When individuals are active in addiction, the disease inevitably takes over and sends them spiraling down a dark path of self-destruction. Loved ones typically have a difficult time watching this process and letting go.
Unfortunately, that usually does nothing to save anyone from the disease of addiction. In fact, it enables and usually ends up hurting both parties. Those who try to hang on and engage in a futile effort to rescue an active addict from themselves will become collateral damage.
Of course, with active addiction, even those who walk away with love, holding space for the individual to seek the help needed to recover and return to themselves, are subject to blame, shame, etc. Though it may not be a daily occurrence, active addiction isn’t known for respecting personal boundaries. Therefore, even in the healthiest response, damages may be incurred.
These damages may be physical, emotional, spiritual and/or psychological. Regardless, they’re all accompanied by distortion, manipulation and victimization—tools of the ego to keep an individual active in addiction. As such, these loved ones of addicts, regardless of their roles or the status of the relationships, are constantly subjected to false information and inaccurate reflections.
A Deadly Trap
However, there is one lie loved ones of addicts come to believe about themselves as a result of the distortion, manipulation and victimization. It is one they may tell themselves and believe from the start—a destructive force detrimental to loved ones and addicts alike.
This lie can be stated in the following phrase: “I have the power.”
You see, most loved ones of addicts believe they have the power of God. They believe that they have the ability to “make someone the way they are.” This is what eventually leads them to think that they are to blame for the addict’s addiction and that they are somehow the cause of an active addict’s destructive behaviors.
By the same token, loved ones of addicts also believe that they have the power to fix the issues or change the person’s behavior. They think that if they simply share a profound article or quote (possibly many), reference or recommend a good self-help book, send someone to a counselor or enforce rules with strict consequences or punishments, etc., that they will get through to the active addict.
However, the truth is there is no magic word or action that will change another person. There’s no “aha” moment that comes from a lecture, constant nagging or an ultimatum. Society is well aware even imprisonment doesn’t have that affect.
What Do We Do?
While counseling is certainly needed, helping professionals of any kind can only help those who want it. Even then, it’s up to the individual to do the work and heal themselves.
In the same way that a loved one can’t fix the problem, they didn’t create it either. External forces do not cause a person to act a certain way, and they certainly do not cause active addiction. Moreover, external forces cannot stop a person’s behavior nor can they “fix” or treat addiction.
The only person that has power over the cause and continuance of active addiction is the addict themselves. It is the internal force that determines how an active addict will choose to move forward; either continuing in denial and active addiction or seeing the need for help and seeking recovery. And, of course, it is that same force that will determine when that moment of contemplation and commitment occurs.
For these reasons, as a loved one of an active addict, it is important to realize that just as the active addict may learn they are powerless over their addiction (in that they cannot control their substance use or behavior and need assistance to address the disease), you must learn you are powerless over the active addict's behaviors, choices and any outcome that results. This is a difficult thing to accept for individuals in active addiction because it forces them out of denial, nor is it easy for the loved ones to realize as well.
Taking Back the Power
Being powerless over someone else does not mean you are powerless over your own behavior, choices and any outcome that results for you. In fact, that is where your focus must shift—to yourself.
Remember, you do have the power over you, your Sacred Space – the spiritual, emotional, psychological and physical space within and around you – and your serenity. That is called personal empowerment. And, for the record, if you have lived with an active addict, you likely need help to regain it. In the same way that your addicted loved one will need to reach out for help, you may also need assistance to shift the focus back to yourself and concentrate on the power you do have—take the same step your loved one needs to take. Don’t worry, there is help is available for you, whether that’s counseling, family treatment or support groups.
|If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-772-8219 to speak to a treatment specialist.