Where the Science of Psychology Meets the Art of Being Human

When Someone You Love has an Addiction

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When Someone You Love Has an Addiction

The fallout from an addiction, for addicts and the people who love them, is devastating – the manipulations, the guilt, the destruction of relationships and the breakage of people. When addicts know they are loved by someone who is invested in them, they immediately have fuel for their addiction. Your love and your need to bring them safely through their addiction might see you giving money you can’t afford, saying yes when that yes will destroy you, lying to protect them, and having your body turn cold with fear from the midnight ring of the phone. You dread seeing them and you need to see them, all at once. 

You might stop liking them, but you don’t stop loving them. If you’re waiting for the addict to stop the insanity – the guilt trips, the lying, the manipulation – it’s not going to happen. If you can’t say no to the manipulations of their addiction in your unaddicted state, know that they won’t say no from their addicted one. Not because they won’t, but because they can’t. 

If you love an addict, it will be a long and excruciating road before you realise that there is absolutely nothing you can do. It will come when you’re exhausted, heartbroken, and when you feel the pain of their self-destruction pressing relentlessly and permanently against you. The relationships and the world around you will start to break, and you’ll cut yourself on the jagged pieces.  That’s when you’ll know, from the deepest and purest part of you, that you just can’t live like this any more.  

I’ve worked with plenty of addicts, but the words in this post come from loving one. I have someone in my life who has been addicted to various substances. It’s been heartbreaking to watch. It’s been even more heartbreaking to watch the effect on the people I love who are closer to him than I am.

I would be lying if I said that my compassion has been undying. It hasn’t. It’s been exhausted and stripped back to bare. I feel regularly as though I have nothing left to give him. What I’ve learned, after many years, is that there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to change him. With all of our combined wisdom, strength, love and unfailing will to make things better for him, there is nothing we can do. 

I realised a while ago that I couldn’t ride in the passenger seat with someone at the wheel who was on such a relentless path to self-destruction. It’s taken many years, a lot of sadness, and a lot of collateral damage to people, relationships and lives outside of his.

What I do know is that when he is ready to change direction, I’ll be there, with love, compassion and a fierce commitment to stand beside him in whatever way he needs to support his recovery. He will have an army of people behind him and beside him when he makes the decision, but until then, I and others who love him are powerless. I know that.

Nobody intends for a behaviour to become an addiction, and if you are someone who loves an addict – whether it’s a parent, child, partner, friend, sibling – the guilt, the shame and the helplessness can be overwhelming. 

Addiction is not a disease of character, personality, spirit or circumstance. It can happen to anyone. It’s a human condition with human consequences, and being that we’re all human, we’re all vulnerable. Addicts can come from any life and from any family. It’s likely that in our lifetime, if we don’t love someone with an addiction, we’ll know someone who does, so this is an important conversation to have, for all of us. 

The problem with loving an addict is that sometimes the things that will help them are the things that would seem hurtful, cold and cruel if they were done in response to non-addicts. Often, the best ways to respond to an addict have the breathtaking capacity to drown those who love them with guilt, grief, self-doubt and of course, resistance.

Loving an addict in any capacity can be one of the loneliest places in the world. It’s easy to feel judged for withdrawing support for the addict, but eventually, this becomes the only possible response. Unless someone has been in battle armour beside you, fighting the fight, being brought to their knees, with their heart-broken and their will tested, it’s not for them to judge. 

The more we can talk about openly about addiction, the more we can lift the shame, guilt, grief and unyielding self-doubt that often stands in the way of being able to respond to an addict in a way that supports their healing, rather than their addiction. It’s by talking that we give each other permission to feel what we feel, love who we love, and be who we are, with the vulnerabilities, frayed edges, courage and wisdom that are all a part of being human.

When Someone You Love is an Addict.

  1. You’re dealing with someone different now. 

    When an addiction takes hold, the person you love disappears, at least until the addiction loosens its grip. The person you love is still in there somewhere, but that’s not who you’re dealing with. The person you remember may have been warm, funny, generous, wise, strong – so many wonderful things – but addiction changes people. It takes a while to adjust to this reality and it’s very normal to respond to the addicted person as though he or she is the person you remember. This is what makes it so easy to fall for the manipulations, the lies and the betrayal – over and over. You’re responding to the person you remember – but this is not that person. The sooner you’re able to accept this, the sooner you can start working for the person you love and remember, which will mean doing what sometimes feels cruel, and always heartbreaking, so the addiction is starved of the power to keep that person away. The person you love is in there – support that person, not the addict in front of you. The sooner you’re able to stop falling for the manipulations, lies, shame and guilt that feeds their addiction, the more likely it will be that the person you remember will be able to find the way back to you.

  2. Don’t expect them to be on your logic.

    When an addiction takes hold, the person’s reality becomes distorted by that addiction. Understand that you can’t reason with them or talk them into seeing things the way you do. For them, their lies don’t feel like lies. Their betrayal doesn’t feel like betrayal. Their self-destruction doesn’t always feel like self-destruction. It feels like survival. Change will come when there is absolutely no other option but to change, not when you’re able to find the switch by giving them enough information or logic.

  3. When you’re protecting them from their own pain, you’re standing in the way of their reason to stop.

    Addicts will do anything to feed their addiction because when the addiction isn’t there, the emotional pain that fills the space is greater. People will only change when what they are doing causes them enough pain, that changing is a better option than staying the same. That’s not just for addicts, that’s for all of us. We often avoid change – relationships, jobs, habits – until we’ve felt enough discomfort with the old situation, to open up to a different option.

    Change happens when the force for change is greater than the force to stay the same. Until the pain of the addiction outweighs the emotional pain that drives the addiction, there will be no change. 

    When you do something that makes their addictive behaviour easier, or protects them from the pain of their addiction – perhaps by loaning them money, lying for them, driving them around – you’re stopping them from reaching the point where they feel enough pain that letting go of the addiction is a better option. Don’t minimise the addiction, ignore it, make excuses for it or cover it up. Love them, but don’t stand in the way of their healing by protecting them from the pain of their addiction. 

