5 Ways to Stop Being an Enabler

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It can be difficult when your partner is an addict, because on some level you may still want to please them, even at the expense of their long-term health. Here’s an example. Let’s say your partner’s had a particularly bad day at work and you sympathize with them. They begin pacing around, exhibiting signs of anxiety, and a little voice in your head tells you “well, maybe they can use X just this once…they seem like they’re under a tremendous amount of stress.”

There’s no such thing as JUST ONCE for an addict, and any lenience you give them is a very slippery slope. It’s good to acknowledge their feelings and current state of anxiety, but as a loving partner you need to suggest other ways of letting off steam other than using.

This can be difficult, because it sometimes seems like the only way a drug addict is adequately satisfied is when they’re “allowed” to use their drug. Don’t fall for this! Because of the nature of their condition, addicts can be incredibly manipulative as they try to rationalize their drug use to us and themselves.

Here are five ways to stop being an enabler:

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  1. Don’t ever let an addict talk you into using again, even if it’s “just a little bit” or “just this once”. Don’t waver. You’ll regret you did once they get back into their cycle of drug abuse.
  2. Always have a list of other options the two of you can engage in when you’re both under stress. If you can tell your partner is feeling vulnerable, provide other alternatives, such as going for a walk or watching a favorite movie so that your partner can relax and buy some time to come to their senses.
  3. Set ultimatums and be firm about them. An addict will test your boundaries but also relies on them. Also, don’t be a hypocrite when you set these ultimatums. If you expect your partner to be sober and responsible, you should be too.
  4. Be clear from the get-go about your expectations and limitations when it comes to this relationship. Here’s an example of what you can say: “I’m at a stage in my life where I really need to work on building my career and save money. If you’re drug use begins to affect this, we’re going to have to take a break.” Don’t be afraid to put yourself first. Your partner may initially be angry about this but many times will ultimately respect you for setting boundaries that they are unable to set.
  5. Be keen on cross-addictions your partner may have and state your zero-tolerance policy against them. Maybe your partner has been addicted to heroin, but uses gambling as an escape when he or she can’t use. Gambling, eating disorders, and sex addictions are just as destructive and aren’t allowing your partner to heal from their underlying issues. Point your partner to a list of other anxiety-relieving activities or consider in investing in a relaxation kit as an alternative and gesture that you care about their wellness.

Meth Detox: 8 Things to Do and Expect

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Coming off meth can be brutal, so here are some tips on helping your partner get through the experience as stress-free as possible.

  1. Expect your partner to have a severe drop in mood, energy, and motivation. Experts say that detoxing off meth can take 7-14 days, and then the painful psychological effects should start to wear off. This can seem like an eternity to someone who’s relied on meth to function for a while, and there will be severe cravings for them to use again. Help prevent this by staying present with their feelings and offering as much help to make them relaxed versus stressed to the best of your abilities.
  2. Don’t rush or pressure your partner to hurry up with their detox. Depending on how long they’ve been using and how frequent their usage was, each detox process will be different.
  3. Be as positive as you can, and constantly reassure your partner that there IS a light ahead of the tunnel as long as they commit to their decision to quit. They may be really stuck in their current feelings of depression and may not be able to have insight into the fact that it’s only temporary.
  4. Expect appetite to increase. This is normal, since their appetite has been suppressed by this stimulant for a while. Try to provide healthy options to prevent an excess of weight gain.
  5. Urge your partner to go on a 15-20 minute walk with you if they’re up to it. Getting sunlight will provide some much needed Vitamin D to counter depression and the endorphins released during exercise will also do them some good.
  6. Make sure if you see your partner getting so low that they appear to be on the verge of suicide, to get them professional help. In fact, anti-depressants are often recommended to assuage the dark depression that comes from meth withdrawal.
  7. Expect that after about a month, they may feel brighter and better than ever. However, they may feel so much better that they may overestimate their wellness and begin to use meth again, thinking they are in full control again. Be prepared for this! Tell your partner that the cravings are perfectly natural, but now’s the time to begin developing different habits to replace the drug use with.
  8. Do activities your partner likes. Watch movies and listen to soothing music.

