We are "the ones who stayed." Stayed in the lives of our addicted partners, family or friends. Loving someone through addiction and recovery is not for the timid. You are part of an elite group of souls who chose to remain when others fled.
These articles are addressed to those of you who are without addictions, but love an addicted person and are committed to being a part of that person's life.
There are volumes upon volumes of published works on addictive behaviors, co-dependence, enabling and the like. This is not one. This work simply seeks to help those partners, friends, and family members of addicts who are navigating the treatment and recovery processes while trying to live their daily lives.
I have some close friends who play in a rock & roll band on the club circuit. They were performing at a club in my town that I choose not to frequent because it’s a favorite hang-out of my first husband. We’ve been divorced 13 years and I’ve been re-married for 12. Whatever animosity there may have been between us; I’m over it. He isn’t. There is inevitably drama if we’re in the same place and alcohol is served. So, I choose not to play.
One of the band wives shared with me the day after my friends had played this particular club, that she had met a woman named Donna and I quote, “She says you hate her.” Now, interestingly enough, Donna and I have never met. Not once. Donna is my ex-husband’s present girlfriend. I am aware of her only because I have a 20 year old daughter from my first marriage who has mentioned her dad’s girlfriend in passing. Needless to say, I was completely taken aback. How could someone with whom I have never exchanged a single word believe I hate them? Anyone who knows me will tell you that I don’t hate anyone. That’s just not who I am. Sure, there are people of whom I’m not particularly fond, but hate is just not something that is on my radar.
The term “hate” conjures up all sorts of emotion. It’s much more than dislike. It’s dislike charged with anger and frustration and, very often, fear. It’s a tidy little bundle of negative emotions packaged together. I must tell you that having this bundle mistakenly attached to me by someone I don’t even know left me both dismayed and enormously pissed off. I’m a fairly grounded and centered person most of the time and I can typically shake things like this off in a few moments. But this one bugged me; and the fact that I was allowing it to bug me, bugged me even more. Probably because it portrayed me as the exact opposite of who and what I am. I am a person who promotes love in the world, not hate. I am someone who strives to heal, never to harm. How could anyone, particularly someone who doesn’t know me say otherwise?
It occurred to me as I was working through releasing all this, that it; like many other frustrating situations I’ve encountered, comes down to control. It bugged me so much because I couldn’t control it. I couldn’t run interference with everyone Donna may have told her story to. I couldn’t convince Donna that I don’t hate her if she chose to believe otherwise. I had to give up trying to control the situation. I had to trust that the people that know me, know better and the people who don’t know me don’t matter. When I found that place, I was able to let it go.
It’s all about the surrender. When I surrendered to the fact that I couldn’t control any aspect of the situation, peace returned to me. It’s such a simple process and almost always the most difficult for us to do. We’re taught growing up that surrender is a sign of weakness, when in fact, it can be our greatest strength. There is enormous power in choosing surrender over struggle. Usually, we’re so busy struggling that we can’t see a pathway out. Upon surrendering, the doorways appear and the paths are illuminated.
It’s no different than the process we went through as our addicted loved-ones entered the process of treatment and recovery. They had to surrender to the fact that they were addicted before the healing could start. We had to surrender to the fact that they were addicted and that we couldn’t heal them before our healing could begin. It’s times like these that my present husband will usually remind me that it’s not an accident that the 12 step programs used in AA & NA; which include a process of daily surrender, are referred to as “A Design for Living”—and I have to surrender to the fact that he’s right.