiction widens the gap, and contributes to further substance use.
When you see your loved one through the eyes of love, there is connection and healing. They, too, begin to see possibilities, to remember the able, worthy and loving person they were before this disease took over.
We are not meant to be alone, or to cope with life’s challenges alone. When people are feeling rejected and disconnected, they do whatever it takes to feel better. If they’re feeling terrible about themselves and that they are being judged, it’s the perfect storm to keep using.
Love, connection, relationship — these are driving forces. They will help you nourish your loved one’s recovery. This is where change begins, for all of you. Sharing memories from ‘before’ builds connection. Finding common ground builds trust and relationships. Loving the person in front of you in spite of his mistakes gives him hope that he can get through this and strength to keep working at it.
Addiction hurts. Love heals. Choose love.