5 Reasons You BOTH Should Attend Meetings

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I used to just not get the whole meeting thing. I simply didn’t understand the relevance of going. I’ve always been one of those “I’ll deal with it myself” kind of people, and I worried that any 12 step kind of meeting would be cult-like.

After being with an addict for almost a year, I wish I would have made more use of meetings and motivated my partner to go as well.

There are the 12 step meetings your addicted partner can go to and then the Al-Anon meetings you can go to. Both partners in a relationship would benefit in attending these meetings for the following reasons:

  1. You don’t feel like your struggle is your own anymore. This applies to both parties in the relationship. The toll addiction takes can be isolating, especially since there’s still a big stigma associated with it that may prevent you from telling your other family and friends. These meetings are a judgement-free zone where you can find comfort that you aren’t the only one going through this.
  2. You can vent and express yourself in a way that won’t strain your relationship. Keeping your real feelings in to keep the other person happy or on their path to recovery can create resentment. At least with the support of these meetings, your human need to feel validated and heard will be met.
  3. You will both feel like you’re taking active steps to better yourselves for the sake of the relationship. The thing that sucks about addiction and being involved with an addict is that sometimes you can begin to feel really helpless. When you attend these meetings, you can have a sense of pride knowing that you’re taking an active role in your recovery.
  4. You’ll hear perspectives from others than you may have not considered. I know we all like to think that we have all the answers, but we don’t. Attending these meetings can be a humbling experience that reconnects us to the fact that we’re all just trying to make sense and do our best of the chaos life sometimes comes with.
  5. It can help keep the spark in the relationship alive. Speaking from personal experience, sometimes it’s hard to talk about anything but your partner’s addiction because of the fear that’s overwhelmed you. It’s natural. But when all you talk about is the addiction or engage in “recovery” talk, that becomes the central focus in the relationship. And then you start to feel less like romantic partners and more like peers. When both parties attend meetings, they learn how to better themselves individually so they can come back to the relationship and be their best selves.

What About Me? Taking Care of Yourself During Your Partner’s Relapse

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The relapse rate for addicts is between 40-60%. Therefore, it’s time to change whatever expectations you may have had for your idea of a relationship or marriage, because the road just got a hell of a lot bumpier. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be worth it. But you may be asking yourself, is the relationship worth pursuing with the relapse rate being so high? That’s up for you to decide. There should be a lot of factors to consider with this, such as the following:

• Your partner generally makes you happy
• You can see yourself growing old with them
• There’s a significant amount of trust between the two of you

More importantly, you need to be empowered with information on how to take care of YOURSELF when your partner relapses. If you’re new to this whole thing (dating an addict), the whole concept of a relapse can be extremely anxiety-provoking. You may find yourself oscillating between fear and resentment, worrying about your partner’s next relapse or feeling rather hopeless about the situation in general.

In life, nothing is guaranteed or 100% predictable. Therefore, you need to get used to tolerating uncomfortable feelings and accept them as being part of life. (And the amazing thing about this is if you master how to do this, you inherently become a leader/role model to your partner). If you’re with this person, chances are you already know all of the risks or bad things that can happen, but you’ve chosen to stay with them nonetheless because you’re deeply in love.

When your partner relapses, it will and should be about “them” for a while. The relapse could be used as an opportunity to explore further triggers or to reflect upon the causes of their drug abuse in the first place. But to be the best possible partner, you need to take care of yourself. What do I mean by this?

