Loving an addict can feel like riding a roller coaster on a daily basis. At times things may seem normal, but without warning there is turbulence, unpredictability and a whole lot of stress. You want to believe that everything will be all right and that things will settle down so that you can lead a somewhat normal life. But your daily reality is anything but normal.
More often than you want to admit, your life more closely resembles a circus than a story with a happily-ever-after ending. The addict is compelled to keep using drugs whether you beg, plead, scream or threaten. Friends and family urge you to leave the relationship, but for some reason you haven’t been able to do that. You know that you are putting up with a lot of unacceptable behavior, but you keep hanging on, wishing and hoping that things will change. Worst of all, at times it seems like the person in the relationship that is crazy is you.
Struggling to Be in Control
What keeps you hanging on in the midst of so much turbulence? When you love an addict, it almost feels like you are in Catch-22. Staying in the relationship is stressful and painful. Most of the time you probably can’t even say that you are happy. Yet for reasons you may not understand, leaving doesn’t seem to be an option.
You know that the average person isn’t dealing with this much drama. You struggle to control the situation, but you can’t. Somewhere deep down you think if you just say or do the right thing, the addict will stop using drugs. You use a huge amount of energy wondering where the addict is and what he or she is up to. After wasting hours or days this way, you may feel pretty bad about yourself. You may blame yourself and think that you might somehow have caused the addictive behavior or made it worse. You may believe it’s up to you to fix the problem. As overwhelmed, stressed and frustrated you are, you can’t seem to walk away. What you really want is to control the situation, but you are failing miserably.
The Addictive Personality
Addicts use drugs for one reason only, and that’s because they are addicts. A person with an addictive personality is compelled to turn to drugs or alcohol because mind-altering chemicals give him or her emotional relief from day to day stress or pain. Substances make the addict feel more energetic, relaxed or euphoric. The addict wants to keep feeling this feeling over and over again, and will give up anything in life that gets in the way of getting high.
At times you may feel like you should issue the addict an ultimatum. You want to insist that a choice be made between the drugs and you. If you issue this ultimatum, be prepared for the answer. Most of the time, an active addict doesn’t have a choice. He or she has to choose the drugs. That is the nature of addiction. It doesn’t mean that he or she doesn’t love you. It only means that your loved one has lost the power to choose whether to pick up a drink or a drug.
What Are You Getting Out of the Relationship?
In spite of continual disappointment, you stick around. Friends and family ask you why you stay in such a stressful situation, and you probably don’t know the answer. The reason you stay in the relationship isn’t that different from the reason the addict keeps being compelled to use drugs. You are drawn to an addict because you are compelled to be in a relationship with someone who needs to be fixed.
The addict is addicted to drugs or alcohol, and you are addicted to him or her. As a codependent, you are compelled to keep returning to the addict, struggling to control him or her. That is the nature of codependency.
Breaking the Cycle
While you don’t have the power to control the addict and make him or her quit drinking or drugging, you do have the power to do something about the Catch-22 that you are in. You need to break the cycle. It begins with learning to focus on yourself. What are your likes, dislikes and goals? What actions do you need to take in order to put yourself and your needs first? Spend some time thinking and writing in a journal.
Consider attending meetings of Al-Anon or other support groups where you can meet people who have experiences similar to yours. You may also benefit from working with a counselor who specializes in love addiction. By focusing on yourself and getting the support you need, you can gradually learn to take care of your own needs and have a healthier relationship with yourself and with other people.