How to accept addiction and live with or without an addict
Accepting the Unknown
Life is constant change.
From the moment we come into the world, we are the process of transformation. With every breath our bodies become something new. We can choose to resist this change and create struggle and strife within ourselves, or we can embrace the opportunity for constant growth.
Hoping For Change
One of the challenges of living with an alcoholic or an addict, or simply being closely connected to one, is that we live with a constant hope that they are going to change and that through their change, our own experience will change. All families are affected by addiction. So, how can this hope become warped?
Having hope is not a bad thing, but connecting our own life experience to someone else who lives in addiction means that we don’t provide the opportunity to embrace our own independent growth. We become stuck in co-dependence.
We can not know what the future holds. We can not know if the addict will ever get clean, or what life will look like even if they do. But when we learn to accept that we don’t know how tomorrow will look… we are able to live more fully in the present and to make our own decisions about what we need today.
What Does “Prescence” Mean?
Sometimes this idea gets confused with living only for the moment. Being present in your life today is not about ignoring the future. It is about laying a foundation for the future that you want, regardless of the circumstances of the people around you.
If your future happiness depends on the addict you love changing their life, you may very well be setting up for extreme disappointment. If your future well-being is dependent on an alcoholic getting sober and holding down a job, you are likely sacrificing your financial health and security. If loving an addict has become your full-time obsession, you may want to seek professional help and get unstuck.
We can not know what is coming. So, we can prepare our own lives to be the life we want to live, and to give ourselves the best odds of getting there.
How To Live Your Own Best Life
In order to live our own best lives, we have to willing to embrace changing ourselves. We have to accept that we can’t live based on an unknowable, uncontrollable future state. Then, we need to do the work required to support ourselves.
Try this exercise to create a path for moving into a positive future, whatever that future may hold:
1. Write down a short list of where you want to be in five years, answer:
a. Who am I with?
b. Where am I?
c. What am I doing?
2. Anywhere the addict’s/alcoholic’s name appeared in the list above cross it out and rewrite the sentence without them. You can add a sentence that says, “It would be nice if X was with me.”
3. Once you have a revised list without the addict/alcoholic add these answers:
a. How did I get to this place?
a.i. Include the steps you think it will take to achieve the goal (if you don’t know write that down so you can ask someone for help or perspective later).
b. Why am I doing this?
At the end of this exercise you should have a road map for where you personally want to be with your life and how you can get there regardless of the status of the alcoholic/addict in your life.
Seek Professional Help When Needed
You will likely need to talk to someone about how to achieve the goals. You may need to make some dramatic changes in your current circumstances. The result of the exercise should be an opportunity for you to move with the changes in your life in ways that allow you to grow and to become the independent self you need to be.