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1. Listen and Validate Your Own Feelings. Even if it’s not conducive to express that you’re extremely anxious, frustrated, or disappointed in your partner, it doesn’t mean you should ignore those feelings. Have a confidant you can talk to or journal your feelings, because they’re definitely important too! You should never feel like your own feelings don’t matter, even if you temporarily have to keep them under wraps because your partner is struggling with something bigger. Always make sure to stay tuned into your feelings and accept them for what they are.

2. Make time every day to indulge in a hobby that makes you happy. It’s completely normal for partners to have some separate interests, and you definitely shouldn’t abandon them even if your partner relapses. In fact, sometimes your partner won’t want all your attention on them, so it’s good to have a retreat that will ground you and inspire you to own your own happiness.

3. Don’t neglect your health. Stress can cause us to make some unfavorable decisions, but it’s important to always take care of yourself and make sure you’re eating and exercising enough.

4. Create or buy a relaxation kit. Sometimes, just knowing that you have a small oasis stored in your room can be incredibly uplifting. A relaxation kit should have things that make YOU feel relaxed and pampered. They often come with scented candles, pillows, relaxing music, lavender soap, and more. You can find these homemade relaxation kits on Etsy, or you can consider having some friends over and making some for yourselves!

10 Things You Should Never Say to An Addict

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1. “Life’s hard for everyone. You don’t have to use drugs.” Being addicted to drugs was probably never how your partner saw his or her life turning out. This statement is patronizing and unfair, given that they clearly have different brain chemistry than the rest of us, hence why they feel they have to resort to drugs to stay “normal” and function. Words like this will just shame your partner and may ultimately trigger them.
2. “Using ____ is selfish”. Drug addiction, by default, is a very selfish thing to do, but ultimately because it has to do what the perceived self-preservation it offers the abuser. Don’t judge because you aren’t in their shoes. Ask how you can help instead.

3. “You’re a bad father/husband/son/brother/etc”. Statements like this are just rude and abusive. You can point out things you’d like your partner to work on, but shaming them does nothing except make them want to use again. Use your words wisely.

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4. “You’re a bad influence.” If you’re in a relationship with an addict and you’ve said this, you’ve become “one of them”. You’ve become an outsider, not an insider, and your partner will likely not consider you a part of their team anymore.

5. “Because of you, (insert negative criticism/blame/shaming here)”. Take responsibility for your own life. Blaming your drug addicted partner because things haven’t quite gone according to plan just shows you may have unreasonably rigid expectations for life. Life never goes according to plan for anyone, but it’s up to you to own your own choices and journey.

6. “Why don’t you just quit?” This is a complex question that your partner may not have an answer to. A better approach would be going with them to therapy or meetings so they could slowly unearth the root of their addiction.

7. “Why do you keep doing this to me/us?” Drug addiction is inherently selfish, remember? They aren’t doing anything to you on purpose. If you feel you can’t rough out the storms with them, despite trying your hardest and possibly seeking outside help yourself, then maybe it’s not the right time to be together.

8. “You’re a fuck up/failure”. How would you like to hear this? This line will almost guarantee a relapse. It’s incredibly hurtful and frustrating, especially to hear this from someone who’s supposed to be your significant other. Don’t ever become verbally abusive because you’re temporarily upset. You and your partner are better than this. Besides, your supposed to help your partner see the silver lining and remind them of their good qualities, not tear them down.

9. “You’re never gonna get better”. Define ‘better’. Drug addiction is usually a lifelong condition…So in that sense, you may be right. The goal is for the relapses to be more spread apart and less frequent. Nonetheless, this statement undermines any hard work your partner may be doing and render a sense of hopelessness for them. Don’t be a friggin bully!

10. “So-and-so was able to quit _______. Why can’t you?” Everyone’s journey to recovery is different. It’s absolutely fruitless to compare different people to one another. It doesn’t ‘inspire’ your partner, as you may hope. It brings them down. Instead, do your best to stay positive and receptive to their feelings. That’s all you really can do, anyway.

