My personal story: Difficulty letting go
When I divorced my husband because of his drug addiction, I thought my life was over. Much like an addict I tried to fill the void in my heart with other things. Work, dating, and crying only helped a little at first but the hole was still there, inside me. I could not describe it to anyone and truly explain the depth of my pain.
I could not live with it anymore and I could not let it go.
It was invisible to others but it was the thorn in my side, the perpetual ache that only I could see and feel. People would ask me how I was doing and I would say I was fine. Those are the lies that the partner of an addict are used to telling. Everything was not fine, it had not been fine for years and it was not fine even though I left.
Things seem worse before they get better
People will tell you that you are better off when you leave an addict but no one tells you that for a while things may seem worse before they get better. When you are in the middle of that situation, you do not feel like things ever will be better.
So, what’s getting in the way of your freedom? We explore more about letting go and issues of control here…from someone who’s been there and back. More from Amanda on losing and letting go. Then, we invite your stories, questions, or sharing in the comments section at the end.
The illusion of control
Let’s be honest. You have become obsessed with the addict and trying to help them control their addiction throughout the relationship. You checked up on them, escorted them to the hospital when they overdosed, checked bank accounts and credit cards to see where their money went, and searched for them when they disappeared to bring them home. You did so many things to try and keep the addict on the right path. If your partner is sick, then it is justifiable for you to try and help them because they are so out of control.
Just because you leave the addict, the need to control and take care of things does not magically disappear. It’s difficult to stop helping an addict. That control issue is now yours and what you do with it is a choice, not a life sentence. But many times instead of letting go, we continue to try to help and protect because it is the last shred of control we have over our own lives.
Most of us leave because we were unsuccessful in controlling the addict. The only control you ever have over an addict was an illusion. When was the last time an active addict told you something and you actually believed them? When did any of your actions ever change the outcome of an addict’s choice to use drugs?
Control: A way of life
Even after you leave an addict, you may wait around for a text, a phone call, or some sign that the addict is okay and not getting out of control. The worry and the knot in your stomach remain even though the addict is not. You wonder if you made the right choice because without you there, you know the addict is going to completely fall apart. You do not know another way to live because trying to:
…the situation are the only words in your vocabulary and have been for a long time.
If you leave an addict you are still going to have to deal with the behaviors which were part of your everyday reality.
YOU are out of control
What happens after you leave an addict? When the addict is no longer in your life and you lose the illusion of control, you start to realize how out of control you are. Your emotions, feelings, sense of loss, abandonment, lack of self-love and fear are overwhelming. The person you let down the most is … you.
SUGGESTION #1: Learn about yourself
The most important part of leaving an addict is to learn about you. To learn about you means to give yourself the love and understanding that you once had for the addict and realize that you do not have to hold down the fort anymore. You can learn that you are allowed to be you again.
The transition from crisis mode, caretaker, and responsible party to an independent individual again can be scary. Through living with an addict, the co-addict (a person addicted to an addict) can lose the ability to know how to live without trying to control everything around them. Furthermore, if you do not know who YOU are, then this pattern will repeat in future relationships because the fears that you are not good enough remain. The lack of self-awareness and confidence will attract the wrong person over and over again in your life.
SUGGESTION #2: Relearn how to live
Still, the hardest part of leaving is learning how to live again.
It is imperative that after leaving an addict that a person goes through a period of self-discovery so that they can re-define who they are without the addict. Without this step, the same patterns will continue with the same addict or even in new relationships.
If you do not know who YOU are, your likes and dislikes, what you want from life, and what drives you, then it would be impossible to know where you want to be and what you need to change in order to get there. It is highly improbable that you will be able to make life changes if you do not discover who you are without the addict.
SUGGESTION #3: Test and celebrate your journey
Leaving an addict is a journey that allows you to modify your life and follow a new path. Learning how to live again, achieving self-love, independence, awareness and confidence are the keys to moving on with your life. Once you get your life back and are in a healthier place, you will never second guess the decision you made to leave.