“There are all kinds of addicts, I guess. We all have pain. And we all look for ways to make the pain go away.”
– Sherman Alexie, author of “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian”
Maybe I should have seen the signs. Maybe I did actually see them, but just plain ignored them. Maybe I even thought that her drug use was tame compared to others I knew. I guess I was just too in love, too uneducated about the subject of substance addiction, and too engrossed in my own selfish, well-being. Either way, it was months, probably years, before I realized she had one serious problem that neither of us could fix (excuse the pun)…
When things went the way I was dreading, and her addiction was suddenly seriously impacting her physical and mental health, I got educated – degree-standard educated. With advice sought from addiction specialists, I secured her a place at a drug rehab in Seattle, and her treatment finally began.
So here’s what my degree-standard education, majoring in substance addiction, and my continuing sabbatical now she is sober, back home living with me, has taught us both:
#1. One Day at a Time
What’s gone is gone. What’s still there, however, is still there. Taking one day at a time, just like a recovering addict has no choice but to do, is vital if you’re their partner. They may not have thanked you for the help you have given, but they will – one day. In other words, just live your life with them, enjoy the new memories you’re making, and, most of all, be with them when they need you. And always remember, you need to work hard yourself to leave the past where it is – gone. Lastly, relapses happen, even with everything in place. That’s what addiction is – a chronic relapsing brain disorder. All you can do is to try again.
#2. Open Lines of Communication
Any relationship needs open communication at its core, especially when one person is a recovering addict. When such communication exists, there is less space for deceit, a major part of any active addict’s life. Furthermore, you were probably very judgmental when the truth hit the fan, as it were, (as I was, stupidly) and so they may be reticent in speaking with you about what’s really going on in their head. Don’t despair. Keep those lines of communication open, and they’ll talk when they’re ready.
#3. The Necessary Trust
Broken trust is hard to put back together (as you’re probably finding out right now). However, it has to be done if your relationship is to survive. Remember, the recovering addict will feel damaged themselves, but now hopeful. Build that hope with them, and the trust will come. And, of course, rebuilt trust doesn’t happen overnight – give it time, as with all things.
#4. Your Own Health
Each of these 4 things is pretty essential, but none more so than this. Your physical, mental, and emotional health is paramount. That’s not being selfish ( as I first thought), but plain common sense. Think of the parent (that’s you, by the way) and their child sat in the plummeting plane. In other words, put your own oxygen mask on first. If you pass out, you are absolutely no help to them…
Think Lego. Yes… Lego
As a kid, I used to love my Lego. Every Christmas and birthday – new Lego to put together in breakneck speed. I loved the stuff. However, we all grow up, and find that “adult Lego” is far more complicated, highly intricate, and there’s no instructions. None at all. And, most of the time, you’re not dealing with three-dimensional physical shapes – you’re dealing with multi-dimensional thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Yes, “adult Lego” can be really hard to work out.
However, as adults, that’s all we can do. Try to work it out, and build something good. Living with a recovering addict is difficult, but a close, loving relationship (which is why you’re both together in the first place) is all that’s needed, just with a lot of work. These “4 Things You Need to Know When Living with a Recovering Addict” – one day at a time, open lines of communication, the necessary trust, and your own health – can be the foundations you need to rebuild what you had once before, substance-free.
What do you consider to be important when living with a recovering addict? Please feel free to share your thoughts with a comment below. Many thanks.
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