 

Dealing with Raw Feelings During Early Stages of Sobriety

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You have to empathize how incredibly frightening it is for an addict to quit drugs, especially if they’ve used for a long time. The best way to explain the state they’re in immediately post-drugs is like a turtle walking around without its shell, with no armor to shield his or herself from the world. You know when you listen to a song you used to play over and over again that just transports you to a certain phase of your life? Whether it’s a good or bad song? Quitting drugs can induce a similar time-transport shock with your newly recovered partner, as feelings and thoughts that were repressed during their drug use may emerge.

So just so what you know what you can expect, be prepared for raw feelings of shame, anger, guilt, regrets, sadness, depression, fear, and projections, especially of old family dynamics to be played out if they haven’t been resolved internally by your partner.

This isn’t going to be easy, and in fact, it may be incredibly frustrating. Maybe you’ve already gone through tons of strife and drama just trying to get them to quit using, so you may be scratching your head, wondering why it’s gotten worse. The good news is, it’s only temporary. As the old quote goes, sometimes things have to get better before they get worse, and this is especially true as it pertains to healing.

The most common family dynamic an addict will have experienced in their own nuclear family growing up was being the “bad” one or the “black sheep”. With their brain chemistry now temporarily scrambling to stabilize and all these old feelings resurfacing, do not be surprised if they try to project this dynamic into YOUR relationship. You may feel as though YOU are now walking on eggshells, but there is hope. One of the greatest ways you can help an addict through this is to LEAD BY EXAMPLE, and the example you should set is to not be overly reactive or intolerant to uncomfortable feelings.

(Note: This does not mean you should accept abuse of any kind. If there is abuse, get out, for that means respect for your well-being has gone out the window).

I hope this piece of insight will assist you in being able to take a more objective perspective as your partner struggles towards sobriety. It’s meant to serve as an explanation as to why your partner may initially seem like a completely different person once they’ve quit drugs, but it’s a time of intensity that will likely be TEMPORARY as long as they continue on their path towards sobriety without too many relapses that will set back their progress. When they’re going through their hardest, gently remind them that the only way out is through.

Should You Stay? Only if Your Addicted Partner Does These 3 Things

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When having doubts about where you stand with your drug-addicted partner, always remember what the term “relationship” implies. Most people would agree that a healthy adult relationship only has a solid foundation if:

-it’s a two-way relationship most of the time
-it’s built on trust
-your partner makes an effort to better themselves for the relationship

As you can surmise from these three simple bullet points, you can grasp just how hard it is having a relationship with many addicts, especially while they’re currently using. The relationship may temporarily devolve into a one-way relationship while you try to save them from themselves, and this can last days, weeks, months, or years. And it’s only human for this to take a tremendous toll on your mental, physical, and emotional health, as well as shatter any romantic projections you may have initially fantasized about.

Addicts are vulnerable to feeling giant voids that you can quickly fall into with them, if not by using, then just on an emotional frequency.

Therefore, to stay with an addict, it’s absolute crucial you are self-aware about your own emotional landscape and vulnerabilities so you can own your OWN happiness- because there may be MANY days, sometimes in succession, where your needs will NOT be met because your partner is drowning in his or her struggles, trying their best to stay afloat.

This is the reality you’ve currently chosen for yourself. You are dating someone who is unable to achieve balance on their own accord, so how could you expect them to deliver it like a healthy person would in a relationship?

A friend of mine who had also dated an addict once said “if you can’t trust someone when they tell you they’re getting in the car going down to Rite Aid, then you probably aren’t in the right relationship.”

This is true. A relationship can have a ton of love, but it can be absolutely PAINFUL when there’s a very imbalanced ratio of trust to love.

