Just how much abuse are you willing to take? It’s hard to tell by the first kiss… What’s a sweetheart like you doing in a dump like this? -Bob Dylan
How many times have you made excuses for the addict or alcohol in your life? You know you’ve covered for their behavior or absence at important events more than once. You’ve also been told more than once that “it will never happen again”. Well… does it?
When you love an addict, you spend a lot of time and energy hoping he or she will change. You probably put up with a lot of unacceptable behavior. The addict may steal from you, lie to you and make promises that he doesn’t keep. He or she may disappear for days on end and neglect you or other family members, including children. The person you fell in love with doesn’t seem to be there anymore.
You may reach a point that you feel you can’t take it anymore and you threaten to leave. You issue the ultimate threat:
It’s drugs or me.
You hope he’ll choose you. You expect him to choose you. Anyone who really loved you would choose you, wouldn’t he?
It’s not that simple.
The nature of addiction is that the addict is obsessed with using drugs. He chases the effect provided by drugs compulsively and on a level that is far beyond his control. No matter how much he wants to choose you, he can’t. If he could simply choose to stop, he wouldn’t be an addict.
He will choose drugs over everything, not just his relationship with you. Drugs will come before his job, his friends, his other family members, his church, his goals, his dreams and even his basic survival tools such as food and water. He may forget to eat and may neglect personal hygiene.
Loving an addict is painful. You stand by helplessly watching your loved one destroy himself and you may feel hopeless. The more you scream, yell or threaten, the more he turns to drugs and tries to blame you. You may try to set limits and ultimatums to no avail and eventually you may decide to end the relationship if the addict won’t give up the drugs.
You are truly powerless over his addiction.
You can’t control or cure his addiction, but you may have some influence over him. Family members may join together for an intervention. If you follow through on ultimatums and threats and learn to stop enabling addictive behavior, there is a chance the addict will be willing to take steps to get help.
The most important thing you need to focus on is taking care of yourself. Put energy into focusing on your own life instead of trying to control him. Join a support group such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon. Learn as much as you can about the disease of addiction, and about your own co-dependence.
Although it is painful, remind yourself that if the addict chooses drugs over you, it’s not personal. If addicts could choose not to use drugs, they wouldn’t be addicts.
Choosing to stay in the relationship is a personal decision. As long as you live with an active addict, you need to get help and support for yourself. Offer as much love and support to yourself as you offer to the addict. Learn to set boundaries to protect yourself, and know that his rejection of you is caused by addiction, not absence of love.
You did not cause the addiction and you are powerless to cure it. Do not take responsibility for something you can not control. Help is available for anyone battling addiction… help is also available to anyone that loves an addict. The only life you can save is your own. The question is how much of yours will be wasted fixing something you’ll never control?