I’ve always been a learner. From a young age I’ve always loved to read, to research, to teach myself just for the sake of learning. And this spilled out into my experiences with addiction, too.
When my partner first told me he struggled with substance use, I did as much research as I could so I could understand him better and figure out how I could help him. And as time went on, I started to realize that I needed to work on myself, too, and so looked for resources to start on that.
Now I’m sure you’ve heard me mention this as well as figuring it out on your own, but there’s not a lot out there for us as partners, in terms of getting actual stories and input from others like us. There’s program, and maybe the random book or two, but at least when I was looking, there was quite a void. So when I started my search for help, I couldn’t really go down that avenue.
Instead, I tried to find everything I could on addiction and topics relevant to myself elsewhere. I watched YouTube videos, read books, attended meetings, went to some church services, went to open NA meetings, sought advice from family, friends, and peers, listened to podcasts, and even asked my partner point-blank on what I should do, both in the area of what to do for myself and what to do for him.
And the more learning I did, the more frustrated and overwhelmed I got. Sure, I found help in a lot of different ways, but then I would read something that would cancel out something I heard, and so on, and then I would get lost and confused and then stop altogether.
“This obviously isn’t working.”
And then guess what happened? I would use the same beliefs I had about my partner on myself.
Instead of “Maybe he’s too advanced/sick/deep/far gone in his addiction to ever recover”, it was “Maybe I’m too negative/hopeless/my personality is just like this/etc to ever be happy” or something along those lines.
“I’m sure other people have figured this out in the areas they were struggling with! But maybe, just like recovery for my partner, it’s just not meant for me.”
“Maybe if you’re with someone with addiction, you just aren’t meant to be happy, or have a good life. Those people who succeeded? They’re just exceptions.”
(Geez, I was so depressing)
Well, I have since figured out that that is not true, it’s harmful to your mindset and well-being, and it’s very martyr-like and victimhood-serving.
There’s really no situation that’s too far gone or too hopeless or too this/that. And that starts with you.
I found that once I got to the end of my rope, I had reached the culmination of a couple of things:
-I had tried every option for my partner, I had tried what I thought was every option for me, and nothing changed. Sure, it seemed as though it had changed for a small amount of time, but then relapse would eventually pop back up into our lives and I would go for the tailspin of despair again and find myself back at square one, looking for the answer to end all of this.
-I had done so much research but while I found some things that helped, I had never found the one true answer I was searching for.
But if I had done everything, what was I missing? What hadn't I done?
Well, the one thing I hadn't done was this: I had to change my mindset.
Okaaaay, but how does that help with looking for answers?
I’ve mentioned many times how I had to “change my mindset”, and the thing to point out is, it wasn’t just one “mindset” I had to change.
You see, mindsets are just beliefs, and I had a lot that were hindering me and keeping me from having a better life that had more hope, happiness, and strength in it.
So when I say that I had to change my mindset to find the answers, I really do mean that. And how I changed that in this situation was by realizing that there wasn't one true answer to the questions that I had.
No one was going to tell me exactly what I should do to help my partner with his addiction.
No one was going to tell me exactly how to be a “better” person.
No one was going to tell me the exact steps to do.
Because none of those answers would ever come from someone else. They had to come from me.
I’ll repeat that again: None of those answers would ever come from someone else. They had to come from me.
I mean, sure, lots of people tried to give me answers, but they weren’t exactly what I was looking for. I found a lot of good advice and input in various forms of media and literature, but it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for either.
The thing I realized was that I had to come to the realizations of what to do for myself, so that I felt comfortable in making the decisions to do them.
And sure, even then I might be a little doubtful, but it still felt better than fully relying on outside sources because in that, I lacked the desire of wanting to fulfill the need I had in me to do what I felt was the right choice at the time.
You know what I mean? It’s like boundaries. Sure, someone can tell me a very clear-cut, precise boundary and I can decide that I am going to do it. But if I’m not personally led to make that boundary for myself, I will be more likely to give it up when it’s challenged. On the other hand, if I made the boundary myself based on my own life and what I will and won’t put up with, then I will be more firm and confident in my ability to hold strong to it.
Now, I’m not saying that other people’s help and all those books and videos and programs and stories don’t or won’t help. Absolutely not! They are all incredibly helpful in their own way.
Instead, what I am saying is that it’s important to realize that they aren’t meant to follow 100% to the core, if that’s not what you find to be most helpful and relevant to you and your life and situation.
What I’ve found to be the most helpful, is to know that I can read and watch and learn as much as I can, and take those resources and apply them in my own life in a way that I see fit. I might take a piece of this, and a little bit of that, and use it in a situation it might not have been intended to be used for, but if it works and brings me peace and strength, that’s all that matters.
If I had listened exactly to the stories that told me to leave, or the people that told me that it was too hopeless of a situation, I would have missed out on all the lessons I’ve learned and the experiences I now have in my life that are much better than I could have ever expected.
Now that’s not to say that my life will never be hard again, or that it will always stay this way. But I appreciate where I am, and the knowing that I will be able to use whatever resources I have and will gain to overcome any obstacle I might face in the future.
So, my point is, while yes, we need more voices of those of us who are partners, and there’s a lot of knowledge out there we can use, that’s not all we have to rely on. We can gain information and clarity from so many places, and we can take what we want and leave the rest (that’s a program quote, btw). It’s all up to you and what works best for you in your recovery and life. For some people, that’s leaving the relationship. For some, it’s staying. And for others, it’s not knowing what the answer is but we are going to flip flop until we find what works. On any topic.
Just like anything in life, there can be many interpretations, situations, and experiences, and our own are no exception.
Sometimes we make a few choices and learn from them before finding one that works, sometimes we find one that works and then adjust it down the road, and sometimes the answers we need are a little more complex and individual than we anticipated at first. But that's one of the nice things to remember: we are all learning, and no one is perfect.
So learn what you can, change your mind if you need to, and appreciate yourself and the fact that you are always doing the best you can.