“It is impossible to control outcomes or results, although most of us have been programmed from a very young age to believe otherwise. The idea that we can perform actual “magic” causes tremendous dysfunction, unnecessary suffering, and prevents the development of emotional resilience.”
~ Christopher Dines, Mindfulness Burnout Prevention: an 8-Week Course for Professionals
San Diego drug addiction rehab programs and 12-Step fellowship meeting halls are full of people whose lives became unmanageable due to their powerlessness over their disease of addiction.
Those same programs and meeting halls are filled with desperate individuals whose lives also became unmanageable because of their powerlessness over a loved one who is ill with addiction. In this case, the addiction isn’t theirs, but their reaction to it demonstrates the same amount of wanton destruction and anguish felt by the person who has become chemically dependent on mood altering substances and trying to stop.
If you have a loved one who is dependent to alcohol or drugs, your natural inclination is to help the person get treatment for this disease, but that help cannot come at the cost of your own sanity, your own serenity, and your own life.
Codependency and Addiction
Many people who love someone who has an addiction have been described as codependent. This pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviors develop when a person becomes preoccupied or obsessed with the dysfunctional behavior of another rather than focusing on themselves. Someone who is codependent will learn to put the needs of the person addicted to alcohol or drugs before their own needs or the needs of their family.
Moreover, they will not do this in a healthy, altruistic manner. Their responses to the behaviors of the chemically dependent person will be unhealthy and driven by anxiety and fear. They will need professional help, because they have their own set of co-addictive behaviors:
- repressing one’s true feelings
- over-compliance to the needs of the addicted person, for fear of a negative reaction, or abandonment
- lowered self-esteem
- excusing/lying about/minimizing/covering for the behavior of the chemically dependent person
- emotional blackmail and withholding of affection/intimacy
- suffering from negative emotions because of someone else’s behavior – self-blame, shame, depression, self-loathing, guilt, anger, etc.
- defining one’s sense of self based upon the addicted persons opinion of them
- neglecting one’s own needs in an attempt to “fix” the person who suffers from the disease of addiction
Letting Go with Love
The parallels between addiction and co-addiction are striking. Just as recovery from drug or alcohol addiction is only possible when the chemically dependent person totally and permanently abstains from usage, a person who is codependent must totally abstain – by detaching from trying to control the sick person.
In simplest terms, emotional detachment is when a person protects themselves from the turmoil caused by the disease of addiction and refuses to react into the collateral damage and drama. They stop letting the addicted person’s problems become their problems. It is the opposite of obsessive codependency.
This does not mean that you don’t love the man, woman or child anymore. It means that you will allow them to make their own choices (and mistakes) in their own lives. You will do the same, by focusing your time and energy on your own life. Both of your lives have been altered by the chemical use.
It is a simple, balanced equation. Your loved one – physically dependent on a chemical – has a disease that continues to progress when others are trying to control them. Let me emphasize this again. A person who is chemically dependent will keep using substances as long as you tell them to stop! Letting go of your need to control and/or fix the person addicted to substances is one of the best things you can do to help them recover.
Those men and woman who are dependent on substances, legal and illegal, will benefit from an intervention, either legal, medical or from family or friends. You must no longer be willing to watch the addicted person damage their own life, as they are responsible for their actions, under the influence or not. Just as you are entitled to live your own life and make your own choices.
If it is your decision to get help for yourself when your life has been touched by someone else’s addiction, you need to contact the best family addiction treatment San Diego has to offer – Lasting Recovery, whose Co-Founder has been helping families to recover from addictions since 1981. When you make that call, you’re taking that first positive step to regaining your life, your serenity, and your sanity.