When we are dealing with the chaos and suffering that are the consequence of the addiction of a loved one, friend or colleague, we tend to focus all of our attention on the addict. We solve his or her problems, we want to control the addiction. We fight it. As you may have learned through this blog or through other resources, such as 12 step programs (e.g. al-anon), we obviously cannot.
More importantly, we are so absorbed in our “rescue the addict mission” that we forget to pay attention to our own needs. In our daily live this becomes apparent in various ways.
I remember I would not go to family or social functions for fear of what might happen this time. I would call her employer to make up excuses when she was too hung over too go to work. I would see my children (from my first marriage) less and less frequently for fear of exposing them to another bad or dangerous situation. Over the years and without realizing it I lead a life that had become totally controlled by the addiction. I became lonely, angry, frustrated and unhappy. My life had become dependent upon the addict.
The key element to recover from this dependency is sometimes referred to as “detaching with love”. It took me quite a while to do this. It seemed anything but loving to me to detach from my addict: make her solve her own problems, take time do do things for myself, visit family and friends even if she was unable to go with, etc.
I thought I was letting her down, betraying her, failing her.
I now know that this is the best thing I could have done. For me, for the people that are meaningful to me and not in the least for the addict. It helped me to find peace and serenity again. I found my true self back.
The bestselling book “Co-dependent no more” by author Melody Beatty and “Love is a choice” by Dr. Robert Hemfelt (c.s.) are excellent reading to learn more about co-dependency and what you can do about it.