Saturday August 2nd 2014

How to let go of an addict

Letting go of an addict can seem like a huge task. It helps to break it down into smaller steps, and to make steady progress towards the life you want. Here, we review practical tips and suggestions for how to let go of an addict. Then, we invite you to share more about your situation in the comments section below. We try to respond to all comments personally and promptly!

The concepts of Al-Anon

Six years before I started to consider leaving my addict partner, he had a major relapse and disappeared for the weekend. I stepped into the room of an Al-Anon meeting. I went, half-hearted, because I thought it was something I should do. I learned the terms,“let go and let God,” and “detachment,” in those meetings but I wasn’t ready to do that. I thought if I let go that I would be giving up on him. When my husband would use, I went to meetings to get away from my problems. After a few months, I stopped going.

Years later, when things were spiraling out of control in my marriage, I started to go again. I was desperately looking for answers. I saw the same people, some still living with the addict. Al-Anon teaches that you can emotionally detach from an addict while still being with them physically if they are actively using. I would never be able to accept a life with my husband if I was in recovery, and he was not. I wanted to be with him but refused to continue living with him while he was actively using.

The concepts and approaches discussed in Al-Anon were enlightening. They helped me realize that I had to put the focus on me. Even with this new refreshing insight, I felt a disconnectin the meetings. Though I realized it was not for me, I was still able to take what I needed from those rooms. I forced myself to get up and leave my husband and make a new life for myself and my daughter.  I needed to start treating codependency and behaviors associated with it.

Letting go of an addict starts by finding help

Each co-addict will find their own journey in the recovery process—some will utilize Al-Anon, psychotherapy, the support of family and friends, uncover strength, or sometimes the addict leaves and gives them no choice but to move on. Others will lose their homes, their savings, and go into debt before being able to walk through the door of recovery. Recovery is a journey—the following are a few skills to help start letting go of the addict and bring you back to center.

Techniques for letting go of the addict

Break things into small steps. No one expects for this to happen all at once. Create small, doable ways, to start taking your focus off of the addict. Here are some practical tips and suggestions for how you can start doing this:

1. Before contemplating separating yourself emotionally or physically from the addict, find a support network. This can be a community group, friends, family members or anyone who is aware of your situation and will be there to help support you. Pick a group or someone who inspires you. When you leave a conversation with your support of choice you should feel better, less afraid and more motivated.

2. Create a list, mentally, or an actual list of actions you know you need to change. Pick things that will stop you from becoming engulfed in what the addict is doing wrong. For example, the next time the addict is out “using,” do not call them, instead talk to your support person and refrain from trying to get them home or get them help.

3. Every time you slip up on your list, do not beat yourself up. Self-love and care is something you need more than ever. If you had it to begin with, things may have not progressed to this point.

4. Find activities that you enjoy which don’t involve the addict. Force yourself to start doing them! Take a walk, breathe deeply, take a bath,read a novel, see a movie, or anything you used to enjoy before your life became unmanageable.

5. Walk Away! Instead of arguing with the addict, force yourself to leave an unhealthy discussion you know will only escalate and get you upset.

6. Visualize the life you want and the life you can have if addiction was not part of it. Write it down and say it to yourself every day. Every single day when you get out of bed.

You may feel like a fraud at first, but slowly, these actions will give you an emotional detachment you didn’t think you could have. You will actually feel less affected and consumed by what the addict is doing. In the beginning, this may be forced, but when you find joy or can culminate a genuine laugh again,you are on the road to letting go.

Letting go of an addict: questions and situations

If you’re struggling at the moment in your life with an addict, you are not alone! Please leave us your questions or need for help in the comments section below. We do our best to support you and will answer you personally and promptly.

Photo credit: thisbedistoosmall

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18 Responses to “How to let go of an addict
Candice
9:30 am July 17th, 2013

Hi,

I’m 30 years old, with a 9 year old daughter, a nice home, a cute dog and cat and a 35 year old addict boyfriend.

My life is quite peachy, and has been. We are a sweet family.

