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What happens after you leave or lose an addict? The 5 Stages of Loss

Have you just left a relationship with an addict or lost someone you love to addiction?

Sometimes, knowing when to stop helping an addict can be a life-changer. Because we focus so much on the addict when we are in a relationship with them, once we have committed to leaving, we do not know what to do with ourselves. So much of our energy was given to their addiction and trying to save them that we lose our own identity. For most of us, the fears we felt about leaving confront us head on.

We have the time to ponder all of the “what ifs” we have discussed in previous articles that have kept us from leaving. Here, we address what you can expect when you DO LEAVE. We’ll review the Stages of Loss that are fairly predictable, and then offer you a section to share your story at the end. As always, we try to respond to all real comments personally and promptly.

What to expect when addiction takes it all

When you leave empty-handed from a traumatic situation where there was no resolution you do not gain the closure most of us desire. Even if you are the one who decides to leave, loving an addict who rarely gives you the thanks and the recognition you deserve still hurts. You spent years loving them and trying to help them. In fact, many years are spent for most people trying to get the addict to see them and recognize that they would do anything to help them recover.

Leaving an addict can make your whole time with them feel meaningless. Coupled with the lack of gratitude and love you would expect to gain from your bold statement, you may also have anger, disgust and hate thrown at you on the way out the proverbial door. But the truth is that addicts affect families in negative ways. And there is a time to leave.

When I finally left the addict for good, I thought I would be immediately relieved but there was a period of time where uncontrollable emotions would come in stages.

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It was Valentine’s Day, three months after I left my husband, and he had completely abandoned my daughter as a father so I had a great deal of anger towards him. But when the day came I cried like I hadn’t in months. I saw people buying flowers, heard friends making reservations for romantic dinners and I was a single, struggling mother trying to support myself and a child.

I got wind that he had a new girlfriend, a young stripper, and I felt the most horrific void and sense of loss and betrayal. Although I knew he was an active addict and that nothing he did meant much, I took a step backwards that day.

5 Stages of Loss

When you leave, there will be a period of time where emotions run high and you will experience stages of loss. Similar to the stages of loss when a loved one passes away, I will give you my personal account of the stages of loss you may experience when letting go and leaving an addict.

Stage One: Denial and Rationalizing

This stage is shock. We leave and try to convince ourselves that we are doing the right thing and that if we leave maybe the addict will get help and come back to us. We keep tabs on the addict in small ways but deny that there is anything wrong with that. “I just want to make sure he/she is okay.”

The truth is that we are shocked the addict is not trying hard enough to make changes and win us back. This is a shock and a fear come true for most of us.

Stage Two: Anger

When we start to realize that the addict is moving on without us (in theory) and that we are left a broken mess, we can start to become angry. When reality kicks in we need a defense mechanism which usually comes in the form of rage. We want to know why we weren’t good enough to change for or why we are stuck paying the bills and raising the children while they are out still getting high. Each situation is different; however, if the addict leaves you, anger can be even worse because it was not our decision.

Stage Three: Negotiation

When the anger subsides and we realize that the addict is definitely no longer a part of our lives and perhaps still using or in recovery we tend to start bargaining. We start to wonder if we had done this or that differently, maybe the outcome would have been different.

Stage Four: Sadness and Depression

When all of the emotions that blind us to the feelings we must go through subside, depression may make its entrance. We no longer can justify, rationalize, negotiate, and make excuses for an addict’s behavior, indifference, lack of love for us and so on. We may realize that this is really the end and go through a very rough period of sadness.

Stage Five: Acceptance and Moving On

This is simply the stage where you are sick and tired of feeling the way you are and you may start to realize that you want more out of life than what you had with the addict. You start to feel a freedom and independence you have not had since before the relationship and you find a sense of hope for a new life ahead of you. This may take time and for some years but if you keep persistent in your own recovery, this can happen sooner than later.

Take heart! Emotions are not permanent

It is important to keep in mind that things are going to change as you go through these or your own set of stages. These feelings will not last forever so go through them and do not avoid them so that you can go through loss appropriately and not have chronic “relapses” of these stages later.

