Addiction of any kind is a difficult path and can wreck havoc on loved ones as well as the person caught in the trap of addiction. It can be heart wrenching to be caught up in the grief process of a person in the midst of their addiction. Besides the vicarious grief of watching a person you love slowly change and move further from you while “slipping deeper into the bottle,” there is also your loss of the person you once knew and the dreams you had for your relationship.
Addiction can come in many forms, including, alcohol, tobacco, drugs (legal and illegal), sex, porn, electronics, shopping, and even extreme sports. I consider an addiction to be present when someone uses their drug of choice even though it can be detrimental to themselves, their family and loved ones, and their profession.
Addiction is a medical condition and, like other diseases, will become worse without some sort of treatment. Most people in the midst of addiction will say they can control their usage but, of course, the reality is that their “drug” is controlling them. For the loved one, such as yourself, this process can be excruciating and you may find no matter what you do the behavior continues and progresses, often resulting in a destructive impact on your relationship.
I do believe that a “family focus” can be the best treatment for addiction. Although you might feel helplessly caught in the addiction cycle of your loved one, there are actions that can empower you and help keep you sane. For example, recovery programs such as Al-Anon help people who have loved ones that are addicts. Al-Anon stresses the three C’s — you didn’t cause it, you can’t cure it and you can’t control it. Remembering these three C’s can help you set healthy boundaries and realize that someone’s choices and actions are not your fault and you cannot take on their addiction for them.
Stop the enabling behavior, speak your truth and identify what works for you. These types of choices can have a profound effect on your life and can keep you sane in the midst of the chaos created by a family member with an addiction. All of the energy you spent trying to “fix” the other person can now be directed towards your health and your quality of life. It is crucial to have the bravery to find support and change the family system in positive ways. I do hope you reach out to healthy friends, groups and professionals and realize that you do not have to do this alone. There is hope and the positive change can begin with you. Until next time, I wish you well on your journey of healing from loss.