The Other Half of Addiction: Some Thoughts on Recovery.
I am the other half of an addicted person. I finally confronted the fact that this is real. It isn’t just a bad weekend. It isn’t just a bit of a habit.
It is a dependency, one that I played into for many years. One that I now wish to escape, and yet find myself mired beside. For better or for worse.
There are even more times I have utterly dismissed it, even to myself. There are times I have raised a glass, with him, to his health, to our happiness, and then regretted it as one glass becomes two, and little did I know he had a few before in secret anyway.
I am a spiritual person. I believe all things come about with purpose. When I strode out onto the very personal tarot journey detailed within my latest book, Dirty and Divine, I did not expect one of the key themes of that book to be addiction. I dreamed of adventures with my daughters, creative journeys indulged, meaningful meditation, and perhaps a little magic.
But instead I got addiction, arguments, finally a confession, and now a slow lurch toward recovery.
So my path opens wide ahead of me. The sacred journey I am treading right now, in part, is the recovery of an addicted person. Albeit, not my vice, but his. What I have discovered along this path is that there is very, very little support for the other half of an addict. So this article will go, I hope, some way to remedy that.
So this is for you, my dear and loving, partner/friend/parent/relation of an addicted person. How do you cope, soulfully, lovingly and spiritually, to ensure your well-being is not depleted by the actions and addictions of a person who is paramount in your life?
My brutal truth is this: my first desire, upon encountering this situation again (and it does tend to become cyclical — every so often an addict will pipe up that they have a problem, but soon it is hidden and fervently discounted) is to cut my losses and run away.
But the problem here is that he is not just a walking addiction. He is a beloved person too. There is so much more than just an addict within him. I want to help. I want to heal.
So I take my spirit and I walk it around the house. I indulge it in the arms of my little kids. I fervently pretend that all is well, because as it happens, I find that I am quite happy. I’m lucky like that. I find contentedness comes pretty easy. I know myself. I have my faith. I adore my children. My glass is always half-full, with water, or coffee, and only occasionally with wine.
So I’m reaching out, to others, people like me who have an addicted partner or loved one. I want you to know that you are not alone. That you are not to blame, and that you too can find joy in and of your own existence. Because it is all too easy to get lost in the nonsense, the black hole of illogic that the addict makes seem so very logical.
If you are dealing with the addiction of a loved one, then here are some ideas for supporting you, to help you feel less alone, and to help you cope:
Be in the moment. If you are not around your addict, release and relinquish them and enjoy your life. Spurn their dark cloud in favor of your rainbow. Be with those you love. Have your own secret life of happiness. Find comedy and laughter in everything. Their addiction is not you, nor is it ever caused by you.
Find your self, first and foremost, even if it is just making time in your own mind to be with you and figure out how you feel.
Have some faith. Again, make the faith be in you. Listen to your intuition. Go with your heart. Try not to be a fool to it. I have been a fool hundreds of times over. I have believed declarations of abstinence, even when I have found direct evidence of otherwise. Nowadays I just choose to believe in me instead, and to know that he, for now, is an addict. End of discussion.
Get out into nature. Nature has a rhythm that prevents addiction. It flows beautifully. One thing is only ever dependent on another in the most astonishing and healthy ways. Be like nature. Reject those things that try to pull you away from that which feels natural to you.
Make notes. Addiction can be confusing. Keep your own head straight by keeping a journal. This will help you figure out moods, patterns, and inevitably a record that may help you make objective decisions if that time comes.
Talk to someone. Maybe a friend. Maybe a parent. Yes, they might judge. Maybe they should. Maybe you should. Get some new perspectives.
Check in on how you might be enabling the behavior, and then alter yourself. Don’t try to change them (Mission Impossible). But change yourself. Stop pleading with them to be different, and instead, plough that same energy inward. Ask yourself to be different. See where that leads you.
Leave your addict to his or her own devices. You are not their parent, and even if you are their parent, you cannot parent an addiction. It has its ways. If you create something for them to fight against, then by golly, will they fight, and the addiction will get stronger, and you, my dear, will get weaker. So don’t fight, go sing, dance, garden, bake, do a rumba instead.
If you have spirituality about you, then dig into it. Crack open a pack of tarot or guidance cards. Go to church. Pray by the sea. Manifest peace. Visit a temple. Be with like-minded souls. Do the Yoga. Meditate. Know that you are profoundly important. Ask to be guided. Ask for a sign. Follow what is offered.
Here are some thoughts on recovery:
When your addict fails or falters. Which they will. More than once. It is not your fault. It is part of the process. Don’t take it personally. It may not feel like a step in the right direction, but it is. It is evidence that they can shift, even if only in small increments.
Recovery is no walk in the park. Nor does it happen quickly. If you have committed to the long game, know that some days will feel wonderful. Other days will be like building a new human from scratch. Be patient. And realistic. One-month-sober does not sobriety make. Keep your expectations flexible.
Abstention leaves a hole. You are happy that they are sober. They are miserable because they simply don’t know how to exist anymore. Expect issues, emotions and difficulties to pop up as they seek to be whole without their crutch.
Handholding, listening and hugs. That’s about all you need to give. Advice and pep talks are all well and good, but it’s not your job to become their guru. Just listen. Be there. Hug/hold as appropriate. Then let yourself off the hook and return to your happy place.
Trust that love is enough. And if your love is not enough for them, then make it absolutely enough for you and for the other people and pets and hobbies in your life. Turn it inward, pull it forward, keep a little for yourself. Love is flexible like that. Use it and apply it where it is most needed and appreciated.
Alice Grist is a spiritual and feminist author. Her latest book published this year is Dirty & Divine: A Transformative Journey Through Tarot. You could contact her via her website.