There are situations, like last year my boyfriend went to jail for selling things that did not belong to him over a period of a year.
I knew he had sold things that did belong to him, but had know idea he was stealing.

He has been in and out of therapy. Rehabs. He is on Suboxone and alzam and an anti depressant. He still uses as far as I know about every 2 weeks. He is a heroin addict. He smokes it. But also as far as I know has used cat and mandrax since being in jail.

Over the last month he pawned my camera, but got it back after I found out. and my bicycle was stolen. But may not have been him.

When he uses, I make him sleep on the couch, I don’t cook for him, I take all his cards and money and I pretty much let his family know and give him a hard time.
I know it is ridiculous.

But he stops for a while then.

His mom is definitely an enabler, she sends him a load of money every week. She knows he has a problem. She also pays for his meds.

Am I an enabler?

We live quite comfortably. I work and we go half with everything to do with the house and living.

I like to think my daughter is not affected?
She has a good life and has routine and is not subjected to his nonsense. She does well at school, and has friends, she is healthy. She is beautiful.

What am I suppose to do?
He refuses NA or rehab.

It breaks my heart. I don’t know how to make it work.
Sometimes I think, it ok, ill except that he uses drugs, But no drugs in the house. It can be controlled somehow.
But then the stealing and lying doesn’t work well with that.
He is so nice, sincere, caring, affectionate, strong, but can be quite a arrogant shit when he’s using, and he looks terrible.

If push comes to shove I will kick him out, or move.

People say something drastic will happen before I do that. Like a accident with my daughter.

Anyway, I guess my first question is, why am I still trying to deal with this?
And second, how could I fix it?
And third how do you live with yourself after your love has hung himself or disappeared forever out of your life?
Is there a way to manage this situation?

Thanks
Candice

Amanda
11:19 am July 17th, 2013

Candice,

It is very likely you will not take my advice. You will be ready to walk away from your boyfriend when you are ready and no sooner, and therefore I write about my story and wrote my book Hope Street, to give others in our situation Hope, a way to see how great life can be without addiction, and not just advice.

I was you, young mother with a daughter, living with an addict. I can promise you one thing, leaving him will be hard, love gets in the way of letting go, but a life without him is better in more ways than you can imagine. He is not going to clean up while living with you, he has no boundaries if he continues to get high, come home and be with both of you despite what he has done. Your daughter may not know exactly what is going on but my daughter is now 9 and they know a lot more than they let on. Do you want her to think this is what a normal father figure is? What would you tell her if she were dating someone like your boyfriend? And if the answer is you would not want her to be with someone like that, then why do you stay?

For a moment imagine a man that comes home every day and spends quality time with you and your child, loves you, respects you and when he says he is going out to the store, he does what he says. Imagine a man that is there for you when you need him and someone you don’t have to take care of or throw on the couch to sleep off his drugs. Imagine even living with your daughter and cute dog and no man and living in a house of peace. I promise you, right now you are just used to living like this but it is not peachy and it cannot be a good example for your child.
At 5 years old I took my child to therapy and found out she knew a lot more than I thought she did and that is why I wrote my book, for her, to show her that I was strong enough to leave and to give her a happy, normal life. I thought living with my husband/addict was normal, we had great times, he was so loving to me, he gave me everything, but what I realized was how could I be happy when every few weeks I was dealing with relapses, strange phone calls, finding pills in my home and much more. I couldn’t and until I physically got up and walked away I could not see how great my life could be on my own terms and not on an addict’s terms.

There are many different kinds of enablers, even if you don’t accept his behavior and put him on the couch, by not leaving him, you ARE accepting his behavior. You have to be strong enough to leave and care enough about yourself to want more for you. You deserve not to be living with this. I heard people tell me this 100X with my husband and I didn’t really hear it and I made excuses and then I stopped talking to those people, but when if finally set in that this was no way to live, a whole new world opened up to me as it will for you.
Good Luck.
Best,
Amanda

Ursula
10:38 pm July 19th, 2013

Hi, That’s realy taugh what you goin through, but I have respect of you that you showing your boundarys when he was using, don’t cook for him, tell that to all his family wow that’s good!! But don’t listen to other people, with that comment your daughter need to have an accident before you kick him out. You know yourself in your Heart when its the right time to do so.!! I wish you strength and encouragement.

