Are You Living with an Addicted Person?

Are You Living With An Addicted Person?

Addiction. Addictive agents are those persons or things in which we form an excessive dependency (1).

Are you living with an addicted person? If you answered yes to that question then you are part of about half of the U.S population, but congratulations. You are among the group that is not still in complete denial.

Next question. Do you still consider addiction to be a problem? If you said yes to this question, then you really need to continue reading to absorb some basic truths that may profoundly improve the quality of your life! (BTW, if you answered no to both of these questions, then congratulations again…only a small fraction of people experience lives totally unaffected by someone else’s addiction).

We are three men who had our lives smashed by the addictions of people close to us, and we want to relay thoughts that will make the experience of living with addicted people less devastating for others.

First, we had to learn that addiction is addiction, whether it is to alcohol, drugs, sex, bingo, or chocolate, and that addiction cannot survive in a vacuum. For example, it takes at least four functioning adults to enable a single dysfunctional alcoholic.

Second, addiction is not a problem, it is a fact, and facts simply cannot be solved. For example, if you have looked forward to a picnic and it has started raining, then that is a fact. You cannot solve this fact.

“Oh no…it’s RAINING!” (insert humorous drawing with a shocked man)

Your only option now is to decide how you are going to react to this fact. Our weather example works to a degree, except that with addiction the costs, in human terms, are much steeper than just being a bit inconvenienced. Living with addiction is never a picnic.

What we are saying is that we had to stop denying that we were totally powerless over someone else’s addiction. Whether we were a spouse, relative, neighbor, a CEO, minister, physician, police (person), a famous talk show host, or the president, it didn’t matter. We were each just another man who kept dancing to the tune of addiction and we were part of their problem. Until we admitted that we were powerless over another person’s addiction, first to ourselves, then to the God of our understanding, and finally to another human being, we were mentally, physically, financially and emotionally trapped.

Please. End the denial. The most effective program for achieving personal honesty and removing denial that we have found is the Al-Anon program. Al-Anon is a 12-step support group for people trying to deal with the situations created by living with people addicted to alcohol. Here are some thoughts from an Al-Anon man raised by an alcohol-addicted mother.

I had always considered myself an honest person, but as I progressed in the Al-Anon program my understanding of honesty deepened. I had to be honest about everything in my life: my past, my intentions, my choices, my thoughts, my desires, and my reality. Honesty became not just refraining from lies in relationships during daily living with other people (i.e., “cash-register honesty”); it was honesty with myself and with the God of my understanding.

Recovery from my own addictions: co-dependency, people pleasing, perfectionism, the need for applause…this kind of honesty, was impossible until the hold denial had on my mind was broken. Denial is like a good paint job over poor construction. I always looked good from a distance. Denial covered my inner despair. Denial, while actually protecting me as a child who lived with addicted parents began to destroy me as an adult. It was like the destruction of a tree; first a few leaves wither, then the trunk, and finally the roots.

Denial impedes growth. It destroys the spirit by allowing poor behavior and choices to guide your life. Denial hides the symptoms so well that the cure becomes unthinkable.

“Mom is just under a lot of stress right now.” She’s a good Mom; she just hits us when she has to let out her frustration. And besides, us kids are her biggest problem anyway” or

“Hello, Robert? Deb can’t make it in this morning. She has a horrible migraine, and she has had trouble getting enough sleep lately,” or

“My daughter works so hard in a helping profession. Nurses all need to unwind after a long shift treating sick people. Besides, she has always been able to hold a job in spite of the drinking.”

Here are some words about denying powerlessness from a father who had to accept that he was powerless over his daughter’s addiction.
The first step states that “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (all other addictions as well) and that our lives had become unmanageable”. When I first heard this step, I did not know what the word powerless meant in the context of the disease of addiction. I could clearly see that my life had become unmanageable, but no way was I powerless.
After thinking about the powerless part of this step and all my attempts to fix, control, resent and rage at my daughters use of drugs and alcohol, I soon accepted on an intellectual level that nothing I had done in the past worked. I continued to behave and react in the same way until I finally also accepted that I was powerless over all the consequences my daughter suffered as a result of her addictions. The last stage of this step for me was to accept that I was powerless over my anger, need for control and resentments (my addictions) because numerous and varied attempts to fix these problems in myself also failed.
Slowly, I am giving up my attempts to battle this disease and have found in those areas where this giving up is at a deep emotional level, God who has infinite power has taken control. And so, infinite power is in fact available to me as long as I am willing to accept that I am absolutely powerless over this disease.
We want to climb onto our soap boxes now and make some points about denial beyond the individual level. Denial that is being used every hour of every day by authoritative professionals such as physicians, law enforcement, and the clergy, is allowing addictive behaviors to extract a monumental price from all of us.

For example, data just released shows that younger women from the current generation (14-22) for the first time in our history are using alcohol, drugs, and tobacco at about the same rate as their male counterparts (2). And yet, because of denial by law enforcement officers, they receive only 15% of the DUI’s and DWI’s (3). A recent DOT study (US DOT Report H5-801-230) showed clearly the real factors involved in Officer O’Malley’s decision to put the cuffs on an inebriated grandma, or that professional on her way from Happy Hour to her condo.

Does he consider her blood alcohol or the severity of her traffic violation in his decision to arrest for DUI? NOPE!

The most important factors, according to this government study, are 1) how much the officer drinks, 2) his lack of knowledge concerning the difference that alcohol has on the female vs. the male body, 3) the suspect’s attitude during the stop (i.e., men tend to be more belligerent), 4) the suspect’s and the policeman’s age, and 5) the suspect’s sex. Arresting a woman is more complicated for legal reasons and besides she looks, smells and acts like the officer’s wife, girlfriend, daughter, or grandma!

The net effect is to prevent the addicted lady from being identified, and that helps fuel the rapid increases in the rate of addiction among women. We could cite similar figures and stories for physicians and clergymen but the truth is that all of this professional denial serves to hide and thus exacerbate painful social consequences of addiction.

So what can we each do about another’s addiction? We hope by now that you realize that if you hold any delusions about being able to save or help an addicted person, then you need to ask God to remove them, because those delusions are helping to perpetuate the disease. Also, we are inviting you, right this moment, to ask for help from others who have been there. Go to a local Al-Anon meeting. There you will find help. Until you do that, it will just be impossible for you to appreciate the extent to which addiction is making your own life not fun.

Final notice and great news! If you are dealing with what is still the most common form of chemical addiction, alcoholism, you can start your own process of recovery by attending that meeting. There you will find “…the love and support we have been privileged to share.” You can locate local meetings by accessing our web site at menlivingwithaddictedpeople.com and going to our favorite links. BTW…you will also find imaginative posts on the topic of addiction as well.

God Bless.