When you love an addict or alcoholic, you have probably watched him or her deteriorate in front of your eyes into a shell of a person. He went downhill, slowly at first, and then more rapidly until he gradually became a shadow of his former self. As you witnessed what drugs or alcohol did to your loved one, you have probably felt a wide range of emotions, from fearfulness to helplessness to anger. Like most people who love an addict, you want to make the problem go away; you want to fix him or her. And you have probably driven yourself just about crazy trying to control his or her behavior. Your intentions were always good. You just wanted to make him better and protect him from his own self-destructive tendencies. Deep down you have always believed that if only you could figure out how to love him enough, how to approach him the right way, he would stop wanting to do drugs and everything would be all right. Now he has finally agreed to get help. You feel excited and happy. You start reading whatever you can get your hands on that will help him to get and stay sober. You may attend some AA or NA meetings so you can learn how the program works, and you may try to remind him to call his sponsor or get to more meetings or work the steps. You probably still think you are helping him. You’re not. Your job now is to learn to stay out of your loved one’s recovery. She has to find her own path. She has to find the way to get sober and stay sober that works for her. It’s not something you can do for her. When an alcoholic or addict decides to get sober, she has to do it for herself. She can’t do it for you or the kids or her parents or siblings. She has to want to be sober more than she wants to drink or do drugs, and only she can do what it takes to make that happen. The more you push her and try to force outcomes, the more likely it is that you will cause more harm than good. Those who love an alcoholic or addict frequently develop problems of their own that typically involve struggling to stay in control at all times. Life has pushed you to the breaking point and you don’t know what else to do but keep trying to control the situation. Once you have been affected by a loved one’s problems with addiction, your task isn’t getting him sober; it’s learning to recover from your own problem with codependence. You have to stay out of your loved one’s recovery. And you may not know how to do that. You are not alone. Others have experienced what you are experiencing. One of the best support groups for recovering from codependence is Al-Anon.
Recovering in Al-Anon
Al-Anon is for people who have a hard time minding their own business, people who constantly seem to be focusing on what other people are doing. If you have been putting a lot of time and effort into bailing out the addict in your life, doing things that make you question your own sanity, the damage that has been done to you won’t go away just because the addict gets sober. All the energy you have put into trying to force other people to change will be better spent focusing on yourself. In Al-Anon or similar support groups, you will learn just how powerless you are over your loved one’s problems. You will start to notice the way you have been neglecting yourself and your own life. You may have abandoned or neglected your own goals and dreams because you have been so busy trying to fix the addict. Let the addict in your life take charge of his or her own recovery. There is something you can fix and it’s not the addict: it’s you.