Dealing with loss is ultimately a deeply subjective and singular experience — nobody can help you go through it more easily or understand all the emotions that you’re going through. But allow others, especially those who have had success with moving on, to be there for you and help comfort you through this process.

My main suggestion? Give yourself the opportunity to feel the grief as it comes over you. Fighting it only will prolong the normal process of healing.

Photo credit: jamoluk

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11 Responses to “What happens after you leave or lose an addict? The 5 Stages of Loss
Julie
12:45 am April 14th, 2016

This article was very helpful to me, I have left a hundred times in my mind, and it was good to hear that it won’t be easy, but can be done, helped me out a lot. Thank you.

Amanda Andruzzi
12:27 pm April 15th, 2016

Julie,
Glad to hear it helped. If you do the work and take the steps, you can absolutely let go. I am living proof.
Amanda Andruzzi, published author, Hope Street, a memoir from the wife of an addict View the Video BOOK Trailer: http://sbprabooks.com/amandaandruzzi/video/

Andy
4:21 am April 23rd, 2016

I think is great that somebody can openly write about this and it will be accepted by the society, is not easy to say things like this when so many people suffer from it, I appreciate people like this, I got a glimpse at what people like do and is great that today there are some many options to get help, is better to address it than to ignore it.

Amarie
5:26 am April 28th, 2016

This article help me a lot. Im still with my husband and his been sober for 2 yrs. Until this month and everythings is so hard now we have a six month old baby. This article made me realize other things. Thank you and may God bless us all.

Lizette
11:56 pm June 22nd, 2016

Amanda,
Thank you so much for you insights. I am in the process of tearing myself away from my addict. It is the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. He is so wonderful on so many levels and then at the same time his can be a nightmare. It is like living with Jekyll and Hyde. I keep calling him up and having long meaningful conversations with him that make me feel better in the moment, but I know that he has lied to me, and manipulated me for almost 6 years now (always around his addiction). I really don’t know what on earth to do because I just don’t feel even remotely strong enough to do what I need to do and leave him. I moved out on the weekend and it is only Wednesday now and I’m begging him to take me back. He says he’s keen to go to couples therapy and is open to discussing solutions. He has, granted, finally admitted that he is an addict. He says he wants to take a deep look at his life and sort out his problems. For the first time ever, he has gone to his family (parents) and discussed the problems with them. It took me 6 years of “working at him” to get him to the point where he seems to acknowledge his problem. But I wonder if he isn’t just saying it to just shut me up. Believe you me, he will say anything that is expedient. He now talks about “working on himself” and perhaps going away for a month or two to somewhere/anywhere away from his home town to “find himself”. This was his dad’s idea. I don’t think he has made it clear to his family how serious his problem is. I am not convinced that his latest “acknowledgement/admission” isn’t just a form of pretense, pretending to himself that going on a trip to think about things is a good idea. I think he should go to rehab personally. I also think that he is actually not that interested in having me in his life although he seems to say he wants to work things out with me.

I have gone through all your articles and I know I have to leave this guy. I just don’t know how to stop being a doormat, get through my fear and just do it.

Chasity
3:39 am June 26th, 2016

I’m in the depression stage and it has been tough. My boyfriend of over 2 years lied about his cocaine use for a while. Eventually I noticed cocaine below his nose, he would vanish for a while when we were out and I even found drug paraphenelia with cocaine residue on it. I was devastated. It killed me but I found the strength to leave. I even called child welfare and he is no longer allowed to see his kids even though they lived with their bio mom and he only had visitation rights (he also had some criminal involvement). He doesn’t think he needs help which sometimes make me question whether or not I did the right thing calling child welfare particularly since he tells me he never used when they were with him. Despite this all it kills me that he didn’t quit using for me or his kids. I’m struggling and really depressed. This article helped provide hope that it will pass…eventually.