It can be hard to stay, but it can also be harder to leave. So when do you know when you should? When do you throw in the towel despite loving someone with all your heart, simply because their addiction has taken a toll on the relationship? Here are some tips below that can help you if you’re going through an ambivalent time in your head and heart concerning your current relationship:

1. Is there trust? When your partner gets a call or text, do you find yourself getting extremely uneasy? Perhaps you’ve associated the memory of this with them getting texts from drug dealers or just being secretive in general with you. Do you feel worried when they’re running a few minutes late back home? Have you been lied to a number of times that feels like it’s beginning to erode your own sense of self-worth and integrity? If so, you owe it to yourself to take a break or move forward with your life, away from this person. Sure, you can have a relationship with this person, but if you’re looking for a SATISFYING RELATIONSHIP, one that makes you feel safe instead of anxious beyond belief, you should get out.

You should only stay with your drug-addicted partner if they are working towards being more transparent and agree that that’s how you two should connect. As you might already know, it’s extremely difficult to find a “transparent” drug addict that will admit when they’ve relapsed. Their emotional immaturity and underdevelopment is one of the reasons they started off using drugs in the first place, and chances are, drugs have only worsened their emotional issues. On the off chance that you find yourself dating an addict who is in a place of their recovery where they genuinely want to quit and can be candid with you, thus tolerating feelings of shame that may come up for them, then it may still be a worthy investment.

2. Does it feel like it’s usually a two-way relationship? Relationships of course don’t always have a 50/50 golden ratio when it comes to who gets their needs met. In fact, it’s normal for you to have some days where your needs aren’t being met and vice versa, but to not have your needs met weeks and months in a row can cause resentment and strain your bond. Examine if this is the case in your relationship, as it often is with addicts, and see if you can come up with a system to keep the balance intact. Approach this subject matter with your partner carefully though- you don’t want your partner to feel intense shame that they’re “doing something wrong” or “messing up the relationship”, as this can trigger them to relapse.

3. Is your partner making an effort to get or stay clean?
Addicts will usually try to get away with what they can, not for weakness of character, but because of the nature of the condition. It feels inescapable to them. Therefore, a big part of them wanting to get clean is YOU wanting them to get and stay clean. It doesn’t matter if you agree with this or not, this is how it typically is. They typically do not feel enough of a reason within themselves (the nature of co-dependency) to quit, which puts others around them in an awkward position with them always having to dish out ultimatums. A lot of this drama can be cut in half if your partner is at a stage where they declare (and their actions match their words) that they are trying to stay clean.

I know it’s a difficult decision, but in all relationships, drugs or no drugs, there needs to be TRUST. Don’t sell yourself short by putting up with lying, a one-way relationship, or an uncooperative partner. There ARE some addicts that are in a part of their recovery where they CAN offer trust and reciprocity, but take a close look as to where your partner is right now so you can get the fulfillment you also deserve.

Why Aren’t I Enough?

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I was disappointed in myself because despite “knowing” that my ex-boyfriend’s repeated drug use wasn’t really a reflection on how he felt about me, I couldn’t help but sometimes internalize his own unwillingness to commit to his treatment. And given that I’ve had my own experiences with anxiety, depression, and eating disorders, I often got angry at myself for having unrealistic expectations of my partner. Shouldn’t I, of all people, be able to grasp that it didn’t matter if I were the best girlfriend in the world? That his journey was his journey alone, despite what I did or wanted?

I had tried being the best partner to him I could, attending psychiatry sessions with him, trying to be on the same page with him in terms of his progress, and essentially do my best to help get him sober. Even as I write this I’m having a somatic response, with a heavy feeling in my chest overwhelming me as I reflect upon the events.

“Why wasn’t I enough? Why wasn’t my love, friendship, and our connection enough?”

Those are valid questions, and the feelings of not being enough bring up painful sensations of shame, hurt, rejection, and hopelessness.

This past relationship wasn’t the first time I’ve had where a guy “chose drugs over me”. A relationship I had a few years ago involved of a guy choosing to indulge of in his oxycodone addiction instead of trying to get clean to be the best person he could for a relationship.

