How many of us want healthy, sober partners?
That should be like all of us, right? I mean, we are in a relationship with someone with addiction.
Did any of you think to yourself just a little doubtfully, though?
Let’s look into some of the reasons that may be the case, and I’ll share a little backstory on me, too, to help paint the picture.
I am in recovery for a few different things, one of which is codependency. In being codependent, I struggled with a lot of different perspectives, and one thing that was the most troubling was him getting into recovery.
On one hand, of course I wanted my addicted partner to “get better” as much as possible, and for us to have a healthy relationship and a healthy family. I did things that I thought would help reach that goal (whether they were actually beneficial or done in the right way or not), and kept hope alive that it would eventually happen.
On the other hand, I was terribly afraid of him getting better. I was scared for him to go to rehab in case he found someone else he liked better and who could support him better than I could (because we hear those stories a lot don’t we?), I was terrified of him actually recovering because I didn’t want him to realize that I wasn’t good enough and for him to leave to find someone more suitable (whatever that means), and other situations similar to this where basically I was the one left out in the cold.
And I struggled with this daily. Two opposite ends, both fighting in my head. I would be cheerful and optimistic one minute, then distant and nervous the next. On top of everything else, I would be battling this mindset, and wondering if I should just give up completely since I was so lost and confused all the time.
Given the fact that there were feelings inside that caused me to want him to stay the way he was, I also acted in ways that would keep that going.
And I know, it sounds terrible. No one wants to admit that they want to keep their addicted partner, well, addicted. And while I wasn’t malicious, as I’m sure none of us are, I’m sure you might be able to relate to some of these. And also, these are sometimes done with better intent, too. It just depends on how you look at it.
Through the years while he was struggling, I would do a number of things that would go on the “don’t do” side of an enabling infographic. I would give him unrestricted access to my credit card, call his employer to get things sorted out (either to take time off or to explain away absences), I would call rehabs to try and get him in, buy him groceries or detox him myself, the list goes on and I’m sure you get the idea. I thought that this would really help him see the light, and I also didn’t want him to leave me. I wanted him to see me as helpful, and that I wanted what was best. Even if it caused me to become bitter and resentful at the same time.
Or, I would find ways to keep the drama of it all going. I would stress him out by unloading all of my problems onto him, or start fights with him or engage with his arguments (which was a big trigger for him, too). This kept up the insane cycle of sobriety and using, and as much as I hate to admit it, I was just as addicted to things like that as he was.
Life was hard, but that’s what I get, right? That’s what it was supposed to be like with a relationship with someone with addiction. I wore that badge with honor. No one else gets it, I would think. My life was meant to be crazy because that’s what I signed up for. This is what I deserve because of the choices I made.
What a martyr I am.
But here’s a thought: what if I was wrong?
I mean, I know I was wrong now, but having that thought back then was really interesting.
What if things weren’t supposed to be like this? People recover somehow, and I’m sure some relationships make it. And even if they don’t, are all partners and families like that forever?
Some are yes. Some people never make it out, even if their partner or loved one exits the cycle of addition. They are just so tormented by their resentments over the past and their own addiction to the role their partner must play that they never quite move on. They, like me at one time, never get out of the role they gave themselves. Even when their partner enters sobriety, they cling to the old feelings and find new things to get upset over. It never ends, and at some point, we all find ourselves pushing away in different ways the very person and things we were trying so hard to keep.
But some of us do find a way out. We realize, like I have, that that is no way to live. It isn’t serving anyone, least of us ourselves and our partner, and we decide to change.
“Don’t stand in your own way”, the quote says. And we listen. We get out of our own way.
It’s funny, the more you try to cling to anything, whether it be a way of living, a relationship, anything, the more you push it away. Change is constant, and really the only thing you can count on.
And to a lot of people that’s scary.
To a lot of people, this is all they know because it’s been so long that this life has been lived. Maybe they grew up in a similar situation, too. Or had previous partners with similar vices. Even if they want to get out, they can’t, and it seems too difficult to even try. Just as our addicted partners fear a life without drugs, so do we fear a life without them.
But I can speak first hand about the life that can come after letting go and ending the cycle of self sabotage. It’s possible, even if at first it seems very hard, and it’s not what you think it is. Setting boundaries, kicking them out, cutting them off financially, all of those things might seem in the moment to be the end of things. The end of the relationship, the end of life with them as we know it. But I can tell you that even when I did those things, it wasn’t the end. I kept hope alive by working on myself, and showing support in a much healthier and positive way. And even if things did actually end, I couldn’t have stopped it. It wasn’t worth it to lose myself in the process, just to keep something dysfunctional and that clearly wasn’t working out for either of us.
There are ways to influence things in a way that you want, and this old way of doing things just can’t cut it anymore.
Healthy support is needed for not just them but you as well. Only then can things actually have the hope of getting better, whatever that means for you.
And you’ll find that when you get to the place of clarity, where you don’t find yourself tied down by any idea of what you thought you needed to survive, and you stop sabotaging the good things in life because you feel like you don’t need them or you don’t deserve them, you’ll find that what you thought you wanted isn’t actually what you really want at all.
And that, really, is where life actually begins to make sense. And all that you went through finally falls into place.
This is where you realize who the person you needed was all along.
It was you.