  4. There’s a different way to love an addict.

    When you love them the way you loved them before the addiction, you can end up supporting the addiction, not the person. Strong boundaries are important for both of you. The boundaries you once had might find you innocently doing things that make it easier for the addiction to continue. It’s okay to say no to things you might have once agreed to – in fact, it’s vital – and is often one of the most loving things you can do. If it’s difficult, have an anchor – a phrase or an image to remind you of why your ‘no’ is so important. If you feel as though saying no puts you in danger, the addiction has firmly embedded itself into the life of the person you love. In these circumstances, be open to the possibility that you may need professional support to help you to stay safe, perhaps by stopping contact. Keeping a distance between you both is no reflection on how much love and commitment you feel to the person, and all about keeping you both safe.

  5. Your boundaries – they’re important for both of you.

    If you love an addict, your boundaries will often have to be stronger and higher than they are with other people in your life. It’s easy to feel shame and guilt around this, but know that your boundaries are important because they’ll be working hard for both of you. Setting boundaries will help you to see things more clearly from all angles because you won’t be as blinded by the mess or as willing to see things through the addict’s eyes – a view that often involves entitlement, hopelessness, and believing in the validity of his or her manipulative behaviour. Set your boundaries lovingly and as often as you need to. Be clear about the consequences of violating the boundaries and make sure you follow through, otherwise it’s confusing for the addict and unfair for everyone. Pretending that your boundaries aren’t important will see the addict’s behaviour get worse as your boundaries get thinner. In the end this will only hurt both of you.

  6. You can’t fix them, and it’s important for everyone that you stop trying.

    The addict and what they do are completely beyond your control. They always will be. An addiction is all-consuming and it distorts reality. Know the difference between what you can change (you, the way you think, the things you do) and what you can’t change (anyone else). There will be a strength that comes from this, but believing this will take time, and that’s okay. If you love someone who has an addiction, know that their stopping isn’t just a matter of wanting to. Let go of needing to fix them or change them and release them with love, for your sake and for theirs.

  7. See the reality.

    When fear becomes overwhelming, denial is a really normal way to protect yourself from a painful reality. It’s easier to pretend that everything is okay, but this will only allow the addictive behaviour to bury itself in deeper. Take notice if you are being asked to provide money, emotional resources, time, babysitting – anything more than feels comfortable. Take notice also of the  feeling, however faint, that something isn’t right. Feelings are powerful, and will generally try to alert us when something isn’t right, long before our minds are willing to listen. 

  8. Don’t do things that keep their addiction alive.

    When you love an addict all sorts of boundaries and conventions get blurred. Know the difference between helping and enabling. Helping takes into account the long-term effects, benefits and consequences. Enabling is about providing immediate relief, and overlooks the long-term damage that might come with that short-term relief. Providing money, accommodation, dropping healthy boundaries to accommodate the addict – these are all completely understandable when it comes to looking after someone you love, but with someone who has an addiction, it’s helping to keep the addiction alive. 

    Ordinarily, it’s normal to help out the people we love when they need it, but there’s a difference between helping and enabling. Helping supports the person. Enabling supports the addiction. 

    Be as honest as you can about the impact of your choices. This is so difficult – I know how difficult this is, but when you change what you do, the addict will also have to change what he or she does to accommodate those changes. This will most likely spin you into guilt, but let the addicted one know that when he or she decides to do things differently, you’ll be the first one there and your arms will be open, and that you love them as much as you ever have. You will likely hear that you’re not believed, but this is designed to refuel your enabling behaviour. Receive what they are saying, be saddened by it and feel guilty if you want to – but for their sake, don’t change your decision.

  9. Don’t buy into their view of themselves.

    Addicts will believe with every part of their being that they can’t exist without their addiction. Don’t buy into it. They can be whole without their addiction but they won’t believe it, so you’ll have to believe it enough for both of you. You might have to accept that they aren’t ready to move towards that yet, and that’s okay, but in the meantime don’t actively support their view of themselves as having no option but to surrender fully to their addiction. Every time you do something that supports their addiction, you’re communicating your lack of faith in their capacity to live without it. Let that be an anchor that keeps your boundaries strong. 

  10. When you stand your ground, things might get worse before they get better.

    The more you allow yourself to be manipulated, the more you will be manipulated. When you stand your ground and stop giving in to the manipulation, the maniplulation may get worse before it stops. When something that has always worked stops working, it’s human nature to do it more. Don’t give into to the lying, blaming or guilt-tripping. They may withdraw, rage, become deeply sad or develop pain or illness. They’ll stop when they realise your resolve, but you’ll need to be the first one to decide that what they’re doing won’t work any more.

  11. You and self-love. It’s a necessity. 

    In the same way that it’s the addict’s responsibility to identify their needs and meet them in safe and fulfilling ways, it’s also your responsibility to identify and meet your own. Otherwise you will be drained and damaged – emotionally, physically and spiritually, and that’s not good for anyone.

  12. What are you getting out of it?

    This is such a hard question, and will take an open, brave heart to explore it. Addicts use addictive behaviours to stop from feeling pain. Understandably, the people who love them often use enabling behaviours to also stop from feeling pain. Loving an addict is heartbreaking. Helping the person can be a way to ease your own pain and can feel like a way to extend love to someone you’re desperate to reach. It can also be a way to compensate for the bad feelings you might feel towards the person for the pain they cause you. This is all really normal, but it’s important to explore how you might be unwittingly contributing to the problem. Be honest, and be ready for difficult things to come up. Do it with a trusted person or a counsellor if you need the support. It might be one of the most important things you can do for the addict. Think about what you imagine will happen if you stop doing what you’re doing for them. Then think about what will happen if you don’t. What you’re doing might save the person in the short-term, but the more intense the addictive behaviour, the more destructive the ultimate consequences of that behaviour if it’s allowed to continue. You can’t stop it continuing, but you can stop contributing to it. Be willing to look at what you’re doing with an open heart, and be brave enough to challenge yourself on whatever you might be doing that’s keeping the addiction alive. The easier you make it for them to maintain their addiction, the easier it is for them to maintain their addiction. It’s as simple, and as complicated, as that.

  13. What changes do you need to make in your own life?

    Focusing on an addict is likely to mean that the focus on your own life has been turned down – a lot. Sometimes, focusing on the addict is a way to avoid the pain of dealing with other issues that have the capacity to hurt you. When you explore this, be kind to yourself, otherwise the temptation will be to continue to blunt the reality. Be brave, and be gentle and rebuild your sense of self, your boundaries and your life. You can’t expect the addict in your life to deal with their issues, heal, and make the immensely brave move towards building a healthy life if you are unwilling to do that for yourself.

