So your partner is an addict. They’ve got issues with something, whether it’s drugs or some other vice, and it’s bad. Maybe they keep relapsing, or maybe they just haven’t stopped using. Either way, it’s not good, and you are caught in the middle of it. The middle of your family, the middle of their employment, the middle of every interaction they are having with anyone outside of the situation. It’s definitely not good.
Alright, so we have definitely agreed that this isn’t a good situation, right? And we also know that they need help. So rehab, is that best? Or just start going to meetings? Let’s ask an addiction support group. Ok wait, now should you leave? No one is giving you the right advice that feels good, and now you are confused, even more lost, and starting to get upset.
“I just want to help!” you might think. Or maybe you are just tired of it all and don’t really care, so you’re just along for the ride.
Whatever your partner does, though, doesn’t really point you in the right direction of what you need to do for yourself. Even if they get their addiction under control, if they go to rehab, if they start going to program meetings, or even if they don’t stop, it’s not very easy to figure out how to start your own path to healing.
But you definitely need some healing, I know I did. It’s quite a journey being with someone who has addiction issues, and can definitely take a toll on your mental health and well-being.
So the question is, how do we start? And where do we start? Is it possible while they are here still and in active addiction or do I need to wait until they go to rehab?
The answer is: you can start whenever you want to.
And I don’t know about you, but when I was in the thick of it, I was very lost and confused. So to help alleviate that, I will give you a breakdown of your options and what I found to be best in my own life.
First thing is program. For us, to my knowledge, we either have Nar-Anon or Al-Anon. I started going to Nar-Anon in October of 2018 (my partner’s vice is drugs for the most part, but he's dabbled with alcohol), and have a sponsor who I see as a friend and a wonderful support on not only this area but life as a whole. Even the other members I see as close, and to have an intimate group like that who knows this side of you is a huge help.
But, there are draw-backs to that. For example, I’ve seen on online support groups under this program (not so much my home group as we are a lot more casual to a point) that they are very rigid in their rules and structure. Which I understand as needing to control the content and make sure nothing gets too distressful or off the point, but I’ve seen people who need help turned away for the nature of their questions or finding that it wasn’t helpful due to how impersonal it can seem to someone who is new and not accustomed to how it is run, especially if they haven’t been to an in-person home group meeting yet.
Also, it is a belief that you must attend regularly and for the rest of your life or you aren’t doing the necessary steps to ensure your own recovery. And while I can see myself being a member for life if that’s what I need, I don’t force myself to attend a certain number of meetings a week or stress myself out with thinking that I will fail if I don’t live my life with program being first. I am always doing things for the benefit of my recovery, and if program happens to take a back seat for awhile, I think we are all entitled to that even if it goes against what others see as best for us. If you are still looking for more on program, I’ve written a blog post prior to this one that goes a little more in-depth.
Alright, next thing. When your partner has addiction issues it is very easy to put them first and to have ourselves and our lives take a backseat. We care about them and love them, and so want them to get better, and honestly if I’m being blunt, keep them alive. Right? I’ve been desperate sometimes and at the beginning of my friendship with him I had given him unrestricted access to credit cards in my name, called employers to figure out job situations, called rehabs to get him in (even if he didn’t want it), paid debts to people for things I had no information on, and the list goes on. I needed him to be there, with me, doing what I thought was best, in order for me to feel okay. And that is not okay. I know now that I can’t force my will and desires onto another person, but what I can do is have my own will and desires for myself and work on getting those done. And that starts with self care.
Most people think self care means bubble baths and shopping trips, and while I love a nice pedicure now and then, it goes far beyond that. Self care can mean anything that, well, cares for yourself. Sometimes that means a stress reliever like a massage or even just watching a movie with a cup of coffee. Or it can also mean meditating to clear your mind and help you focus. Or eating healthier to feel better and get in better shape. Or starting to take the steps needed to improve your mental health and start that inner work to improve your mindset and feel more happy, alive, and free.
In the same area as self care comes self love, which means loving yourself of course. The most important person in your life should be you, and it should always be you. You come before your partner, your children, your job, your family, anyone who isn’t you. And that’s not as bad as it sounds, although I thought it did when I first started thinking about it. Obviously we can love our children more than life itself, and love our partners until the day we die, but if we aren’t taking care of ourselves first and foremost, and loving ourselves more than anyone on this planet, then we can’t be our best selves to then have the best relationships with others that we would want. You know the saying: you can’t pour from an empty cup.
And I’m sure you’ve been told to make boundaries too right? This is where you get the strength, knowledge, and ability to make those boundaries. Sure, people can tell you what they think is best, but if you just make up some rules or ultimatums or take other people’s ideas, then they won’t stick because you won’t actually believe in them or trust that they are right for you. But when you are strong in yourself and know what you want, it will become very easy to cut out anything that doesn’t align with that. Which is exactly what boundaries are.
And finally, my last topic is your mindset. I can tell you that in these past few years, whether my partner was in active addiction or not, I was not the most fun-loving and happy person I could have been. And it’s funny, you would think that his periods of recovery would have made me happy and carefree but it was actually not true. Even when he was sober I would still be incredibly pessimistic, resentful of everything he did, and just plain unhappy. And this was because I had not yet done what I needed to do, because I was still under the impression that it was him that needed to do all the heavy lifting, and I was this way because of him.
In reality, it was my mindset that was the problem. No matter what was going on I was still living in a place that was different than where I actually was.
I would get hung up on the past and why it could have or should have been better. Why wasn’t he able to get sober sooner? What did I do wrong?
I would look around and instead of being able to acknowledge where I was at, I was angry at it. Why couldn’t we just be normal? Why is everything with him so difficult? Why can’t I have a life like everyone else? Why is everything so embarrassing and why does everyone judge me?
And I would look to the future with the same lens. Why can’t it change? Is it going to be like this forever? Am I ever going to be happy?
And all those thoughts would swirl and linger in my head all day everyday and I was obviously miserable as a result.
But after awhile, I couldn’t take it anymore, so I gave up on that. I realized that my thoughts definitely weren’t making anything any better, so why not try to change that? And even though nothing outside changed at first (in fact, they got even worse for a minute there), I changed inside. I realized what was in my control and what wasn’t. I stopped trying to force my will onto others and situations and instead changed my thoughts and what I believed.
And even though things got really bad before they got better for him and his addiction, I started to feel happy more. Even when he was kicked out and we weren’t talking, I had hope for his recovery and our reconciliation. And it didn’t take over my entire headspace. I still had a nice time on my own, even if someone said something I didn’t find helpful or others felt bad for me. It just didn’t control my life anymore.
And that’s why mindset is so powerful. It doesn’t mean everything is going to be perfect and without troubles ever again. It just means that you know you’ll be able to handle whatever life brings your way, and you can live your life with ease and a knowing that you are invincible, no matter how things look on the outside or to other people.
Once you realize that things aren’t working out how you want them to, it can be overwhelming to find out how to fix it, and sometimes just that overwhelming feeling can cause you to freeze or give up before you even start. Or it can bring you even more stress and so you feel resentful or that nothing will change so why bother.
But there are so many ways to go about it, and it doesn’t have to be challenging. All it takes is just a little knowledge of what you don’t want or where you want to go in life. And from there, you will know what works best for you and how to get there.
And hopefully this post helped to break things down just a little more and help get you going in the right direction.