I have always judged myself and what I’m doing using a very large amount of various metrics, and with my partner’s addiction (and now recovery), there’s no exception.
Am I being a good enough parent?
Am I doing well at my job?
Am I being a good partner?
Am I doing everything that I can to foster a healthy environment?
And if I felt that my answers to those questions weren't good enough, I would then guilt myself up over them, which would then lead to a bad mood that spilled over into everything I did.
It used to be a lot worse, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t do it at all anymore.
When your partner has addiction issues, it’s easy to develop some new beliefs and also add on some momentum to the ones you already had, like the belief that you are responsible for controlling everything around you, or that if you stopped trying to make things happen that the world would fall apart. Sometimes we think that we are the only ones that can truly help our partner because we know them the best, or because everyone else has already given up so we are all they have left. If we have a family with them, we may think we are the only shot our family has of staying together.
This can cause us to take on waaaaaay more than we need to, and adds even more stress and resentment to an already upsetting and chaotic situation.
But what we always have to at least try to remember is that we are not responsible for everything and everyone, no matter how much it seems like we are. Our partners won’t be any worse off if we make boundaries and stick to them, and ironically, when we stop enabling them and start taking control of our own lives and behaviors, it actually can start to help them, too (enabling is a tricky thing, because it looks so much like helping).
I remember this last time around, when my partner was in active addiction, I was at the very end of my options. I had tried pretty much every combination of actions, and since nothing was really improving, I figured,
"Might as well work on myself."
And in doing that, I also made some boundaries that I was comfortable with and stuck to them. And while at first I felt like I was turning my back on him, I eventually realized that the person I was trying to help wasn’t really there at the moment, and if I really wanted to help the person I loved, I should stop helping whoever was there at that moment (this sounds really creepy but you know what I mean).
This eventually led to him finding a rehab and going in (after a somewhat rocky and emotional period of time where I over-thought everything), and thus also began his present recovery journey.
But the funny thing was, I still had mixed feelings about things.
On one hand, I was happy, but it almost tripped up my ego because I felt like it was indirectly my doing that he went into rehab. I used that as a meter for how I was doing and how good of a partner I was, and since I was still getting my own footing in my recovery, I honestly kind of used it to feel smug.
On the other hand, I felt guilty because I believed that if I had done this sooner, maybe we could have avoided a lot of pain and stress.
As time went on, he had his ups and downs as is expected, and as his mind leveled out and slowly returned to normal, I used that to critique myself as well.
Whenever he was having more depressive days I would wonder why he was feeling that way.
Should I give him space?
Does he still want to be in a relationship with me?
Does he still like me?
Maybe his family and responsibilities are stressing him out.
Maybe if it wasn’t for us he would be doing better.
This would then lead me to ask if he wanted to take some time apart. This wasn’t because I actually wanted to break up or anything, and neither did he, but it gave me some power in a pretty powerless situation, while also giving me the chance to feel better if I really was making him feel this way (which I wasn’t).
Nowadays, while he still spends his time in recovery, and we are both still doing quite well (if I do say so myself), I will still get the occasional thought that takes me back to these more self-judgmental times.
An off-day that causes him to be more quiet makes me question if I’m being too energetic or not giving him space, or a day that he’s tired and more of a homebody makes me wonder if I’m asking too much by having us all do something together.
And while these are all valid feelings I have that I am experiencing and working on, at the end of the day, it has nothing to do with me. And this is what I finally started to realize during the last episode of active addiction and continue to realize more and more everyday now.
I can’t continue to use his recovery, success, relapse, or any other action or quality as a measure of how I am doing.
While of course we are partners and have a family, we are still individuals with our own characteristics and responsibilities. If I am having an emotional day, it’s not a sign that my partner isn’t doing enough for me, and the same applies the other way around.
And I know, sometimes it’s not easy.
When we would come to visit him in treatment and he was quiet and in a low-mood I would ask if we shouldn’t have visited, or if he wanted visits at all. And when he relapsed I would question what I did and wonder if he would have if I was more supportive/strong/etc.
But when I do that, all I’m doing is taking his actions and behaviors personally, instead of realizing that they are part of his own journey. He didn’t wake up one day and decide to relapse because I forgot to do something. It just doesn’t work that way. It’s not a punishment or a sign of any wrong-doing on my end.
And conversely, his success and well-doing isn't necessarily an indication of how well I am doing either, as there have been many times that he was doing really well and I was not on a healthy level at all (no matter how much I pretended).
And this applies to any point in life, and with any person in your life, not just your partner and not just with addiction.
The more we form beliefs that we use as tools to bring ourselves down, the more we bury ourselves under even more negative weight, instead of turning to ourselves for positive words and a building up of strength.
We should be focused first and foremost on our own lives and our own journeys, and as long as we aren’t hurting anyone (including ourselves), and doing the most for ourselves, everything else will fall into place and we will be on much more solid ground to make decisions dealing with our partners and other situations in our lives.
If you are experiencing some self-judgments, it's a good idea to take an inventory of yourself. Not only is it good to see what you need to focus a little bit more on, but it is always helpful to remind yourself of all you are doing for yourself that is good, and all of the wonderful and healthy qualities you have.
Knowing what I know now, I would say to focus on these 2 things to avoid judging yourself too much:
-What is going right in my life, because relapse can cause us to paint everything with a negative, hopeless, and fearful brush no matter the topic
-What I am doing to keep myself healthy and help the situation, or at least keep it neutral and not adding fuel to the fire
This helps to keep things in perspective, while training your mind to adjust some beliefs and thoughts that might keep you from moving forward and staying strong.
It's always important to remember that we are never to blame for others' actions, and we have so much to offer the world and to help both ourselves and others.
We are always doing the best we can, but the more we learn about ourselves and why we behave the way we do and what we can do to improve ourselves, the better off we, and everyone in our lives, will be.