Living With One Dealing With An Additiction

I have not had the experience of living with an addict on a daily basis. I have listened a lot to people that are living with the heartbreak of a loved one dealing with an addiction. I quote from the third edition of The Big Book, the basic text for Alcoholics Anonymous. I think that many aspects of most addictions are very similar.

“But for every man (or woman) who drinks others are involved - the wife who trembles in fear of the next debauch; the mother or father who sees their son or daughter wasting away…  We (families) want to analyze mistakes we have made. We have traveled a rocky road, there is no mistake about that. We have had long rendezvous with hurt pride, frustration, self-pity, misunderstanding and fear. These are not pleasant companions. We have been driven to sympathy, to bitter resentment. Some of us veered from extreme to extreme, ever hoping that one day our loved ones would be themselves once more.”

“Our loyalty and the desire that our husbands hold up their heads and be like other men have begotten all sorts of predicaments… Our homes have been battle-grounds many an evening…We seldom had friends at our homes, never knowing how or when the man of the house would appear… There was never financial security...”

- Page 104, The Big Book, written in 1939

That could have been written last week or even today by any of millions of ladies, men, sons, or daughters. The perspective from each would be slightly different, but the heartache would be much the same. The addiction could be to alcohol, legal drugs, illegal drugs, sex, gambling, work, or other things we humans tend to get addicted to.

My message to you, the family member or close friend of the addict is this. You cannot, I cannot, nor can anyone force anyone to “do the right thing.” You can beg, plead, cajole…but until and unless your loved one realizes the depth of their problem and decides to get help, help won’t help. I’m sorry. I wish it were different, but addicts many times say, “you just have to hit bottom before you look up for help.”

So, what do you, the loved one, do? You take care of yourself. If there is a loved one in your life that is draining you with their addiction, you need to take extra care of yourself to keep from being sucked down the drain with them. It is not selfish of you to take care of yourself, rather is very unselfish to take care of yourself so you can be there when they reach out for help.

This sounds depressing and hopeless, and I don’t want to leave it that way. So here are a couple of suggestions for ways that you can take care of yourself. One idea is to reach out to some of the people who are already in your life. The “anonymous” part of AA, Narc-anon and similar support groups mean that you might know someone who is on the same road as you without realizing it. I understand the need for anonymity, but you might be surprised when you begin to reach out…you are not alone. You are not the first person in the world to travel this road.

Two well-known support groups to help you help your close friend and loved one are Al-anon (primarily for alcoholics), and Nar-anon (primarily for drug addicts).

Here are a few things to keep in mind at your first meeting (from the Al-Anon website).

“Al‑Anon is a mutual support group. Everyone at the meeting shares as an equal. No one is in a position to give advice or direction to anyone else. Everyone at the meeting has experienced a problem with someone else’s drinking or drugs.

You are free to ask questions or to talk about your situation at your first meeting. If you’d rather just listen, you can say “I pass,” or explain that you’d just like to listen.

Every meeting is different. Each meeting has the autonomy to be run as its members choose, within guidelines designed to promote Al‑Anon unity. Al‑Anon recommends that you try at least six different meetings before you decide if Al‑Anon will be helpful to you.

Al‑Anon is not a religious program. Even when the meeting is held in a religious center, the local Al‑Anon group pays rent to that center and is not affiliated in any way with any religious group. Your religious beliefs—or lack of them—are not a subject for discussion at Al‑Anon meetings, which focus solely on coping with the effects of someone’s drinking.

It will take some time to fully understand the significance of anonymity to the Al‑Anon program. But at its simplest level, anonymity means that the people in the room will respect the confidentiality of what you say and won’t approach you outside the room in a way that compromises your privacy or the privacy of anyone who attended an Al‑Anon meeting.

The meeting will likely begin with a reading of the Twelve Steps of Al‑Anon. It will take some time to fully understand how the Twelve Steps can be a helpful tool in recovering from the effects of someone’s drinking. But Al‑Anon gives you the opportunity to grow at your own pace.” and are links to two groups that specialize in helping those dealing with those who are dealing with an addiction. There are support groups available in most areas, plus online groups, telephone groups.

Another good resource; consider going to your church leader if you need help dealing with a loved one or family member that is dealing with an addiction. Most of these will keep your information confidential, but you can verify that before serious conversation begins. Many pastors have had extensive training in counseling, and some have had much experience dealing with addictive behaviors.

You don’t have to do this alone. Reach out to someone today.