  14. Don’t blame the addict.

    The addict might deserve a lot of the blame, but blame will keep you angry, hurt and powerless. Addiction is already heavily steeped in shame. It’s the fuel that started it and it’s the fuel that will keep it going. Be careful you’re not contributing to keeping the shame fire lit.

  15. Be patient.

    Go for progress, not perfection. There will be forward steps and plenty of backward ones too.  Don’t see a backward step as failure. It’s not. Recovery never happens in a neat forward line and backward steps are all part of the process.

  16. Sometimes the only choice is to let go.

    Sometimes all the love in the world isn’t enough. Loving someone with an addiction can tear at the seams of your soul. It can feel that painful. If you’ve never been through it, letting go of someone you love deeply, might seem unfathomable but if you’re nearing that point, you’ll know the desperation and the depth of raw pain that can drive such an impossible decision. If you need to let go, know that this is okay. Sometimes it’s the only option. Letting go of someone doesn’t mean you stop loving them – it never means that. You can still leave the way open if you want to. Even at their most desperate, most ruined, most pitiful point, let them know that you believe in them and that you’ll be there when they’re ready to do something different. This will leave the way open, but will put the responsibility for their healing in their hands, which is the only place for it to be.

And finally …

Let them know that you love them and have always loved them – whether they believe it or not. Saying it is as much for you as it is for them. 

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268 Comments

Sonia

I met my ex partner 4 years ago. He is a meth addict. I have been in absolute pain and grief and disbelieve and confusion for the last year. With manipulations and lies I kept by his side, trying to help, trying to fix him when he wasn’t ready to get healthy…Your article is spot on. He needs to WANT to get healthy, to make the change. I can’t do it for him. No one can. The guilt you feel is soo painful when you leave them, but I know it is what I need to do now, I need to take care of myself as I have lost ME. I love him, and I told him, but I need to let go until I am convinced inside my guts he is really willing to give life a chance.
Thank you for your words. It feels good to read these things and know that there are others going through the same thing.
Wish you all happy days to come!

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Jim T

Reading this article has been very helpful it describes me my addicted son my family in a way that will give me the strength to stop enabling I can’t believe how obviously painful what my son is going through but I have been fueling it .
My addiction has been the love I have for him my sorrow is that I never realized how much fuel I have given him.
Thank You

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karafree

Jim T
Coming to terms with this understanding that ‘my Love” is an enabling part of my son’s addiction is truly a very disturbing and deathly painful thing to face. Yet, I am finally understanding that because of my love for him, and my fear of losing him, I’ve been taking care of him enough that he wont do what he needs to do.
It’s that simple, yet so difficult.
And still as I write this today, I can’t stand the thought of saying NO to everything, to kicking him out if that is what it takes.
Its so heartbreaking.

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Jay

Thank you. This helped a lot a lot. I’m struggling to find out if I should hold on or if I should let go, my girlfriend has been gone for a couple months in jail and she’s finally coming home. Her mom is an addict so Im letting her stay with me till we figure something out. She refused to go to some kind of half way house that would help her with her substance use so that already worries me. I lose so much sleep over this. I’m so scared. Like a lot. I have to trust God tho. She’s my everything and she knows I love her but I feel like I have ptsd from all the pain I went back through when she was on drugs. She said doesn’t want it to happen again and will go to one NA class with me a week but I’m so scared. I lose sleep and appetite over it. I hate drugs and sometimes I hate her mom. This pain is unbearable, but it’s a good feeling knowing I’m not alone because sometimes I feel like I’m crazy still wanting to be with her. But knowing that my behaviors enable her will help me with the boundaries, knowing that they will help her. I love j t so much more than I’ve loved anyone, but I’ll keep praying.. I don’t wanna let her go, I don’t want her to think she’s alone but I’m scared she’s going to feel like I’m betraying her. I’ll keep praying. Thank you.

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Suzanne H

Thank you! You have puts most all my thoughts and fears into words. I have a better focus addiction as a whole as well as y part in it. Hoarding was recently been acknowledged as a mental illness encompassing poor self-esteem, OCD behaviors. I have witnessed the addiction aspect of it many times. I have been in a relationship with a life long hoarder for four years. Hoarding is ugly, shameful and embarrassing for everyone involved. As far as my experience with it, it doesn’t encompass abusive behaviors but that would depend on the type of personality you’re dealing with. I was widowed at 49 and had been through two poor relationships. At 59 I meet my Mr. Wonderful.
Falling in love I did not want to believe what I really saw and 5 months after we met he asked me to marry him. Shortly thereafter I gave him the engagement ring back & yet I am still in the relationship after several breakups with him. I am co-dependent and I resent it and dislike myself. I love myself enough to know we may never get married because I don’t want a life monitoring everything that comes into my home. I am working on boundaries and I want to be stronger in them. The hardest part is he is sweet & loving and the reality is he lost his family because of his addiction. Everyone has been affected by it though very little is said about it. The relationships he has with his children and ex-wife are decent and when they are together they get along fairly well. For me it’s different. If I married him I would be living with it. In 3 plus years, breakups, getting into therapy twice, promises, etc.. it’s like the onion’s layers never end. One comes off and more stuff shows up. So reading this article really pinpoints work I need to do on myself to move out of this once and for all. Is was not my intent when starting to write my comment on this article to go into detail about hoarding addictions but I hope it sheds some light on the subject for others that may be dealing with it. We live in an instant gratification world and that I know is & can be hell for any addict.

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Karen G

Thank you for your amazing article. I am the mother of an addict and still am, I have lost many years of my life trying to”fix it”, sadly there is no amount of love that can help an addict,

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Scott C.

My girlfriend, well now ex as of yesterday, is addicted to hydrocodone. We were together almost 2 years, she has been using for over 15 years. She has a prescription, gets 112 a month, they are always all gone in a week. This past week I asked her one simple thing to do, take my son to school for me because I had to work at 5AM and my normal sitter just had a baby. She agreed, but as the time grew nearer, she became very angry towards me and started to blame me for the reason she is an addict. She is a devout Christian, has 3 kids of her own, she always been so nice and loving, but this past week something changed. She has never bad mouthed me before, but this week she started calling me names and saying the reason she is addicted is because I am not a Christian like her so it causes stress on her. I’ve tried to help with her addiction the past couple years, she would have me hold on to her pills so she wouldn’t take them, but she would just come over and beg repeatedly and say I was mean and call me names for not breaking. I could always tell when she found other sources for them, even though she has her own she will buy as many as possible from friends to get high as much as possible. I have seen her take anywhere from 10-12 at one time, and she has taken 22 in one day before. I’m not sure how she is even still alive! Anyways, once she started the blame game on me and being mean, I ripped into her for everything I have done, and of course it is all unnoticed. Never met anyone so selfish before in my life, had to call it quits. She is very beautiful and I might not ever be with someone as attractive as her again, but the emotional toll wasn’t worth it. I never thought a pill addict would be a big problem to date, but I don’t think it matters what the addiction it, it will always come first and everything else second. There is also no helping someone who doesn’t see their addiction as the problem.

