Have you ever felt mad at yourself after a conversation with your addicted loved one that didn’t go as intended?
Your intentions were noble. You planned to keep your mouth shut, but they found your trigger and the words came tumbling out. Before you knew it, you were in a quandary – trying to restate what you said and back pedal to a calmer state of mind. Inevitably, the damage was done and you grimace at another lost opportunity for connection.
When you love an addict, both people are hurting.
Your loved one is hurting, even though you may not always know why. Lack of self-worth, conflicted emotions, trauma, or mental illness often lurk right below addiction, and these contributing factors can be hard to discern, especially as substance abuse becomes the bigger issue.
You harbor anger at being mistreated and manipulated, left to deal with the chaos and mess they create. Your anxiety runs high around their confusing behavior and you’re worn out from trying to figure out how things could possibly end well.
What do both parties have in common? Pain.
Pain causes two hurt individuals to recoil from one another – not because they don’t care about each other – but because of the friction and angst created when their pain butts up against the others’ and gets agitated; resurrecting unhealed wounds and deteriorating what’s left of a confused relationship.
The tendency during addiction is to seek relief by blaming the other’s choices for one’s unhappiness; wanting them to change their behavior without modifying your own and vice versa. When your happiness becomes dependent upon someone else’s behavior or choices, you’ve become officially codependent – ugh.
The truth is, sometimes the harsh words feel good; you want them to hurt just as much as you do. You think that when they see the depth of your pain that it’ll make them change, but it rarely works and you end up shouldering the guilt and responsibility for your unkind (even if true) words.
Hurt people do indeed hurt other people.
Nothing’s normal during addiction. Neither party is able to love the other as well as they’d like. At least one person needs to adjust their behavior in order for future interactions to change, and it’s not likely to be your addicted loved one. Are you strong enough to be that person? Are you willing to try a new approach in order to bring about a different dialogue?
Five Keys to Better Interactions:
- Let go of expectations. Accept what is. Don’t hold out hope that they’ll “see the light” because you speak so convincingly that it alters their behavior.
- Keep your opinions to yourself – unless they specifically ask for them.
- Don’t take their insults personally. This is difficult, but they’re not really meant for you. They don’t know how to direct or express their pain any differently.
- Act from your worth and not from your pain. Make positive changes in your own life instead of depending upon their behavior for your happiness. Love yourself more, in order to love them better.
- You don’t deserve hostile behavior. Redirect the conversation using phrases such as, “I’m not going to discuss this topic, we can change it or I’ll need to leave” or “I need the tone of this conversation to change, or I’m going to hang up” – and then do it.
You can portray a strong example, set the manner and boundaries for your relationship. Keep in mind that you will not do this perfectly, so don’t expect everything to change and become different immediately.
Your loved one’s behavior may never change, but your future encounters can. There may still be tense and perhaps regrettable moments when your pain speaks louder than your love. That’s okay. Learn from it and try again. Speaking from experience, I can assure you that you’ll have plenty more opportunities to practice!
Namaste – The divine in me recognizes the divine in you.
Cyndee Rae Lutz, Author “When Your Heart Belongs to an Addict – A Healing Perspective”