Scripps Ranch and Bankers Hill Therapist Sara Cole.
As most people are aware, addiction is a pervasive problem in our society. It is killing people across generations, races, economic classes and more. It does not discriminate and it is not gentle. It is sneeky, deseptive and leads people to do the unimaginable. People will kill, lie, steal, degrade themselves in horrible ways to feed their addictions, to get their drug, to chase that high. As a person who has addicts in my family, I am speaking from personal experience. An addict in their addiction is not themself. They are the shell of your loved one. That shell can be deceiving and heartbreaking, but just remember. Its not your person, its the drugs that are hurting everyone around them. To see a loved one being sucked into the spiral of addiction is scarey and sad and leaves you feeling so so helpless. Addiction can destroy a person if left untreated and it can destroy the people around the addict if left untreated.
One of the most important things to learn, for anyone who loves an addict, is that you can not control other people. No matter how hard you try, the only person you can control is yourself. You can chose what you do in your life, how you respond to people and situations and what your boundaries are. This is so hard to accept, because as a person watching addiction take hold you want your loved one back. You know what they need to do and how they should do it and you are desperate to force them to somehow stop. But they have to do these things themselves.. They have to find help and ask for help and take the help and learn to help themselves.
Trying to control "your addict" is like banging your head against a wall and will shorten your life and take the joy out of your life. You get to make this choice. Will you let their addiction ruin your life too? I have to make the conscious desicion to live MY life. I still love the addicts in my life and will do anything I can to help them. But here's the thing . I wiil NOT do anything to help their addiction! That means if they want a ride to treatment. I will be there. If they need money to get high. I will not help them. This is confusing at times, but if I go back to this idea, it gets easier to know the right thing to do. It helps me not get furiouse and crazy. I still feel sad because I am loosing those people while they are using. Its normal to feel sad, but it is not healthy to let their addiction take over my life. This is the idea behind not enabling a person in their addiction. I will not enabe them to continue using.
By stopping the enabling behaviors, we are actually doing the most powerful and helpful thing we can for our addict. We cant control them but we can start to limit the power their addiction has over us. We are also allowing them to take responsibility. We are letting them know that we trust that they can get well. That they are strong.
Sara Cole has been providing mental health services in San Diego for 15 years. Sara specializes in working with women and teen girls to overcome trauma and major life changes, including postpartum depression and anxiety. She is also passionate about providing treatment to those whose lives are affected by the addiction of a loved one.