Candice
12:26 pm July 23rd, 2013

Thank you. And thanks for the well wishes.

I think everyday that its probably the right time to kick him out. He wont leave.
And you are right there is no way id wish this life on another person, especially my daughter.
So i am being a bad example.
EVERY SINGLE TIME he needs to pop off to the shop I dread it.
And frankly i dont like it when he goes to the loo either.
It isn’t natural…consuming.
He doesn’t think his actions should effect us in a negative way at all.

Anyway, we all have the same story. How messed up is that.

Nobody ever comes out of this as a closely knit family with nooooooo substance abuse?
Need to read your book. What ever happened to your husband?

Candice

Amanda
12:52 pm July 24th, 2013

Candice,

I know that knot you have in your stomach every time you know he is using or wants to. You can ask him to leave and if he won’t then you can. You are worth much more than this. Living with addiction is not a choice for your boyfriend but it is a choice for you and I would chose sanity, happiness, your child over the insane cycle of addiction. I guarantee if you add up all the good times, they don’t hold a candle to all of the bad times. Please read my book, Hope Street, if you can, I have had many people tell them it really helped them to heal and to find hope. I wish you and your daughter the best.
Amanda

Jen
8:55 am February 8th, 2014

I was married to an addict for 16 years and left. I met what I thought was a wonderful, in recovery and working it, man, that I became engaged to, despite vowing to never marry again. It’s almost a year later and guess what, he’s using. I’ve got those sickening feeling in my stomach, I have no car, we we’re saving for one, and we live together. I have a good job and can afford to be on my own, but I am having a very hard time “letting go”. My mind races (I have ADD), and I don’t eat or sleep. I really hate all of this.

Amanda
3:42 pm February 11th, 2014

Jen,
Good for you for getting out of your first relationship. I know how tough that can be.
You were able to get the strength to do that just like you will muster it up again to
make a change in your life now. I know that sick feeling all to well. If you can afford
to be on your own, then you can afford to live without that sick feeling.
There comes a time to look at ourselves and why we keep letting these types of people
into our lives. Are we missing something or is this familiar to us? Are we reliving the past and
since these feelings are all we know, we feel comfortable. I learned much later, that the sick
feeling, the drama and the sadness I lived with my ex-husband was similar to how I felt
growing up with two parents that fought and screamed all of the time. So with my husband, this
uncertainty was familiar to me and therefore, I felt it was normal. You need to be out of that situation long enough to heal yourself and accept love from someone who is a healthy person.
It may feel strange at first, boring even, at first, but having a healthy relationship is the best experience. It took me 12 years of my life, youth wasted on my ex-husband, but I was able to get out alive and find someone who has no issues with addiction, and I promise you, there is nothing like doing laundry, going through the pockets of your husband’s pants and not have that sick feeling in your stomach.
When this happened to me, I wrote about it, it transformed into a book, Hope Street. It was my only solace at the time, but it helped me look back and say, “who is this person?” It helped me and still helps me today realized I never want that life again. When this was going on, I couldn’t let go and although people were telling me I was part of the problem, I couldn’t see it. People can only hurt you if you accept it. I didn’t realize part of my personality was to accept things and
rationalize and love too much. This is not a strength in a relationship with an addict.
Jen, take a look at yourself and know you are worth it.
Of course you hate this, and unfortunately it doesn’t usually get much better.
Amanda

Sarah
2:32 pm May 30th, 2014

Hi, thank you so much for writing this article. After 5 years of being in an on-again/off-again relationship with my drug addict boyfriend, I reached my limit this morning and found this article.