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Justin S

I’m a 19 year old addict and I’ve never really been able to put my finger on the reason for why I could never stop using. I always thought I was just wrong, I was born this way, I can’t change, I hate myself, etc. But this, I can sadly relate to. I hate myself even more for it now that I can recognize my many many mistakes. However, now I have the desire to change. I don’t want to end up in jail or homeless, it’s simply not worth it.

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Cathy

Excellent article. So true but I got so used to “helping,” that I really thought I was. .My son overdosed at age 50. I often wonder that if I had moved far away from him where I couldn’t help him that he might have learned to live independently without drugs on his own.

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Magret j

I’m at the crossroads now at this moment to let go of my 24 year old son addicted to heroin. Just thinking about it make me cry he is my only son and his father and I am divorced for 22 years. His father wrote him off years ago won’t I be doing the same but I also don’t want to bury my son. I love him so much. Please pray that I’ll have the strength to let go to save my son.

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Emmica B

This article changed my life. When I thought that nothing would make even the slightest difference I found this article. Thank you so much for putting what seemed impossible into words. You have helped so much. To anyone else who has found this article because they needed to read it so badly, I am so sorry for the pain that I know you feel. It is awful. Stay strong. There is not enough out there for the people who love an addicted person and it is the worst part of all xxxx

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Cara

my ex boyfriend since the beginning of highschool has gotten worse and does drugs and I worry about him, but he also just isn’t how he used to be, it’s sad to see. He tells me I’m not the same as I was when we first met, but it’s senior year I’m supposed to grow and change, he’s made me feel horrible, by lying to me and cheating and somehow I still miss him and want him back, but not this version of him, I feel as if he died and some evil version of him has taken over I know deep down he’s a good person but it’s like I haven’t seen that side of him it’s almost as if it was all a dream, I want him back like crazy but he hurts me and I know it will hurt him more by being with him, his mom thinks I’m a good influence to him, but it’s too much for me to handle I’m only in highschool, I wish it wasn’t this way, because I think of him constantly but he doesn’t realize how much pain he has caused me but I know there is more to it then that. I hope one day he will realize what he’s done and I hope he can better himself and I can feel okay and not have to worry and fear that he’s gonna die or overdose and most importantly I don’t want to feel guilty about being in love with him, cause right now I feel stupid.

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Emily Ann

I am heartbroken that an over 9 year relationship had to end. My now ex-boyfriend, when sober, is a wonderful person, but when he drinks and/or smokes his pot and gets all messed up, it’s like there is a switch in his brain and he turns mean and ugly. Only I see this, of course, and probably some of our neighbors because when he gets into one of his uncontrollable rages, he screams at the top of his lungs. He says all kinds of vile things, is belittling and berating. It’s hurtful, but he always justifies his rages and what he says and tells me I deserve it. He was abusive verbally, emotionally, psychologically and financially. He knows he as a problem, but is not willing to do anything about it. He has demons, I tried to fight them, but the demons won. And he seems content to leave them there. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I have lost loved ones before due to death, but I don’t know which hurts more-loving someone who died or loving someone who is still alive but not living a good life. Thanks for the article, it is just what I need to move forward. I still love him, and am in love with him, and will always feel that way about him. But until he decides to slay his demons and get help and treatment, I simply can’t put up with his rages anymore.

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M

I’m 24 years old and I’ve been with my boyfriend since I was 18. We have been bestfriends since we were 13. He is an anchor in my life, and a drug addict. He has had a complicated relationship with drugs for almost our entire relationship but it only gets worse. We have broken up over his drug use many times, but I always come crawling back to him. I use his addiction as an excuse for why MY life isn’t the way I want it to be. My energy goes to him, and then the energy is wasted. I can’t do it anymore but when we break up he gets even worse. I feel so out of control, heartbroken, tearful, and sometimes at fault for his pain. This article was very helpful for me. I hate drugs so much. I love him so much. But I love myself and I know the life that I want and it doesn’t involve my future children feeling any of the pain that I feel. I just wish things could be different but it’s not up to me. I don’t know why I’ve written this but here it is.

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Jay

You’re not alone girl. From time to time I cry about it so much, but like I said you’re not alone. I think that what’s getting me to see things differently is by thinking about the fact that I could be cause of her overdose if she relapses. She’ll be out of jail next week and I’m scared I’m being hopefully but today as I was driving I cried so much thinking about the painful memories, my girl thinks it won’t happen again but she doesn’t know how deep the pain is when she’s lost in her addiction. I’m praying girl.. but you know now that she’s been in jail I’ve been taking care of myself way more and I’m only praying this helps when she gets out. I’m praying it helps me say no. But know you’re not alone, everything in this article is so true

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Melissa

Right there with you. Falling in love with an addict has been the hardest fight of my life and I’m 45 years old. He was high when I met him but I had no idea he had lived this lifestyle for 20 years…in and out of rehabs, jail, prison but thought he would change for me. I was such a fool. Now I’m dealing with heartbreak and it sucks.

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Jessica

Hello M. Your comment is so relatable to my story. I wish you strength and happiness. I am 26 years and my boyfriend is addicted to pills. I am sadden to see him so weak. I love him so much and I fear being alone. We have a 4 year old boy, who I have to be strong for. It will be hard but it will lead us to a healthy place. Stay strong!

