It’s okay to love an addict. It just won’t resemble the Hallmark-type of love depicted in the card aisle at the store—not even close.

The twisted love of addiction—turns into knots in your stomach, water in your eyes and wavering in your voice. The pain and loss can leave you with a broken, conflicted heart and fractured psyche. At times, it seems impossible to love them enough—and other times, difficult to love them at all.

What makes loving an addict so hard? Because they don’t always love you back.

Much of the time, their love for you is conditional; dependent on their mood or what they want from you. It’s easy to be confused and then you get sucked in. Love is love, you reason, so you cave in and pay another bill, drop everything to hear their voice, or act as though their past behavior hasn’t harmed you – because you love them no matter what. You take what you can get because you want them to love you, and you desperately want your love to save them.

It’s easy to mistake the effort expended on those you care for as unconditional love, but that’s not always what it is. Instead, you may have adopted behaviors disguised as love (fixing, rescuing, obsessing, settling, begging, etc.) with the hope of obtaining an outcome that you prefer. Heroic efforts seem noble, but unless they come with a cape and help you fly, they are exhausting and futile.

Still, it’s okay to love an addict, but can you love them in a way that causes less harm to yourself? Maybe, just maybe, you could love a bit differently.

What is unconditional love?

Unconditional love for another helps them grow as a human being regardless of petty annoyances, irritabilities, or unfortunate circumstances. It does not mean being complicit in another’s addiction or permitting them to inflict harm upon you.

Love isn’t always easy to express when emotions run high and fluctuate frequently. Bracing yourself for the next crisis keeps you rigid and tense. Setting limitations that protect you – and won’t enable the addict – doesn’t always come naturally. It can seem like you’re withholding love from them when they need it the most, and that feels wrong – especially to a mother – who would often give her life for her child.

You forget to take care of yourself in the midst of it. Everything for them and nothing for you, or anyone else. You’ve gained a heart of steel, but it is numb.

You are not alone. I see you. I know how hard you’re trying, but forgetting about the good things that still exist in your life won’t save your loved one. It just leaves you in pieces, and that won’t help either one of you.

So, how do you practice unconditional love with your loved one and yourself? Here are some tips from my experience:

  1. Start first by loving yourself. Forget about stoicism. It’s a drag on your energy. Forgive yourself for not being able to fix everything. Stop blaming yourself for not handling each situation or conversation perfectly. When your reactions or words are unbecoming or completely out of touch—grant yourself some grace and try to handle things differently the next time.
  1. Accept your loved one as they are, without trying to change them or make everything better. You aren’t powerful enough to heal another human being, but you can leave deposits of love when you’re coming from a healthy place yourself.
  1. Don’t expect them to heal your wounded heart. It’s not their responsibility. No one is capable of healing your heart except you (and a Higher Guidance if you have one). Start to heal by reclaiming your life instead of obtaining your worth from another’s actions or words. Enjoy the simple things around you (a bath, the smell of candles, flowers, a movie, good food and friends). Get out in nature. It will remind you that you are part of something much bigger. Do something that you love. It will make you smile.
  1. Retain an open (albeit broken) heart A vulnerable heart can give and receive the love it desires. A hardened heart is driven by motives trying to protect itself from further harm and is impenetrable.

Love whoever is around to be loved. Start with your family. Be open to sharing love with a neighbor, a friend, a coworker, and the people that are part of your everyday life. Don’t store it up waiting for the day your loved one gets better. Love others in the same way you wish they would love your addict.

Accept love from others. There are people around you who care for you, but you must believe that you deserve it. Remember that your loved one’s addiction isn’t a reflection of your worth. Share your feelings with others in a similar position. Let them walk with you on your journey. You are not alone in your feelings and fears.

We all need love. Don’t deprive yourself or others of love because your addicted loved one can’t presently embrace or express it. Open your arms and embrace yourself, embrace others, and embrace life. It’s the best way to get through tough times. Your presence in the world matters. Remember to show up for yourself. You are worth it!

Namaste ~ (The Divine in Me, Recognizes the Divine in You)

Cyndee Rae Lutz