For me the problem has always been letting go of the loving, strong, caring and highly intelligent man that he IS when he’s not using. But last night, when he got his first big pay cheque at his new job, he disappeared again. I’m tired and exhausted of having to worry about him, connect his stories to see if he’s lying to me, and living in fear of when he’ll leave me next.

My only problem is, I don’t hate him. Even though I should after all the humiliation he’s put me through, I don’t have it in me to hate him, I just hate what he does. I can see that he’s battling something that’s very debilitating and I never want to be the persont that puts him down. Having said that, I know it’s time for me to WALK AWAY from our relationship. No matter how in love we are. I think it is best for us both.

My question to you is, do you have any tips on how I can communicate this? As of now, he hasn’t got in touch with me since he left last night. But I’m sure he will. Am I supposed to tell him it’s over? That I don’t love him anymore (because it’s not true..)? That I’m moving on? That we can get back together after “x” amount of months in a rehab program or something? I guess what I’m saying is, should i or shouldn’t I give him a hope for us?

What’s the best way to communicate why I’m choosing to leave something so amazing we share because of his problem? I guess, my constant efforts to not make him feel bad that he’s got an addiction is my problem here. Is there a way to not make someone feel bad for their mistakes but still put your foot down when it comes to what you won’t tolerate anymore, i.e. deceit and drugs?

Sorry if this is complicated. Thank you reading my comment and posting this article.

gina
9:32 pm May 31st, 2014

Thank you so much,i am new to your site,my husband is an addict,, i now know that im on the right track,its really hard living with an addict,,the lieing,stealing,aruging and never keeping a job and yet you try to help and suport them, i kicked my husband out three months ago and i tell you i really fill at pease ,i love him very much,but i know that i will never be happy with his addiction, my question is how do remain friends with out trying to munipulate you to give them another chance,it will never happen because i have five years of bitterness inside of me, but i do want the best for him and i pray for him everday, that the lord deliver him from this and i know that he will ,in due time, he jast have to want it but as for now i am so very happy thinks to this wed site.

Amanda Andruzzi
2:50 pm June 2nd, 2014

Dear Sarah and Gina,
I am writing to you both from the room of my dying grandmother. I have been crying all morning and I have not wept this hard since my ex-husband disappeared because of his addiction. Being here is a reminder that life is short and should be lived well.
I truly understand your struggles and your pain, but you both have a choice. You can continue to live and worry about your loved one or you can chose to let them go with love. I can promise you that if you move on for real, you will find a serenity and happiness that will allow you to thrive and flourish. You both deserve to be happy. Sometimes it is best to stop all contact with the addict because it gives you distance, time to heal, grow and get strong again. If you need a reason to give to your loved one to leave them, it can simply be that you are not happy and need to move on so that you can be.
You can still love the person you are leaving but you need to love yourself more. An addict will lie, pull on your heart strings and you could be right back to square one. The only way for you to really live a full and happy life is to get healthy and I assure you that happier and healthier relationships will follow.
If you keep in contact with someone who is sick, it will keep you sick. This is your time to get better.
Please read my memoir Hope Street, I wrote it to help others because I have been exactly where you are. If you can not afford the book, email me personally and I will get it to you. The book will take you through my journey and show you there is not only a way out but a great life afterwards.
In honor of my grandmother, who helped me move on, I aspire, as it sounds you both do, to live my life happily and to the very fullest.
Best,
Amanda

Wendy
3:03 pm June 13th, 2014

Hi there, thanks for the advice here. My partner is an alcoholic, I moved out of his house last year because I couldnt stand his behaviour and his drinking habits that often lead to more stress and financial problems. He becomes this raging drunk but he is completely opposite when sober. When I left, i started reclaiming my life back. I went back to my hobbies, live solo in my house and in control of my finances etc, im quite happy about these. It took time for him to realise to seek help in at Al-Anon. He was in total denial before. When he told me he was serious going to AA and be sober, I also thought maybe its good to give it another go. Since then, I come with him to meetings as I am quite interested about the disease and also be his support. We decided we want to fix the relationship. I know he really wants to recover but really struggling on keeping sober, something like his brain telling him he needs the drink like food. He had a minor slip before (not to point of drunkeness) that made him feel guilty and start putting more effort to the steps and go back to his calendar again. I keep reminding him about consequences if he wants to go back in that kind of life again and lose everything again. He appreciates me for doing that. BUT I am so disappointed today for his recent relapsed caused by his enabling mother….