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K

This post has hit all the emotions and concerns I have in my relationship. It has made me feel I am not alone when I have felt very alone. I cannot go to family and friends anymore for support because they don’t support the abuse I have been given by the person I love and fight hard for to help, this is why I resorted to the internet and I found this article. It is almost as if I have written my own problems and your article has reassured my feelings and struggles. What hit me the hardest was the last point of saying sometimes the only thing left is to let go. Fighting for this person has slowly isolated me from everyone I know, and is breaking me down . Im holding onto the person I met and fell in love with who is still in there some days, but those days are becoming less and less. Reading this article has brought me clarity to my on going struggle with my loved one. You have helped me a lot with this article . Thank you

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karafree

K
Wow you really hit home on some of the worst things that those that love an addict go through. Isolation being the worst. Not wanting to talk to others about it, Not even family, because they don’t approve of the addict’s behavior, and they judge you for not letting go, or for putting up with it. They can’t stand in your shoes, so they can’t begin to understand what you are going through. As a society we shun those sick with addiction, there is no empathy, no compassion. I too find myself staying home, to guard him, to guard myself too. I too see the person that my son once was, and I am holding out that I might get him back.. But maybe I need to let him go, so that he CAN come back on his own terms.

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Anonymous

This was beautifully written. I’ve recently broken up with my partner, he is an alcoholic but I still love him immensely. I will be printing this article and highlighting many points made. Thank you for putting my grief, hurt, loss and pain into words. I have felt tremendously confused and angry – the mind in utter chaos – this gives me some relief.

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Olivia

I have been going through a really bad time with the man I love because he is secretly using drugs and alcohol on his own and I was in denial untill I read your article, I have been trapped inside myself with fear of not knowing what to say or do due to my fear of him leaving me but I have just realized after reading this that he has already left me for his new love which is his addiction please don’t take me up wrong anyone out there reading this and think I’m cruel or mean as I’m not I’m truly heart broken I’m crying as I write this as I do believe in this man with all my mind and love but now I know from reading this what I need to do is step back and see if he will find his way back to me which I prayer to God and Jesus he will and anyone else out there in similar situations. Thank you for your article it has very much helped me

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Nina

I feel like the worst person on earth letting my drug addict/alcoholic boyfriend go. It was partially my fault. I knew he had a past but had cleaned up after being in rehab multiple times. We start dating and he was using a little. His friends were the worst, each one of them battling a demon and hated me I believe because I was pushing him to become the best version of himself and it didn’t sit well with them (misery loves company). He was crazy about me and started getting better, then his father passes away and then things spiral out of control. He started popping pills. I can’t count the number of nights I dragged him in the shower, cleaned up vomit and other bodily fluids off the floors, couch, and bed. Staying up all night to make sure he’s breathing after passing out. So exhausting. Months went by, the man I fell in love with is gone…replaced by a man that was set off into a rage by any and every little thing. Then the verbal abuse came—accusing me of doing things I hadn’t done and just being downright mean and nasty saying things to intentionally hurt me… on multiple occasions he admitted to wanting to just hurt me. Why? What have I done to deserve that when all I ever did was emotionally and physically support him. He never took ownership for his actions. Everything was my fault. His feelings were the only feelings that mattered. It seemed as though I had no feelings in his drugged up/drunk world. I was worrying about him every second of everyday, what kind of life is that? I’d get kicked out then he’d call and act like nothing happened over and over again. I always came back because I loved him so much. I can’t even be mad at him because it’s not he who didn’t appreciate me it was the drugs and alcohol. I was left feeling so alone, confused, hurt and in disbelief at what had occurred in the last year. I thought I could help him. Thought I could manage it by myself but it became too overwhelming and I had to let his family know. I felt so responsible and terrible involving them but I couldn’t do it alone. He found out it was me and broke it off immediately and turned his back on his family. For weeks stung me along calling in the early morning hours after having his friend whispered in his ear how terrible I was. One night it was I love you I’m sorry I’ll change.. the next I hate you you are the worst thing that ever happened to me over and over. What happened to the man that wanted to marry me and have children with me? I know he’s in there somewhere which is the most painful part and I think it’s holding me back. I’m so broken after this roller coaster relationship but his family said it best “he did you the biggest favor by breaking up—love yourself and run.” I’m so torn. How do I turn my back and just run? I’m holding on to the memories of this amazing human being that I fell so hard for that is now nothing but a miserable shell of a person. I can’t help him. I know he has to want to help himself. I just keep praying every night that he finds his way back into the right path and gets rid of the terrible company he keeps. After reading all the comments I pray you all get through this and are happy—hopefully with your person.

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LAURIE

Excellent Article. Husband struggling to let go of middle aged daughter who is addict. Finally, he’s able to take off love goggles, but guilt is overwhelming him. This article sheds light for me to help him understand enabling her has hurt us and she needs to be uncomfortable in order to change herself. Thank you!