Amanda Andruzzi
10:14 pm July 1st, 2016

Lizette,
Have you read Hope Street? If not, please do because I know it will help you. I wrote it to help others feel understood and to inspire them. The reason I am urging you to read it is because you have been through this for a long time and yes, the things he is doing right now are to placate you and he will not get better on his own. Addicts need help and if he is downplaying it to his parents, he is not ready to admit how bad it is and how much he needs help. He has not yet hit bottom. Please also try al-anon and try to realize that you are worth it. You can love someone but they may not be good for you. You have to find self-love again because you need it now more than ever. You have this little light of hope that he will change but you could spend your whole life waiting for this to happen. I really know what I am talking about and I know that you need to move on but that starts with letting go, completely. Hope Street will help.
Amanda Andruzzi, published author, Hope Street, a memoir from the wife of an addict
View the video book trailer: http://sbprabooks.com/amandaandruzzi/video/

Amanda Andruzzi
10:17 pm July 1st, 2016

Chasity,
Please don’t give you, you are almost there. If the depression is severe though, seek some support, a therapist, cognitive behavioral therapy and getting out there again. You need to start living life and doing the things you used to love until you find joy in them again. You have to work on your own healing and the issues that brought you to this man. You need self-love and the ability to put your needs and wants first and realize that you can have them, just not with him.
Amanda Andruzzi, published author, Hope Street, a memoir from the wife of an addict
View the video book trailer: http://sbprabooks.com/amandaandruzzi/video/

Shelly
7:17 pm August 16th, 2016

I had an addict husband back in the 1990’s. I was a recovering addict myself,being clean and sober for 10 years.what I didn’t know was how I repeated the pattern in the family line,so to speak.married for 6 months and all hell breaks loose.He started using,becoming verbally abusive to myself and my 6 year old son. I didn’t believe I could leave,due to the doctrines thru church and the pastor who told me I was the stronger one.Therefore playing victim in my marriage till God changed my husband.All the while trying to stay clean myself.After so many years of this spiritual,physical,emotional,mental abuse,I lost it,all.Tried and tried to fix him.Dragging him to detoxes.Hospitals.Seperating,going back,it would be be different this time.It never was,only worse.My poor child suffered due to my sickness,addicted to my husband? To the abuse?Control?Amazing the arenas we switch our addictions to. I ended up relasping into my first addiction,via drugs and alcohol.It either that or a major mental breakdown.How could Gods will be this,after everything He had brought me thru Years prior?Atlast no more hope…..hope deferred makes the heart sick.Selfmedicating became all in all.A double whammy on my son.In the end of the stages,surrender happened,hitting a different bottom,different storyline.A new chapter in the life of this dysfunctional person enfolded.I left,for good,as I would soon die if didn’t change.I had to go across the country . It had to be far,for I lived in fear of my life.Got on methadone.I learned I done same thing as mother did.Wow!I had married my father image.Took on mothers rôle.How could this be?After all, I had been in recovery before.All is well now.Alanon,Acoa,issues saved my life.Im codependent.Switching arenas,as I call it.This is my story.like weeds in you’re garden,pull them out by the ROOTS.If you just cut them,they will come back,in many arenas.

Amanda Andruzzi
10:27 pm October 18th, 2016

Shelly,
I agree, if you don’t get down to the core of the issues you have, they will always come back in another shape and form. You broke the cycle and that is a rarity. I am glad for you and your son.
Amanda Andruzzi, published author, Hope Street, a memoir from the wife of an addict
View the video book trailer: http://sbprabooks.com/amandaandruzzi/video/

Edward
3:47 pm November 16th, 2016

I have a niece, bless her, that is currently in recovery and her treatment is progressing well. She does not know that her ex-boyfriend is in contact with me, wanting to know regularly how she’s doing, etc. I know he loves her unconditionally and wants to see her when she is ready. I’m trying to give him the best advice I can. What would you say to him? I’d appreciate your guidance.

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About Amanda Andruzzi

Amanda Andruzzi, MPH, AADP, CHES, is a Certified Health Coach, founder of Symptom-Free Wellness, 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 two sons in Florida.

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