I’ve heard it said by others in groups, and I’ve felt it in the past, too:
“Why does my partner choose drugs over _______?”
We may fill in the blank with the same things, like “me”, “our family”, “their job”, “their life”, and so on. And we also fill in the blank with our own personal and individual words depending on our circumstances.
But no matter what you put in the spot, you have probably felt at some point that your loved one has chosen drugs over something else that was much more important. Or even in recovery, it's easy for us to think that they are still choosing other things (that are hopefully more sober-minded and healthier now) over us still, like meetings or new friends or hobbies that they finding again.
But why do they make that decision? And what determines what’s important and what’s not?
Well, in my situation (and I’m sure a very large number of others as well), it wasn’t as personal as I once thought it was.
My partner has had addiction issues since before I met him, but I had gotten to know him enough through his cycles of using and recovery to understand who he actually was as a person and individual outside of his addiction. This is how I grew to love him, and slowly come to the realization that he was a person just like anyone else, who just so happened to also suffer with an illness that is very difficult to live with and also one that is generally shunned by society.
But even though I became familiar with the illness and his character through the years, it didn’t stop me from coming to my own independent conclusions and answers and theories as to why things would continue to happen the way they did.
When I first met him and started hanging out with him, I was naïve on the situation and very codependent, and so would pretty much go along with whatever was happening in an effort to make sure he didn’t leave and I was able to try to help him (the enabling is strong with this one).
As time went on, the cycle continued, and as we started hitting milestones in our lives together, I thought that each one meant that he would either finally stop, or get much closer to the point where he would stop. I mean, he’s got to figure out how much he has in life now and get it together, right?
But no matter how much I wanted him to get closer with my family, or how long we had been together, or how bad I wanted to move out of his parent’s house, or how much I wanted him to be present and focused in our daughter’s life, he would always fall down the rabbit hole again.
And as if I didn’t have enough resentments and reasons to be sad already, I would wonder why things weren’t good enough to get him to finally quit. And I would play fill-in-the-blank with that phrase in an effort to figure out why I was so sad all the time and what magic thing he needed to finally get him to drop the addiction and stick with being clean.
But the thing is, it didn’t actually have anything to do with me, in the way I thought it did. I mean sure, I probably didn’t help things when I would intentionally bring him down or add fuel to the fire in an effort to alleviate some of my own emotional weight, but it wasn’t that the things I had or wanted or could provide weren’t good enough. In fact, when it came down to it, we wanted the same things. We really did have the same dreams.
The thing that actually got in the way was just his addiction and my reactions to it, plain and simple.
He wasn’t able to quit just because rationally he knew he wanted a better life or had all these wonderful things that he didn’t want to lose or hurt (if that was the case, I’m sure the whole idea of addiction wouldn’t be nearly as bad as it is). He was in so deep and without the tools he needed to safely and healthily overcome and live with the addiction, with the added fact that I wouldn’t change so he could basically just keep doing what he was doing without that much of a problem, that it was just easier and less work to just continue on as he was in the moment, no matter what the cost ended up being in the end.
Things didn’t actually start to change for the better until they got so bad that I couldn’t actually live the life I was living anymore. I couldn’t bear to watch things continue on like they were, and even though I still had my issues and upsets and resentments to work through, I got through just enough to make some boundaries I was comfortable sticking with, and after some time, off he went to treatment, and that was that.
But, in order to keep my own cycle from continuing on, I had to do some work of my own, too: the self-work, the self-love, the changing of my mindsets, the keeping of hope, and the working through and dropping off of all the negative emotions and thoughts that held me back from the life I really wanted.
And that’s what also helps you to put this whole idea into perspective.
Because you see, it’s not about them choosing drugs over you, your family, or anything else you can put on that blank line.
It’s about their sickness, and the fact that when they aren’t well, they will go through anything and anyone to get what they need to satiate the need they have inside. When they are in the thick of it, they become different people in a sense, and to put the same feelings and expectations on that person they are when they are in the depths of their addiction as when they are healthy puts unneeded emotions and thoughts into the picture that aren’t rationally true.
I’m sure that just like me, you love the person for who they are inside, not the person they are when addiction is taking the wheel. And as such, you need to shift the focus away from that area and onto yourself, because when active addiction is going on, that person isn’t who you are looking at right now.
When you shift the focus back onto yourself, you build your own strength, health, and happiness up, and that will allow you to be the best support for them that you can. You are able to see things with a clear head and hold space and hope for them and the person they are inside to win the battle that’s being fought within them.
Just like the quote says, it’s about more than the choices they make. It’s not that you aren’t enough, and if you think that you, or the other things in life you and they have going on, aren’t enough for them, you are looking at things the wrong way.
And just like with everything else, once you get the focus back on you and your own life, you’ll come to realize that it went beyond what you thought they believed was enough. It was actually you who didn’t believe that you were enough.
Once you realize that you are enough and that you have everything you need to be happy, you’ll realize that you didn’t need anything or anyone else as much as you thought you did, and you’ll realize that you didn’t need them to think anything was enough like before.
Really, once you finally start to feel the wholeness of who you are, what you have to offer, what you can do, and how wonderful your life really is outside of the area of addiction and the fog it brings, you’ll really step into your power and start the journey of really experiencing who you are and what you’re capable of.
And that’s where the magic starts.