Living with an addict is not easy; in fact it’s one of the hardest lifestyles to endure. But living with the addiction is one of the hardest things for an outsider to comprehend. I have lived the addiction and also lived with an addicted, or many at that. Living with someone who is addicted is especially hard on our belief system since unconditional love for those we care about is the driving force in the relationship, not the addiction.
A problem most have when living with someone who is an addict is actually seeing the telling signs of the addiction on their life as well as the addict’s life. The fact is, when we live with someone we love and they have an addiction problem we don’t want to believe it. Disbelief is one of the driving forces in the relationship being addicted and loved ones. Disbelief is apparent to everyone around you and the addicted, but not to yourselves. In comparison it’s close to the 5 stages of dying towards a relationship not an actual person.
These are the five stages of a dying relationship in regards to addiction and disbelief in lifestyles.
First the loved one wants to deny and isolate the addicted and us from any specific exploitative relationships or behaviors. The loved ones simply don’t want anyone to see the behavior that is out of the normal. We don’t want anyone to see behavior that is considered to be deviant in our culture or society. In social psychology we they theorize this type of behavior to stem from anti-social qualities due to the ill nature of the affliction. This causes a severe restrain in integration to any normal daily routine or culture.
We live in a state of denial saying things like, “No they aren’t addicted… it’s just a phase.” Or you begin to say things like, “It’s just their friends and influences but if it was their choice they wouldn’t do such ‘stupid’ things.” Now we start to gain some knowledge of the situation and become depressed in more disbelief. There are states of isolate from any positive that begin to happen. With this newfound misery our life has been thrown into we bask in the negative lifestyle choices of the addicted. The negative starts to consume us leaving no room for a positive mindset or productive reintegration into the ‘civilized’ world.
We would then move on to a severe amount of anger and disgust. This behavior can be seen as inhibiting codependency or the irrationality of the addicted when they lash out in situations. Irrationality and codependency come full front when the addict can’t obtain what they want or feel they need to survive the addiction or withdrawal. This scenario puts the whole family or support system into an outrage because the ones with the level head tend to get heated. The ones with the level head know what’s right but don’t know how to convey it so they are doing what some call ‘taking the bait.’ Once they are hooked to the addicted behavior it’s hard to get unhooked, almost becoming an addiction all in itself. Then, the ones who are addicted cannot see the right being offered to them because their support system has fallen victim to the disease, too. It’s a vicious cycle. The two polar opposites collide and create irrational outbursts on arguments that would not be anywhere near apparent if addiction were not involved.
Soon the support system begins to bargain their freedoms with the addicted. Then they start to give into a bartering system among sacrificing personal freedoms. This becomes an even more unhealthy relationship.
We—the ones living with the addicted—start to feel as if our own freedom isn’t deserved, while the chains of addiction start to take hold of us too. Even though we aren’t addicted to drugs the relationship starts to have a withering effect on our psyche and morale. The loved ones start to feel addicted to the addicted. Then as the addiction gets worse they give in to the self-defeating behaviors on both sides.
“Well, maybe a little bit is okay?” I’m sure we’ve all heard this one. But, with addiction there is no moderation, and pretty soon bargaining turns into full on binging, again and again. A relapse is a relapse no matter how much substance is consumed because it entails the behaviors, too. This gives the addicted a socially acceptable and not morally reprehensible system to abide by. This tells the addicted, “If a little is okay, maybe I can get away with more.” So the addiction worsens and so do the relationships around the addiction.
As we try to gain our feet back underneath us it doesn’t work. The loved ones give in and give up our freedoms to the addicted lifestyle and start to withdrawal from the worldly activities that they found so joyous and freeing. They start to slope into a downward depression only fueled more by more bargaining. This is soon to be turned to “giving in” because we can simply become sick and tired of being sick and tired, too.
As depression creeps in, it’s not that we lose care for the person but we lose the intent for the activities they are engaging in. We also lose the willingness to fight it, so it’s not defeat but it’s more a form of acceptance. This form of acceptance is self-defeating but not defeated yet.
So, the depression worsens and we start to let go a little bit. This will lead us into the last stage of a dying relationship: Acceptance. This is where we embrace the terms and conditions that addiction has dealt us. This is where a path must be chosen for the addict and the loved ones. The paths being keep using/keep living in disbelief or let the relationship completely wither into something harder to repair.
Pretty soon the chains of addiction begin to weigh too heavy and the loved ones begin to feel as if there is only two ways out… the addicted quit drugs or quit the relationship. Most would call this type of situation “tough love” and others would call it “letting go” but I would for the case call it “acceptance.”
We are not approving the addiction, in fact we are doing quit the opposite. We’ve learned we cannot live with the addiction so we must accept the terms and conditions of it and not let it burden us anymore. We easily give in to the fact that we cannot change the situation until the addicts want to change it themselves. This is where we learn acceptance for ourselves and either move on, or bask in the misery addiction has fueled for us. We accept that “this is the way it’s gonna be” and until the addicted learn to move on and get some sense of recovery, I must live my life unhappily or accept the fact that, I simply cannot change this. In fact, the loved ones may be the one in need of personal recovery, too. This is where groups such as AlAnon come from.
“I don’t want to believe it, but I must accept that I cannot change the situation I accept it, but I don’t want to believe it.”
Your [not] friend,
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