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Jackie

(PREPARE FOR A LIFE STORY that is somewhat RATED R) I don’t know what’s wrong with me. All my I Life all I’ve had are these long & lasting relationships with someone I fall in Love with, who really turns out is has been a closeted Addict. I don’t know why I put up with all of it, when it always ends up ruining My Life. I spent 5 years with someone who I thought grew out of all that & who wanted to marry me. Instead he would put whatever drugs he could get his hands on Above me. I paid for everything, he never worked during our whole relationship.Then he got me fired from my job. That I worked 11 years at.He took everything from me.I couldn’t turn to anyone cause I was too embarrassed to Admit it all..For years I was in a deep depression & anxiety ridden. He mentally and even sometimes physically abused me. But I had finally had Enough. At the end he stole everything that had value from me. Harassed my Life. Stalked me. Spreader Lies about me to anyone who would listen. I ended up turning to someone else that I had grown up with and he helped me through it all. I thought he was my guardian Angel. He told me I didn’t deserve to be treated that way & that he was going to take me away from all of that. We then ended up moving in together since My only other option was moving far away with my Family. My depression subsided and he would make me smile Every day. He promised me the World & An Amazing Future Together. Every one we knew was so Happy For Us because they saw How Happy we were Together. He put me on a pedestal an IT felt Amazing. I knew he had past drug issues but he promised me he he was away from all that and had been clean for Years. Only to find out he’s another closeted Addict, but this time it was Dope. I felt totally deceived and beyond Embarrassed that I had been fooled again. So once again I put myself through all these trials and tribulations only to have him put me back in Extreme Depression. Having to deal with him going away for 6 months & supporting him with all the money I had. That I was Never Even Paid Back For. I stayed because I thought with him going away it would help him with staying clean. 2 weeks later he used. He probably even did it earlier then that. I even tried helping him get clean by letting him borrow money to help pay off his truck. I knew it was stressing him out everything month. So of course when he’s stressed like that he will Use. That didn’t Work. Then the truck Needed New Tires and He borrowed even more money from me pay because I didn’t want him getting into an accident. Months later he side swipes a car while he’s fucked up. Then one day borrows his moms car to go pick up dope and someone cuts him off and he ends up totaling his mom car & crashes it into a wall. Comes Home gets Beyond Fucked Up (mind you his Aunt & his mother is staying at our Apartment) Almost Overdoses. But didn’t because we had Narcan Spray that I had to give him. Gets mad because we ruined his High. Still it doesn’t Even Faze Him that he Almost died twice in 1day. This is what he uses to play the VICTIM every time he does something Wrong. Which is All The Time. Days later he’s High Again. It because a common occurrence that he will work All week. Then spends the weekend High which then he has to call out of work for because now he has to recover. Mind you he has a Boss that deals with all of this While paying him Good Money. But he Think he deserves more. Not even considering All the Shit he puts his Boss through by calling out every Other Week. He just doesn’t care because this Addiction totally has a hold on him. He then starts Borrowing all my money every time I get paid to pay off All his Dealers. Because then if I don’t he Freaks out Because they start showing up at Our House that we rent from our Landlord that lives downstairs. He continues to Never Pay me back & if he does he just ends up Borrowing it back days later. Mind you I’m on a Fixed Income & He gets paid Good Money which I never see since we Never Go Anywhere. At this point all I am is an ATM machine which he ends up screwing over constantly. Meaning getting High right before my Mother (who I might get to see once a year because she lives far away)came to visit. Nodding off throughout dinner and then spending half the time in the bathroom. Months after He yet again borrowed all the money I had before my Only Little Sisters wedding. Which was in another state..Even stealing my ATM card right before I left. He took out my last $100 dollars that I needed to pay a bill. But acted like it wasn’t a big deal because he got it back to me the Next Day from “ His Mommy.” I even told her about it & she did Nothing. So yet again I have to embarrass myself by having to ask other FamilyMembers to borrow money. Since I had a million things to do to prepare to be my Sisters Maid of Honor. Which I was beyond Happy about since I don’t have Any Life Anymore & it made me Feel Like Myself Again. Only to be letdown again when he ended up not coming with me & stiffing me with a $200 cancellation fee for our Hotel. Mind you we had been planning this for Months. Finally I get away for awhile to go to her wedding & see my family on the day of my Birthday. That he and every one else forgot because all that was going on. He called me now & then, but I Always had to be the one that initiated it. No Sweet Texts even to tell me he even missed or cared about me. Then to my surprise he calls me the morning of my sisters wedding. Which I was thinking was sweet and he wanted to get to talk before I had to get ready for her wedding. Instead he didn’t even know it was her wedding and was calling to ask for money to get his truck towed. Basically begging me and would not stop calling. He even threatened to call my own FATHER on his daughters wedding day to ask him to borrow the money. I then broke down and sent it to his account which was closed so he couldn’t get it but it took it out of my account anyways. I then money grammed it & it finally went through. So yet again my $260 going to god knows what…. He said Sorry but it meant Nothing to me. He yet again ruined something important to me. I was beyond heated because he knew I had NO money to do all this. Since I had to pay every one back and then also give my sister a check for her wedding present. Then to destroy me even more while I was trying spend time with my Family he decided to deposit a rent check I had left that was only to be used if I had the money which I didn’t. I even told him this before I left which of course he “forgot “. I didn’t even fill out an amount because of this. Plus he Promised to send me money which Never Happened. I also thought since I sent home $260 the morning of her wedding that he would know I was Now Broke since I told him that a million times.Because of all of this Now my Sisters Check for her wedding was going to Bounce. He promised to get it to me back the next day but that Never Happened & he then basically Ghosted me the rest of my trip. Didn’t even attempt to see if I was ok since I just went through Ultimate Humiliation. Not to mention I was already dealing with that since my Little sister got married before me . On top of me being close to 40 with No Husband, or Children. Basically at this point No Future and about to loose all the things I had thought I would have at this time. He’s destroying all my dreams of ever being married and becoming a Mother. Which is all I ever wanted in Life. I give my All constantly to try to Help Him when he’s only been to 2 AA meetings during Our Whole relationship. Which is now going on 4 Years.
I don’t know what to do Anymore Every thing I had he either took from me or destroyed. I am beyond Embarrassed to even tell my Family & having to once again start my Life Over. Since this is not the first time this has happened to me. I Love Him So Much and he’s slowly killing me & he could care less.

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Heidi

It was so hard to get through this without snot bubbling out of my nose and gasping for air! My mother is an addict, my father is an addict, my only sibling is an addict, my ex is an addict and I’m so absolutely DONE with the idea that I can do this for one more minute! I’m so tired! I’m so alone! I’m so isolated! I’m so MAD! This ends with me! I will NO longer allow my child to see me cater to these humans who treat me &HER like second class peons while they use guilt and manipulation to bury me! I’m DONE and I THaNK you got giving me permission, which I should never have to have, to cut the cord! I have never felt so sick to my stomach with remorse in trying to LOVE my own family as I do at this moment. Thank you for writing this. There IS NOTHING I CAN DO! It makes me feel so weak to say that! So sick to say that. So FREE to say that!

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tony

I just lost my sister who was an addict for around 20years. I feel so much guilt because i cut her out of my life these past two months. I dnt know if that tough love thing is good because it didn’t help her. Now that she is gone I wish i made more of an effort.

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Terry

My husband is 42 and a meth addict since he was a youngster. We have been married 8yrs and at the time of meeting him I had no clue that he was,all I know is he was my dream guy,my soulmate. As a kid my brother and i was shielded from people doing immoral and illegal things,hence we dont really know my dads side of the family. A year into the marriage I found out the cruel secret of him using and my world came crashing down and being 7mnths pregnant.Our marriage has been a roller coaster ever since,what i also realised is that I have no remorse for addicts (never believing it will ever happen to me) but i love this man so its unbelievable that I still do. We at war with each other constantly,but find myself hating him at the same time praying for him to just die,and our kids think hs a super hero and no nothing of his addiction and I want it to stay that way. Iv recently decided to divorce him as I can’t deal or have no idea on how to handle the situation,if I confront him of his behavior and addiction h becomes very proud of his behavior and sais as long as h doesnt hurt anyone. HELLLLO!!!!..u hurting me ur wife,ur kids,ur brothers ur sisters who cut themselves away from him and left me alone with him and his horrible ways. Honestly speaking when hs high h becomes my dream man,the person I fell inlove with and today all make sence,the person I fell inlove with was as high as a kite,its funny how things fall into place once the truth is revealed. I’m scared that if I do leave him he that he will loose himself,I’ll constantly worry is he okay?has he eaten?is he safe?has he got a bed to sleep on or where is he sleeping tonight.Iv put him out so many times only to return after a few hours and I say nothing I allow him in bathe,feed him,spoil him with think he likes(has a sweet tooth)all because I feel bad of what I said to him. And now I’m fed up with this.I need it to stop.My tears are all dried up I want my pain to end.