i remember when i was living with him, his mother gets overbearing and tends to get over involved with us. She “loves” her son so much she kept defending, funding him, cover-up and bail him everytime he got into trouble when he was younger.. I got so pissed off one time when she bought him bourbon and I had to put up with the violent behaviour when he got drunk. His mother even told me put a pillow everytime he passes out on the floor, she told me “this is how i care for my ex-husband before” (wth?) everytime i tried to convice him not to drink, his mother calls me “controlling” or “trying to change him” or “trying to be his mother”.

His mother did it again today and my partner relapsed after weeks of sobriety (like i said he just started again his calendar after a minor slip) She gave him smokes and booze and money. I got so disappointed when I visited him today. he looked so guilty when i left.
i dont know what to do, how to support him if his mother is always an active enabler for his active addiction.. Its hard to have a relationship while addiction is active. Its hard to reason out with his mother, its frustrating but I care for my partner! I just keep ignoring his calls today, there’s no point of talking while he is drunk! I dont need unecessary stress! Anyone can give me advice to my situation? What should i do?

Amanda Andruzzi
12:00 pm June 14th, 2014

Wendy,
It sounds like you have successfully pulled yourself out of a non functional relationship. When an addict is sober, you can see glimpses of a person you love and it can feel so amazing. The truth is, the disease, if an addict is not in full recovery, and sometimes even if they are is a viable part of who they are.

When it comes to his mother, it is apparent that she is a co-addict. She is stuck in a cycle that has nothing to do with you. She loves her son and she is not ready to detach so he can actually get better. Some people have their own issues that they are hiding from so they like focusing on and taking care of someone in order to put the focus somewhere else . Also the parent/child dynamic with addiction is much different. Her love is unconditional and it is hard for her to see the difference between enabling and simply loving her son. He will have to be healthy enough to break from her or vice versa for recovery to stick or he will always be able to use.

I think you already know the answer to your own question and this may be hard to hear, but that peace that you feel when you are in charge of your own life will not be restored until you let him go. It is so hard to stop helping someone you love especially when you know the potential they have, but this is not your fight. Remaining in his life will only hurt you because he is not ready. Please read my article in this blog, “zero tolerance: help for families” to help you with some tips about this topic. Addiction is a cycle that will repeat itself, as you have probably already noticed. Your only responsibility and power lies in helping yourself.

Best,
Amanda Andruzzi

Charlene
1:49 pm June 25th, 2014

Hi , I called the police on my alcoholic husband this weekend in order to get him out of the house . I did it because I had asked him to move his things to the basement and in doing so he had a rifle that we had for protection ( I had removed the amo a long time ago) I have great job and own the house my problem is emotional . I have such guilt and remorse for throwing him out. The gun situation was the last straw because he insisted I give him the shells because he bought them. I know I sound ridiculous , but I can’t stop crying for having given up on hm.

Amanda Andruzzi
11:38 am June 26th, 2014

Charlene,
I understand how you feel. You have every right to feel upset because it is an upsetting situation. Every person needs time to grieve a loss but also understand that not only did you do the right thing, you made a gesture to save yourself from an unhealthy relationship.
Moving on is never easy but things do seem worse before they get better, but they will get better. If you can focus on that it will help guide you through the pain. You did not give up on your husband, when someone chooses to use, then it is they who have given up.

Addiction is a sordid process that sometimes you need to remove yourself from because it can make you sick too.

You called the police because you went with your gut which was that you needed this to stop! You should never feel guilt over protecting yourself from someone who is hurting you. In fact, by making him leave, you are probably helping him hit bottom.

