When you love an addict, the disease of addiction has a big impact on your life. It may happen quickly or it may happen slowly, but you ultimately develop a problem of your own. It’s called codependence. When you have this problem, your life revolves around someone else’s decisions. Life has become unpredictable and upsetting. It’s kind of like constantly riding a rollercoaster, and after a while it seems like the only direction things ever go is down. You’ve lost any sense of having control over your own life, and you struggle to control the addict or fix him or her. You may think that if only the addict would get sober, everything would be OK. You would then be free to live your own life. It’s not as simple as that. The addict isn’t the only one with a big problem. You have a disease too. You are addicted to the addict.
Signs of Codependence
You spend a huge amount of time focused on the addict and worrying about him or her. You spend a lot of emotional energy wondering what he’s doing and trying to control his behavior. You make phone calls trying to track him down. You try to be careful not to say or do anything that might upset him and drive him to do drugs. Alternately, you rage at him and tell him how angry he is making you or how much he is hurting you. Other times you cry or fall into a depression. You have mood swings that you can’t seem to control. You feel completely helpless and don’t understand what you’re doing wrong or how to fix it. The more you fail to change the addict, the harder you try. The ups and downs you are experiencing are a sort of mood-altering experience. You are seeking out drama and you’re probably finding plenty of it. The only way to survive the drama and emotional rollercoaster of loving an addict is to recognize that the addict’s problems aren’t your biggest problem. Your problem is the way addiction has affected you. You need to get involved in recovery yourself. If you start going to Al-Anon, you will learn that whether or not the addict gets sober or stays sober isn’t up to you. In fact, choices made by the addict should not be the center of your life. The most important decision you can make is to take care of yourself.
Putting the Focus on Yourself
Recovery from codependence begins when you take the focus off the addict and put it on yourself. Put all that love, effort and energy into your own life rather than trying to change or control the addict. If you have spent any length of time loving an addict, you may not even know who you are anymore. What do you like to do? What things and places bring you joy? Do you like to walk on the beach? Do you like to read best-selling novels, bake pies, go bowling or participate in another hobby? What are the goals and dreams that you had planned to pursue before you became sidetracked by getting caught up in the drama of addiction? Did you mean to go back to school or start a business or pursue some other dream? Make a plan to refocus on your own goals and dreams. Do you have children who are being lost in the shuffle while the addict is continually disappearing or being arrested and you are spending your time obsessing about the problems caused by addiction? What can you do to set an example of strength for your children? Curing addiction is beyond your control. What you can control is your own attitude and where you put your focus. The most important skill in your own recovery is learning to focus on yourself. It’s not a skill you will learn instantly, but if you keep striving to turn your attention to yourself, you will begin to have fewer mood swings and obsessive behaviors. You can learn to love and value yourself the way you love the addict. You deserve your own time and attention, and you deserve to live in peace.