How to Stop Blaming Yourself for your Loved One’s Addictions

blameAddiction is a disease that can destroy the whole family. Every relationship is affected, and the people closest to the addict invariably end up suffering the deepest.

It is a sad but true fact that if you have a relationship with an active addict, it is all-too-easy to get caught up in the consequences of the addict’s behavior.

When you love an addict (or alcoholic), you find yourself continuously reacting to their behavior. Soon, you are focusing entirely on them – what they are doing, where they are going, how much and how often they are using. You futilely attempt to CONTROL their addiction.

And, because the attempt is futile, it drives you crazy.

You end up taking on the blame, the guilt, and the shame that doesn’t belong to you. With that kind of thinking, you, too, become sick. You can become as addicted to the addict/alcoholic as they are to their drug of choice.

Recovery is also for families, and there is an acronym that is well-known by families in recovery. The acronym is known as the “Three C’s”, and they speak to three simple truths that are far-too-often forgotten by family members who are suffering right along with their loved ones who are still using or drinking.

You didn’t CAUSE their addiction.

Addiction is a chronic and progressive DISEASE. It is not the result of stress, abuse, bad parenting, good parenting, divorce, lack of education, too much TV, money problems, or anything else for which you want to take the blame.

Nothing you did or didn’t do gave your loved one a drug or drinking problem.

Say it, now, out loud— “Addiction is a disease. It’s NOT MY FAULT.”
Just realizing this allows you to forgive yourself for your imagined fault.

You can’t CONTROL their addiction.

Often, people who love addicts and alcoholics become “fixers” and caretakers whose role in life has been reduced to cleaning up the messes that the other person has left behind. As a fixer, you are the one who makes the excuses when the person using misses work or family obligations. You’re the one who makes the phone calls to get extensions on the bills when money is used to buy drugs or alcohol. You’re the one who feeds them, pays their rent, buys their food, and all the other countless things that you do to hide their drinking or drug problem from the world and protect them from the consequences of their actions.The problem is this – for the most part, you been successful at doing just that.

Because you have kept them out of jail and alive, you feel that you have some measure of control, and if you just try a little harder by doing this or trying that, you will be able to defeat their addiction as well.The truth is, you have tried it all. You have hidden their bottles, flushed their drugs down the toilet, followed them around, went through their phone, and went looking for them in the middle of the night. You’ve probably even tried to “manage” their usage or drinking, bargaining with them to portion out their dosages, pleading with them to only drink on the weekends, allowing them to smoke marijuana because it is at least better than mess, etc., etc., etc.

It doesn’t work. Now, say this out loud – “I cannot bargain or reason with addiction. I cannot CONTROL it.”

This means, that for all of your begging, pleading, and scheming, and no matter what you do, the addiction is in control.

One of the first things that both you and your addict/alcoholic will learn in recovery is to admit that your lives have become unmanageable due to drugs or drinking.

“Unmanageable” means that you cannot control it. It means that there is absolutely no sense in neglecting yourself, driving yourself crazy, and letting your health, your career, and the rest of your family suffer in a futile attempt to handle your loved one and their addiction all by yourself.

It’s when you stop chasing after your addict/alcoholic, let them face the consequences of their actions, and most of all, give yourself permission to focus on YOU and YOUR recovery, you will relieve yourself of the burdensome responsibility for an addiction that is not yours.

You can’t CURE their addiction.

Most people who are new to recovery arrives hoping to find a cure that will enable their loved one to put down the needle, the pills, the bottle, or whatever else it is that they are addicted to.

There is no cure.

Addiction is a progressive disease that is invariably fatal if not stopped, and it never goes away. You will never hear alcoholics or addicts who have enjoyed years of sobriety ever say that they are “cured”. They might say that they are “sober”, or “clean”, or that they are “recovering”.
That is because they understand that, while substance abuse cannot be cured, the disease can be arrested. That means that in recovery, it is possible to halt the downward spiral and actually improve – health, relationships, and the attainment of some measure of serenity.

Once again, say this out loud – “I can’t CURE my loved one’s addiction, because there is no cure.”

It takes lifelong effort, achieved painstakingly one day at a time, and sometimes, even one hour at a time. It means treatment, counseling, self-honesty, lifestyle changes, surrendering will, and most of all, a commitment to abstaining from drugs or alcohol.

When you understand that you can’t cure the addiction, and even more importantly, that it is not your responsibility to do so, you will free yourself up to focus on being the best YOU possible and being there fully when addict/alcoholic succeeds in their efforts to become clean and sober.

When you realize that the Cause, the Control, and the Cure have nothing to do with your mental, physical, and emotional health, you’ll be able to set those burdens aside and achieve peace, serenity, happiness, and recovery for yourself, regardless of what your addict/alcoholic is doing.

Remember, you can’t be there for someone else if you are not there for yourself.


May 6, 2015

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