“There is no emergency kit for marriage...
No neat plan you can turn to when
the ground shifts under your feet.”
living with an addict
Few experience the level of confusion, betrayal, and devastation as those who are hurt by the ones they love most. If you are a partner, sibling, adult child, parent, friend, etc. living with an Addict of any kind, your life probably feels out of control at best, in a tailspin at worst. It can feel like the very ground beneath you has shaken. Nothing feels stable.
does this sound familiar?
Extreme and rapid mood swings/irritability
Increased depression (lethargy) and/or anxiety (hyperarousal)
Shut down, numb, or checked out
Disturbed sleep (insomnia, nightmares, etc.)
Checking behaviors and ruminating (spinning) thoughts
Physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, aches, and pains, etc.
A constant sense of tension and mistrust in your relationship with the Addict
Guilt and resentment (often simultaneously)
Spend ten minutes watching television, and it's clear that there is plenty of help for the Addict once they decide to get sober. There are meetings and support groups, elaborate treatment centers, and endless professionals who specialize in addiction.
But who is there for you?
Those living with an addict in their life are often expected to focus on, and support, the addict’s recovery while their own very traumatic experience is overlooked or minimized. When they are unable to express the appropriate support for the addict's progress, addiction and psychotherapy professionals often label them as "co-dependent," implying that their behavior played some role in the addict’s behavior. They are often expected to move into forgiveness, understanding, and support without any acknowledgement of the effects of the crisis on them, the relationship, or other family members.
Simply put, co-dependency is "an addiction to trying to fix someone." Many symptoms of co-dependency may match a Partner's symptoms. You may feel that you have some of the qualities that fit that of the co-dependent. But living with someone who has betrayed you or with a sex addict creates an environment that is fundamentally unsafe and insecure. You are probably walking on eggshells, just waiting for the next shoe to drop. So you find yourself investigating and checking up on the addict. You're reactive and angry, depressed and anxious. And you're isolating due to the shame. This behavior is not necessarily co-dependency. These are the signs of a wounded Partner desperately seeking safety. And from that perspective, the behavior makes sense.
The saddest part about this dynamic is, in the wake of all of this neglect, relationships often explode, end, break, or become irreparably wounded. Broken relationships are never in the best interest of the Addict or anyone else.
Addiction is a relationship disease.
The Addict isn't the only victim of Addiction. Everyone around the Addict is a victim. Sobriety is not enough. In order for the relationships with an Addict to survive and thrive, both Addict and those living with an Addict in their life must be allowed to wholly and completely heal from the experience together with a "felt sense," in order to create a renewed sense of safety.