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Peaceful Brooke

The most enlightening article I’ve read on addiction and co-dependency .A lifelong heart ache of loving an addictive father and then choosing an addictive husband now finally after 40 years realizing the connection .I was the happiest with these male figures when they were sober and when their lives had boundaries controlling their addictions .When they were fully enabled with freedom of parents ,jobs,surplus of money,and people enabling them they distant themselves .I lived a life of low self -esteem believing they didn’t love never love me longing for the past free when what changed them was their addiction became enabled they seek that life style .They hide from me their addiction ,they won’t ask me for the tools such as money and ,they don’t admit it to me they are deep in addiction .I personalized it they don’t love me or wait by the o be in my life the trufth is the addiction is heir way of living and coping and they are in denial or not wanting to change or recover .Thete addiction for 70 years and forty years respectively at this time seems dim but I need to save myself from destruction and pain knowing they love me sober and they are unable to know the pain they cause me because of their disease .Loving an addict is self – destructing basing your self worth on their moods and actions.It is time to heal these deep wounds and learn self -love .I pray we all find peace with addiction in our lives and hope we can all know forgiveness ,hope,and wisdom .The serenity prayer is part of the aa program may we learn it and live It.The best to all friends and families of addicts .

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Mishelley

Its not about love anymore. Its about your survival your life…one you deserve. This is about letting go…this is not a healthy way for you or your kids. When you start feeling guilty for leaving remind yourself of the destruction thst its no longer about “love” you will always love him, its about YOUR peace and loving yourself to know when to walk away.
We woman get in these relationships because we want to be the angel in white to come help them to nurture them because deep down we are trying to prove we are worthy of love. We have to heal that wound inside of us first before we have any other relationships. Nobody else gives and gives until they bleed giving. There has to be boundries. Best wishes.

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V

This story is just like mine except I never married nor had kids with the addict. I did not know the depth of his addiction even through the whole 8 years of dealing with his random disappearances lies weird illogical actions irresponsible hot cold sad angry screaming to quiet secretive behavior etc.
Until this last year, I used to be the main breadwinner and never at home during the daytime on the weekdays and needless to say, I relied on him to take care of the home and our pets and me, none of that occurred regularly. I was more alone then while he was around than now that he had to be kicked out by me because once I observed him all day all nite, I called him out and he could not hide and became angry insulting hurtful threatening violent insolent and impossible to live with.

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Diane H

Did you break it off. I’m so stressed about all this. He makes promises and does it all over. I think I need to end it

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Marie

I am reading this as I lye in bed with tears rolling down my eyes. I have been married 5 yrs and with my spouse 10. He is an alcoholic. We met at a time where partying was our thing, WE, loved to drink and throw parties. After my 3.5 yr old daughter was born , I stopped drinking. I almost lost her 2x’s so life changed for me quite a bit. For him, it drove him to drink even worse. I was so focused on her, i guess the severity of his alcoholism didn’t hit until I was able to take a breathe knowing my daughter was ok , around age three. So about 5-6 months ago, I left him. I told him I loved him and would wait with open arms if and when he could return to the marriage sober. About 2 month after the initial break, I noted he stayed sober. We reunited. Slowly but surely his drinking started, not as frequent, but more intense when it would happen. Finally, he made a very poor decision, the next day I filed for divorce. That was three weeks ago. I have had my ups and down but know I did the right thing. I miss him, I love him, I pray for him, I pray for me, I pray for my daughter and his son, and for healing. I cry…. ALOT! Honestly, i am depressed, but I still know it’s right. Staying did nothing but make him think it’s ok. Since I filed , I made him have supervised visits with my daughter. He tries and give me the guilt trip but I stand firm amidst the pain. I know he relapsed once already, and of course lies, which tells me, he doesn’t get it yet. I would be more hopeful if he could be truthful of his “mess” up. At least I know, if, within the next 365 days, if I don’t see major changes, I will move on. The in between is the worst, I know. I’m here if he gets straight, and because I filed for divorce I know I have a way out if he doesn’t change. I’m prepared for either, but it’s painful! Just know that!

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InTherehab.com

Addiction can seem hopeless. If you can take the time to reassure your loved one that things will get better, you can have a huge impact on their life. Addiction is often painful and simply reminding them that things don’t have to remain bad can be helpful and motivating. Tell them there’s a better way to live if they will accept help.

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Karen

Thanks for this article. I’m going through the exact thing and struggling. Appreciate the information.

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Bree W

It’s true that when your loved one become an addict, the person whom you once knew will disappear because their behavior will be altered by the effects of drugs. I like how you provided a guide to people who have drug addict loved ones. I think your article will be very helpful to those who are having a hard time dealing with their addict family members, friends, spouses, etc. I think it’s also best to seek professional help and treatment for their fast recovery.

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EMMALOU

My husband of 43 years is a Vietnam vet. who has PTSD with substance abuse. He just came home this morning after a 3 day binder with drugs. While he’s gone there is no contact form him. I worry that people are taking advantage of him because he uses his social security to buy for everyone. Is he okay? Are they abusing him? He’s 69 and the people he hangs with are all in their 40’s or younger, men and women. I also worry if something happens to him while high, will they call for help, or just leave him. If they have no place to get high, he’ll pay for a motel room. So sad.
I’m torn because of the PTSD .