The thing is, that in a drug addict’s mind, their “best self” is when they’re on drugs. Without using, they feel incomplete. Many of them actually feel they can be better partners to us WITH drugs, even if we don’t think that should be the case. They need drugs to achieve feelings of normalcy. So it’s not a matter of not being “enough”, it’s a matter of us (the non-drug addict) and them (the drug addict) living in two different realities.

If you choose to stay with your partner on a lifelong journey of sobriety and relapses, you have to prepare yourself so that your own self-esteem doesn’t falter and you get overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness. Here are some things to remind you that you ARE enough.

1. Have a certain ritual every day that allows you to touch base with yourself, emotionally or spiritually. This could be a morning walk, meditating with a candle in the afternoon, or journaling. Essentially, what you’re trying to do is nourish your emotional/spiritual side and always carve out a window to make YOURSELF feel good.

2. Don’t neglect your well-being. Remember to eat well and exercise. Your partner’s needs are important, but so are yours. Don’t let your partner take the spotlight in the relationship if it’s a detriment to your own health and well-being.

3. Get out in nature to help yourself see the big picture. If we listen, nature can teach us some introspective lessons worth learning about life.

And always remember, your partner’s inability to quit drugs or whatever their addiction may be is not about you. You’ve just met them in a point in their journey where they need them to feel normal and function, and they’re afraid that without them they’ll totally lose grasp of the reality they’ve become used to.

What to Do When Your Friends and Family Don’t Support Your Decision to Stay With an Addict

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If your experience is anything like my own, you would quickly grasp how strong the stigma of those suffering with drug addiction still is. And as someone’s who’s intimately affiliated with a drug addict, you may be subjected to the same stigma, rejection, or shaming from others. Use this experience to empathize with your lover! This is the kind of shit they have to put up with daily and have more than likely already internalized into their own self-loathing stream of thoughts.

Things my friends and family tried telling me while I was reaching out for help regarding my meth-addicted partner were things like:

“You deserve so much better.”

“Why are you with him?”

“Ew, meth? Are you serious? Why do you stay? Do you not feel that good about yourself? You know you can find someone better, right?”

“He’s gonna suck you dry of all the money and energy you have. You should get out ASAP.”

Other people’s uninformed, insensitive comments make getting the support you need in your relationship difficult. Although these comments made by your close friends may come from a good place, they do absolutely nothing to help your current situation, because chances are, you’ve already had waves of these thoughts yourself. And despite having transient thoughts like this, your decision is still to ultimately stay with your partner….so what good is it to dwell in the negative?

Ideally, it should be clear that since you are still choosing to be in a relationship with this person, you have accepted the drug abuse situation and are now looking for support. This is very hard to find, and can undermine your ability to stay sane, supported, and strong for your partner.

This is where the role of outside resources, such as Al Anon meetings or articles like this can assist you. Being with an addict is oftentimes a lifelong journey of recovery, and since you’re in this bubble with them, you’re also going to benefit from recovery as well, as you dig deeper into yourself and understand your own blind spots and places in your psyche that need growth.

Don’t let outsider’s negative comments get to you. You are your own person and you are completely responsible for your own decisions and happiness.

But do take this into consideration:
Our closest friends and family members want to see us happy. They usually want us to thrive, succeed, and find love. However, this kind of love to them is unconventional and that makes them uncomfortable. And they don’t understand why sometimes you choose a life that can be unstable and lead to some pretty intense “downs” (if your partner relapses, gets arrested, has to go back to treatment, leaving you at home alone), etc.

It’s not other people’s business unless you make it their business. Choose to disclose your situation to people you think would understand and that don’t stigmatize addicts or different lifestyles.

*The only circumstances in which you should really tune in to what your more traditional-thinking support system has said is when they comment that you haven’t seemed happy or at peace for several months on end or when your own personal commitments to work and your own well-being have been faltering. Other than that, you’re going to have to develop thick skin while dating an addict until the stigmatization goes away.