Hi, RVing Girlfriend.
Do the following scenarios sound familiar to you?
You’ve planned your latest RV road trip, made your reservations, and anticipate new adventures. But then? Your cell phone rings and your heart sinks knowing it’s your sister who needs to talk about her addicted son’s latest crisis.
You’re playing pickleball or attending a potluck at your RV park having a great time but deep inside your brain, you’re under duress “waiting for the latest fallout” from your family member’s addiction.
Here’s the deal.
In a way, you’re both addicted. The addict in your family has a disease and their addiction is never satiated. And your addiction as a family member craves attempting to keep your loved one safe, healthy, fed, out of jail, etc.
Your thoughts vacillate like a pendulum.
One minute you dread seeing them and then…
You NEED to see them.
You dread seeing them.
The disease that controls them
You miss the person they used to be.
The person you love is locked somewhere deep inside the addict, but you haven’t seen them in such a long time. They have a disease that controls them. You find yourself falling for the betrayal and lies over and over again.
At one time I worked as an RN at an Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital. Approximately 90% of the issues children arrived with were the manifestations of addiction. I recall some of my intake interviews lasting over an hour as exhausted parents recounted years of being caught in intricate webs of deception.
My husband John is a recovered alcoholic and graciously shares his story with many who need hope for themselves or a family member. This year we celebrated his 22nd year of sobriety. Even though he has been rescued from addiction his brain still attempts to trick him. Several times a year he awakens from a dream where he is a social drinker and can drink one or two beers. Even after all these years, his body still craves alcohol.
As a DivorceCare facilitator, I encountered dozens of people agonizing over their impending divorce from an addict. Their “normal” was filled with threats of suicide, the addict’s incarceration, and severe financial losses as the addicted spouse attempted to feed the monster.
I helped establish a phone crisis line several years back and came to know several local addicts whose frequent calls of “need money NOW crisis story” were easily debunked with a few pointed questions. Suddenly the person on the phone would morph into a desperate behemoth shouting expletives and threatening to report me to the police!
The Realities of Addiction
When you love an addict all sorts of boundaries and conventions get blurred. You start out helping them and end up enabling them. Your efforts to provide guidance and support are snuffed out by the addicts need for a short-term fix. Before you know it, you’re providing bailout money, making excuses for their no-show to family functions, and covering up their lies to save face.
Loving someone with an addiction can tear at the seams of your soul. For your own health, it is necessary to let go and allow the addict to fall and hit bottom. This is the place they will finally feel the consequences of their actions and see that the only solution is to seek help from professionals.
Letting go of someone doesn’t mean you stop loving them – it never means that. Even at their most desperate, most ruined, most pitiful point, let them know that you believe in them and that you’ll be there when they’re ready to do something different. This will leave the way open but will put the responsibility for their healing in their hands, which is the only place for it to be.
If they are not willing to seek help for their disease, then there will be no reasoning with them. Until they are ready to help themselves it’s not worth knocking yourself out trying to help. Decide what your position will be and then stand firm.
Addiction is cyclical. The crazy logic seems to make sense to them but is nonsense to you. For example, when my husband John was drinking, he’d play a mind game of “I won’t drink today”. And later that day he’d reward himself by getting drunk.
Addictions cause a person to stop the maturation process. They get stuck at the emotional age when the addiction began. Don’t be surprised if they act like a 15-year-old. In essence, they are stuck at that age.
Projection. It’s twisted for sure but the addict will project their behaviors onto you and call you out for them.
You need to safeguard your financial information, passwords, phones, house alarms, safes, car keys, credit cards, purse, jewelry, and wallet to name a few. Take precautions especially at family gatherings where your addicted family member may attempt to steal from to feed a quick fix.
Make sure you and your significant other agree with how to deal with the addicted family member. Trust me. The disease of addiction will attempt to play you against each other.
Don’t expect apologies for the addict’s behavior. Addiction has no conscience and is always desperate. Addicts believe their lies and can make them sound convincing.
You do not need to “stick around” town or change your plans to avert the latest crisis. The addict is an adult and must be responsible for his/her actions.
Expect the addict to point out your weaknesses and downplay your strengths. Remember. The addict is desperate to play to your sensitivities in order to wear you down and give them what they want.
Ask yourself this question; who is working harder at this relationship to manage the disease of addiction? Me or them? If it’s you then you must back off. They will wear you out eventually and then you’re not good to anyone and your own health will become affected.
Remember this. Your addicted family member’s disease does not define you as a family and you should not let their actions control you.
The Bottom Line
Loving an addict in any capacity can feel like one of the loneliest places in the world. When you are in the thick of the crazy-making it’s difficult to realize there are hundreds of thousands of families going through the exact same crisis as you.
Let me remind you again. You are not alone.
When you are enveloped in the dark cloud of the addict’s dysfunction it’s hard to imagine withdrawing support. But you must. In the long run, it is the most loving gesture you can give them. No one will judge you for the battle against the disease of addiction you have been fighting. Friends and loved ones have watched you cry and beg from your broken heart for the addict to seek help.
The more we can openly talk about addiction, the more we can be released from the shame, guilt, and self-doubt we feel. When the hidden bondage is exposed you can respond to an addict in a way that supports their healing, rather than their addiction.
This post may have opened tender wounds deep within you. For that I am sorry.
My heartfelt desire for you, my Girlfriends, is simply to expose the truth of how addiction may manifest itself in your REAL life.
It’s time to shine a light on factual information in order to release you from false truths. I am here to give hope and courage to those of you who are sick and tired of walking on eggshells and anxious to move on with life.
If you would like to speak privately with me about your family situation, please send me an email by clicking the envelope below. I am here for you.
Please share this post with anyone else who may need encouragement with their loved one who has an addiction.
We are all in this together.
Let’s continue the conversations and support each other.
Happy Trails to you, dear Girlfriends,