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Dawn M F

Thank you for your post. I know understand the manipulation, shame and even anger comes from. I am so mad at myself for not being strong enough to say no and to stand for better. I want it. I have cried, prayed and got angry at my love one because no matter what I say or do he is not stopping.. I am tired and angry and want to walk away, but I care deeply for him. But again I am frustrated and tired. #atmywitsend

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Leslie

I never, ever gave up on him. But I did see him less: once or twice a week instead of being at his beck and call. At some point I realized he didn’t really want see me, he just wanted me to bring him something he could sell for drugs. He used to call saying he needed smokes or a coffee card and I would hop in my car and drive to the inner city to deliver it to him. I would say ‘how about I take you to Starbucks for a fact coffee?’ And he would say ‘I have to meet a friend.’ Sometimes we did have that coffee but often I was just a delivery person. Early on I would give him $20-$40 but he would often call me within an hour or two begging for more money saying he owed a friend. Eventually I realized he might OD and I might have paid for the lethal dose. I knew I couldn’t live with myself so stopped except for the odd $1-$2. In the end he overdosed the day he picked up his government cheque. I loved my grandson SO much but just couldn’t help him as he didn’t want to get better. Now I go to his grave often….sometimes crying and telling him I am so very sorry I couldn’t help him. Other times I sit there and tell him ‘you are safe now and at least I know where you are.’

I feel so sad for you and everyone who has a loved one with addiction. All I can say is although I have great guilt, it is bearable because I never totally gave up on him. But had he lived, I may not have been able to stand by him forever.

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cathy

Thank you for sharing as your story sounded just like me and my son. Yes, so sad. I hope there’s a heaven and we will see them again.

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Lee

Good Day EMMALOU

I know that feeling my husband went to a rehab came back and few days after disappeared again I moved out for 2 weeks and went back after he promised he wont leave again and there again yesterday he left and not back home and same here no contact what so ever

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Anonymous

It’s been almost 10 years with my boyfriend. We started dating when I was 16 and he 17. He started using opiates two years into our relationship. I had no idea. He went to rehab and “got better” but really he didn’t. He’s been using opiates for nearly 8 years now. The lies and manipulation he has put me through is unbelievable and heartbreaking. It’s a wonder why I stay with him. Recently, things have gotten so bad that I am depressed and I isolate myself from everyone. I dread waking up in the morning because I have to pretend to be happy. He goes to meetings every day now. This is good for him. I used to always be able to forgive him. But it’s hard this time. I don’t know what to do because I love him so much and I never wanted our relationship to be like this. I just graduated college with my dental hygiene degree but I feel no motivation to start my career because I feel so alone and too sad to work with patients. I don’t want to let him go but I’m scared that this will go on for the rest of our lives. I just feel so hopeless. It sucks loving someone with addiction. I wish I never met him. My life could have been so different.

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J.L.

I gave my boyfriend chance after chance over the last five years. He wrecked multiple cars while high on benzodiazepines and crack, he went to rehab;came out and used. I enabled him; always being there; thing I could save him.
His intentions mean everything to him. He’s always ‘trying’ to stay clean. Well, trying only goes so far. There comes a point where his intentions need to transition to action. That has yet to happen.

This last go around, was the last chance. I stuck to my word and left the relationship. His addiction isn’t worth my life. While I love him; leaving means I love myself
I can love him from a distance. Staying with him was slowly killing me spiritually and mentally.

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Hey Warrior - A book about anxiety in children.








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Our kids are going to make bad decisions. Hopefull Our kids are going to make bad decisions. Hopefully they’ll make plenty - it’s one of the ways they’ll learn and grow. We won’t always be able to love them out of a bad decision, but we want to be the ones they come to when the mess unfolds. 
When they get it really wrong, they’ll know it. They’ll also know exactly what we think. Of course we’ll be tempted to remind them over and over of what they’ve done and the fallout from that, but it will be useless. There is no new wisdom in telling them ‘I told you so’, and it also runs the risk of switching them off to our influence and guidance at a time they need it most. 
There will be wisdom in the mess for sure, and the best way to foster the discovery is to make a safe space for this to happen - and there is no safer space than in their connection with you. 
When we prioritise connection above lectures, criticism, or judgement, we clear the path for self-reflection. This is where the magic happens. When they feel safe with us, and free from shame or disconnection, we have enormous power to facilitate growth - ‘Can you tell me what happened? I know you’re a great kid and I’m wondering what made this feel like a good decision? What can you do differently next time? I know you didn’t mean for this to happen but it has, and I’m wondering how you might put things right? Do you need my help with that?’ When we strip it back to bare, discipline was always meant to be about teaching, and this will never happen when there is shame or when they feel disconnected from us. You are their everything. They don’t want to do the wrong thing and they don’t want to disappoint you - but they will, lots of times. 
With every one of their bad decisions is an opportunity to guide them towards growth, but only if we keep them close and hold their hearts gently amidst the breakage. When we keep their hearts open to us, they will open their minds and their mouths too. They will talk and they will listen, and they will know that even when their behaviour is ‘questionable’, they are our everything too.

Our kids are going to make bad decisions. Hopefully they’ll make plenty - it’s one of the ways they’ll learn and grow. We won’t always be able to love them out of a bad decision, but we want to be the ones they come to when the mess unfolds.
When they get it really wrong, they’ll know it. They’ll also know exactly what we think. Of course we’ll be tempted to remind them over and over of what they’ve done and the fallout from that, but it will be useless. There is no new wisdom in telling them ‘I told you so’, and it also runs the risk of switching them off to our influence and guidance at a time they need it most.
There will be wisdom in the mess for sure, and the best way to foster the discovery is to make a safe space for this to happen - and there is no safer space than in their connection with you.
When we prioritise connection above lectures, criticism, or judgement, we clear the path for self-reflection. This is where the magic happens. When they feel safe with us, and free from shame or disconnection, we have enormous power to facilitate growth - ‘Can you tell me what happened? I know you’re a great kid and I’m wondering what made this feel like a good decision? What can you do differently next time? I know you didn’t mean for this to happen but it has, and I’m wondering how you might put things right? Do you need my help with that?’ When we strip it back to bare, discipline was always meant to be about teaching, and this will never happen when there is shame or when they feel disconnected from us. You are their everything. They don’t want to do the wrong thing and they don’t want to disappoint you - but they will, lots of times.
With every one of their bad decisions is an opportunity to guide them towards growth, but only if we keep them close and hold their hearts gently amidst the breakage. When we keep their hearts open to us, they will open their minds and their mouths too. They will talk and they will listen, and they will know that even when their behaviour is ‘questionable’, they are our everything too.
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