If you love an addict, you may live with considerable feelings of remorse, guilt, and pain. But you may equally feel the thrill of hope and adrenaline in trying to save your beloved.
How can you get off the rollercoaster? Take it from someone who’s been there. Here’s an essay on what the rollercoaster can be like…and how you can get off anytime you are ready. Then, we invite your questions or experience at the end.
My personal experience loving an addict
I remember when I was with my addict ex-husband I would do the most abhorrent things—things I would not want anyone to know about. I would ride around hoping to spot his car in the local bar or hotel, call the police to try and find him, and even look at his phone calls online up to the minute so that I could try to figure out where he was and who he was with.
The Downs: A time for change
Usually on a weekend, late night, or any time an addict disappears or goes off binging, from the partner of an addict (co-addict), I will receive posts asking for help. This is a desperate time for a co-addict. This desperation leads them to do anything that they can to fill the void, ease the worry, and justify the concern they are experiencing.
When things are out of control (and control at this point is a fleeting illusion) a co-addict will seek advice, read books, search the internet, purge their thoughts or anything they can do to help them with their own obsessive behavior over the addict.
It is also a time when the co-addict seeks advice to leave an addict because they are not sure they can put up with the behavior any longer. They will exhaust the people they talk to and swear that this time is the last time.
But it is a cry for help but one that becomes easily silent when the addict reappears….
The Ups: Keeping up the illusion
When the addict reappears or demonstrates some affection or remorse that reminds a co-addict why they fell in love, the thoughts they had about giving up go out the window. The love and the adrenaline they feel over the addict’s dramatic antics take over.
A co-addict will avoid the people they just complained to out of embarrassment that they did not follow through with leaving the addict. They ignore responses to their posts from internet searches because the information given is no longer what they want to hear. They disregard sound advice because they are not ready to face the truth.
Are you addicted to the ride?
This ride up on the roller coaster is purely an infatuated, reckless, and captivating thrill. Despair is replaced by a short-lived false hope for the addict. Depression is replaced by the adrenaline of fighting for the person they love. Giving up is replaced by a renewed sense of power that the co-addict can save the addict. The optimism returns that it is possible to have control over the addict.
The rollercoaster ride is exciting in many ways. Love is tested, feelings are intense and no one never really knows what twists and turn are around the corner. This is the part of loving an addict that defines a co-addict.
The co-addict does things, feels things, and resolves things that seem so out of character for them. They find themselves hiding, going back on their word, making excuses to themselves and others and feeling isolated most of the time, but the Ups which occur less and less are so addictive that they have no choice but to endure the Downs. The co-addict is out of control. The ride is taking them along and redirecting them where it wants to go.
Getting off the rollercoaster
If you find yourself on this roller coaster in a co-addictive relationship you are not alone. It seems that there is no way off. In fact, you have become so out of control that you cling to any shred of control you have left to justify why you have not gotten off of the ride by now.
As the addict falls deeper and deeper into their addiction, the co-addict will have to ride on bigger and bigger roller coasters with more extreme ups and downs. Even if the co-addict plunges towards the realization that this roller coaster may be too dangerous—they have to be ready to see that it will kill them if they do not get off.
Getting off of the ride with an addict means that a co-addict has to realize they are on the roller coaster in the first place. Every co-addict, including myself, wants to believe that their partner is different from most addicts and that the love between them is so special that things have to work out.
Getting off of the ride means looking at the relationship for what it really is and being able to accept that the person you love is an addict. It also requires recognizing that loving a person who is unpredictable and the highs and lows which accompany it can be highly addictive. If the person you love can have you detesting them and swearing them off one day, feeling sorry for them the next and obsessed over every move they make, then you are on the roller coaster.
I suggest as the ride comes to a stop, this time, you get off.