How Do You Forgive an Addict?
As an author and speaker on co-addiction, and as a wife of a recovering drug-addict, one of the most common questions I get is how do you forgive? It is understandable that after all of the lies, betrayal, and pain that come with addiction that loved ones would have a difficult time forgiving. It can seem unjustifiable. After everything the addict has subjected you to, why should they be forgiven?
While the process of forgiveness may seem difficult in the face of everything you’ve been through, it is a vital step for recovery. The addict must learn to forgive themselves in order to heal, and we must learn to forgive the addict in order to move past the fear, anger, and resentment that can keep us stuck.
To understand what forgiveness is, let’s first talk about what forgiveness is not:
How To Help Your Husband With Drug Addiction
My husband, Dean, and I are getting ready to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary in a couple of weeks. This is an incredible milestone for any couple, but for us it is especially momentous. You see -- for the first two decades of our marriage Dean struggled with an addiction to alcohol, crack cocaine, and prescription pain pills. Ten years ago I had my doubts that Dean would ever live to see our 25th anniversary, let alone that we would be enjoying a healthy marriage.
Here are two things that I’ve learned through my experience:
- Addiction recovery is possible, and
- A spouse can help their loved one to overcome addiction
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I now understand that I was playing a role in my husband’s addiction. I had become an enabler, and, as a result, I was making it easier for my husband to continue on his destructive path. It was only after I shifted my own focus that positive changes began to take place.
What To Do When People Do Not Respect Your Boundaries
Throughout the first sixteen years of my marriage my husband, Dean, struggled with his addiction to alcohol, prescription pain pills, and crack cocaine. As his addiction continued to get worse, my ability to set healthy boundaries failed. This didn’t happen overnight -- it was a gradual process that eventually left me feeling powerless.
In the beginning of our relationship, I was a confident young woman. Unfortunately, I had failed to recognize the signs of Dean’s addiction until we were married and I was pregnant with our son. As Dean began to take on addictive behaviors, I attempted to ‘lay down the law’. We were married now, and it was time to act like grown-ups. I would make threats to leave if he didn’t change his ways -- and he would make empty promises that helped me feel better in the moment.
Each time I allowed Dean to pass a boundary -- rather than standing my ground -- I would allow my boundary to get pushed further. I was stuck in a cycle of making threats even when I knew I didn’t have the courage to follow through. Dean quickly learned that my boundaries didn’t really exist, and, as a result, my self-esteem was slowly chipped away.
How To Stop Enabling a Drug Addict
When you’re in a relationship with an addict, it can seem like an impossibility to separate yourself from the problems. You may convince yourself that it would be irresponsible -- that if you’re not right there in the middle to attempt to salvage what’s left of your loved one’s job, reputation, and self-respect, that everything will just crumble around both of you and be destroyed.
It can be difficult to let go and allow the addict to face the consequences of their actions. You don’t want your life to become more stressful. You don’t want your spouse to lose his or her job and leave you broke. You don’t want to admit to family and friends how bad things have gotten. So you do everything in your power to keep the outside world from finding out.
When it comes to the other people in our lives, especially the addict, we must learn to let go and stop enabling behavior. We can’t make their choices for them. We can’t control what they do, and the more we try, the more out of control our own lives become.
Learning to stop enabling is a process, but you can learn to distance yourself from the troubles of addiction. It is about letting the addict handle their own problems. This does not mean that you stop caring. You can show compassion for the addict without their problems becoming yours, you can listen with a loving ear without taking on their responsibilities, and you can offer guidance without belittling.