Updated: 4 days ago
I used to think I was weak.
Well, actually let me rephrase that: I used to think I was weak because of my reaction to other people.
Wait, let’s go deeper: I used to think I was weak because I reacted a certain way (and created more limiting beliefs in line with my deeper, core beliefs) to what other people said (which honestly and most of the time came from a place of genuine caring and love).
Knowing yourself is nice, huh?
Anyways, the whole point of that was to say that I felt weak. And while I wasn’t really sure if I believed it or not (or if I even believed it all of the time), the fact remained that it became a thought that took up space in my head during the thick of my partner’s addiction.
And I felt that way for a variety of reasons: like the fact that I still chose to stay in a relationship when it looked like the odds were completely stacked against me and what I stood for. Or the fact that I let his addiction bother me and effect my life so much that my emotional state depended on how he was doing, how he acted, and whether or not he was able to soothe my thoughts and feelings. Or even the fact that I did so much for him all of the time, even when I knew I probably shouldn’t.
And that list can go on.
Obviously, I didn’t exactly thrive in this environment, even if it was self-created. I didn’t like feeling this way, and it in turn furthered my low opinions of myself that were already there, or created new ones. And I felt more and more powerless.
And since I didn’t really understand how to work through these feelings, I either let them bring me to the depths of despair and depression, or I turned them into anger and resentment that I then aimed at my partner. I mean it was his fault that all of this was happening to me, right?
Which of course just continued and fed into the vicious cycle of our lives, while the people I so desperately wanted to prove wrong just watched from the sidelines, wondering when I would finally give up and walk away.
But despite it all, at my core, I knew there had to be more than this.
Now, whether or not you believe you should stay in your relationship or not, or if you are dealing with other limiting beliefs or issues, the important lesson here is the same: to get out of this cycle, you gotta put some work in.
And what I didn’t know back then was that other people’s thoughts or opinions on the entire thing didn’t actually have any power in how bad I felt, and really didn’t have any power at all unless I allowed them to. Without my attention and focus on them, they were just words that could be acknowledged and soon forgotten.
The entirety of my power, my overall emotional state, how I felt about any given situation or my relationship as a whole, and everything else in my life was something that could only be found within myself. And once I figured that out, my entire life changed.
But before I get into that, let me explain why I actually got stuck here in the first place, and how I got motivated to change. And I think it’s something that many people experience in one way or another in a variety of scenarios:
I hit rock bottom.
(Yeah, it's not just for addicts)
Take this quote: “Your mind will always choose a familiar hell over an unfamiliar heaven.”
Now, logically speaking, of course you could say that you’d rather feel good than bad, right? Pretty obvious.
But think about things that you do in your everyday life. What kind of habits or thoughts do you have at the forefront of your mind most of the time? Like “Monday’s always suck,” “I’m just an unlucky person,” etc. Think about the company you keep, the junk food you grab because it’s quick and easy, or how tired you feel in the mornings because you just always stay up late.
Your mind will most likely choose the most familiar, “safe”, comfortable option that you allow it to simply because it’s easiest, and it’s what you know. And the same goes for something like this.
For awhile I was a little blind to it, but eventually I caught onto the fact that I wasn’t doing myself any favors by thinking or acting the way I was. Like choosing to try another way to get him into rehab. Or just going along with things and trying not to rock the boat too much. Or shying away from conversations about the future, or how we were doing as a couple or a family, or answering questions about where he was. And so on.
But, how was I supposed to get through it? What was I supposed to do?
And even when I knew that the answer was to do some soul-searching, some inner work, or to put some focus on changing how I was living my life from the inside out, I just couldn’t do it. It was “too hard”. Not only that, but what if that didn’t actually change anything? What if I did all that work for nothing? As the old saying goes, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.”
And there I stayed, for years. Miserable, lost, and almost completely hopeless.
Until I just couldn’t take it anymore.
I had hit my eventual “rock bottom”, which I never actually thought existed for me.
And I'm sure you have at least some familiarity with that term because it's used so often when relating to addicts and addiction, ie: "Addicts can only recover when they hit rock bottom" and so on. But it's something anyone can hit when they finally reach their end of the rope on something in their lives that can be the impetus for change.
This point for me was where I was completely fed up with how my life was going, and I hated that I felt so awful all of the time. I saw other people happy despite their own issues or things that they couldn’t control, and I thought, "Why can’t that be me?" I mean honestly, by this point in time I had tried everything I could, and my only option left was really give up control of the situation and put myself first to see if maybe I did have the power to change how I felt and dig myself out of this hole. And was there a chance he wouldn’t be able to come with me, and that I couldn’t save him, too? I knew the answer, but also that it was a risk that I had to take for the benefit of all of us.
And so I did.
I finally put in the effort to stop trying to change my outside world and how others behaved.
I put in the effort to change the way I saw situations, and how my thoughts narrated my life.
I put in the effort to take time to myself, even if that meant not talking to him constantly to make sure he was okay, or doing fun things without him because I enjoyed taking part in them.
I put in the effort to soothe myself, and do things that got me focused on the future and how I could change my life myself, no matter how big of a challenge it seemed.
I put in the effort to see the good things in my life, and to do more that I could be thankful for.
And I put in the effort to show up as myself, and I took ownership of all of my choices and decisions, even if others might not agree with me. This was my life after all, and now that I was taking charge of it, I might as well prove it to myself.
And the more I did it, the easier it became.
And yes, it was scary at first. I felt shaky, unsure, and uncomfortable. This was uncharted and unfamiliar territory after all. But I knew I had to keep going because I had no other options left. I had to see what was down this road because it was the only place I had left to go.
And let me tell you: it was worth it.
I started to gain a newfound confidence that I had never experienced before, in my life.
I was standing on my own two feet, taking care of my responsibilities, taking ownership of my part in everything that was happening, becoming my own best friend, and realizing that even though some things on the outside were unknown, I could handle anything that life threw at me. And not only that, I could thrive in it.
Thankfully it all ended up working out for my partner and our relationship, but I knew that even if it didn’t, I would still be okay. And that was because I was finally going through my days living my life and making decisions for all of the right reasons. I wasn’t doing it to change other people or to force anything to happen or not happen, I was simply doing it because I knew it was best for me.
Gone was the weak version of myself who thought that I was just a victim of circumstance, blaming everyone and everything for how my life was going. And in her place was someone who was what my past self never thought was possible.
So, all of that to say that you aren’t weak. There isn’t something wrong with you for choosing to be with someone that society or your family thinks isn’t “good enough”. You don’t deserve an unpleasant and difficult life because you “aren’t strong enough to leave”.
Everyone has their own reasons for leaving or staying in a relationship (and making whatever choices they do), and everyone has the chance to learn their own lessons, and grow at their own speed.
But what I want for you is to have that space to learn about yourself, how you can identify your own rock bottom, and how to start going back up to a point of thriving, no matter how your partner is doing.
And that all starts with putting in some work.