Now is the time to get strong and go for help that focuses on your recovery; al-anon, therapy, reading books or anything you can do to help you heal.
I can promise you, with your husband gone, slowly but surely, the peace of not living with addiction will be an amazing feeling, just give yourself some time.
Best,
Amanda Andruzzi
Hopestreetmemoir.com

Charlene
3:00 pm June 26th, 2014

Amanda,

Thank You for responding . Everything you said makes perfect sense. I just have a need to hear it over and over again . I’m staying strong this time .

Your blog helps because I don’t feel so alone. I’m going to counseling already and will give al Amon another try. I just worry that I will meet with a room full of people who have decided to stay. Last time I went that was what I encountered .

Amanda Andruzzi
12:09 pm June 27th, 2014

Charlene,
My best friend in the whole world, the one who insisted I publish my memoir about co-addiction, Hope Street, because she watched me with my ex husband for 12 years, ended up marrying an alcoholic. I thought that she, of all people, would know the life you are in for when you choose an addict as a partner. She is a professional and is beautiful. When things started to fall apart for her, I was on the other side this time. Unfortunately this whole cycle is irrational and unpredictable. I told her how Al-anon did not work for me because it was a room full of people who we’re learning how to live with am addict and that was not going to be my future. She found a group that was the opposite, she found many women who left and moved.
I wouldn’t rule anything out until you try it, it is better right now to go for all the help you can get. But believe me, I left, and it was the best decision I ever made. I took time for me and a healthy relationship found me this time. I am happily remarried and having my third child. I have no contact with my ex husband nor does he with his daughter. My story was an extreme situation but to get out I focused on the fact those I knew that moved on and gained their strength back and went on to healthier lives. I knew I deserved that.
I no longer get anxiety when doing the laundry, for fear of what drug I might find in my husbands pocket and when he leaves I don’t question what state he will return home in. This new reality is something I appreciate more than anything.
Best,
Amanda Andruzzi,
HopeStreetMemoir[dot]com

Holly
10:12 pm June 28th, 2014

My husband has an addiction to pornography, he doesn’t always tell me when he has gone into it and I feel he should. I ask him to tell me, but I wonder, is this stopping my recovery? I have in the past checked his phone etc to see if he has gone into it, I have tried to stop and did pretty well for a while, but have started to check his computer and I feel I am getting pulled back in. I always checked because he wasn’t telling me and I feel I have a right to know…but do I really? Is it best to leave it up to him if he wants to tell me or not and do I need to accept it if he doesn’t?

Amanda Andruzzi
11:18 am June 30th, 2014

Holly,
My experience with this type of experience is limited but I do believe all addiction and co-addiction scenarios have similar characteristics regarding behavior. It sounds like your husband is involved in a behavior that consumes him and isolates you. In turn, you are feeling the negative affects on your relationship and intimacy with him.
With all addictive behaviors, we have to take responsibility only for ourselves because we cannot be responsible for another persons actions; only our own reactions.
You are on the right track, checking up on him is only making you feel worse and it is not stopping him. I would continue to get healthier and the healthier you become, either your husband will see this and be inspired to get better and be a part of it or go the other direction. Either way it is out of your control. You can set boundaries and express that you are unhappy and that you both need to seek counseling or you cannot continue on with your relationship.
If I were in your shoes, I would help myself first and take the focus of off what he is doing, even though it hurts, then when you are okay, you can deal with whether or not his addiction is something you want to live with or if you need to move on. Check out my article on Zero Tolerance for Drug Addiction, some of the concepts may be helpful to you.
Best,
Amanda Andruzzi
Hopestreetmemoir[dot]com

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About Amanda Andruzzi

Amanda Andruzzi is a Certified Health Coach, founder of Symptom-Free Wellness and Hamptons SUP, and the author of Hope Street. Her first book, Hope Street memoir is an inspirational story of one woman's frightening journey of co-addiction that led her to uncover courage, unbelievable strength and overcome great adversity. She resides with her daughter, husband, and 1 year old son on the North Fork of Long Island.