Spiritual lifestyle advice and guidance for modern women from bestselling author Alice Grist.
The Other Half of Addiction
I have a confession. My husband is an addict (in recovery - thank you goddess).
There are times I have alluded to this in my books. There are even more times I have utterly dismissed it, even to myself. There are times I have raised a glass, with him, to his health, to our happiness, and then regretted it as one glass, becomes two and little did I know he had a few before in secret anyway.
I am the ‘other half’ of an addicted person. And it is galling. It is devastating to write this. Yet in my latest book, Dirty & Divine (March 2017 – Womancraft Publishing), I finally confronted the fact that this is real. It isn’t just a bad weekend. It isn’t just a bit of a bad habit. It is a dependency, one that I played into for many years. One that I now wish to escape, and yet find myself mired beside.
I am a spiritual person. I believe all things come about with purpose. When I strode out onto the very personal tarot journey detailed within Dirty and Divine, I did not expect one of the key themes of that book to be alcoholism. I dreamed of adventures with my daughters, creative journeys indulged, meaningful meditation and perhaps a little magic. But instead I got booze, and arguments, and finally, confession.
So my path opens wide ahead of me. The sacred journey I am treading right now, in part, is the hand holding recovery of an alcoholic. What I have discovered along this path is that there is very, very little support for the other half of an addict. And woe betide me to say this, but the addict, lovely as they may be, tends to make it all about them. For it is their crux and cross to bear. But what about the family and loved ones of that person? How do they cope, soulfully, lovingly, spiritually to ensure their wellbeing is not depleted by the actions and addictions of a person who is paramount in their lives?
My first desire, upon encountering this situation (and it does tend to become cyclical – every so often an addict will pipe up that they have a problem, but soon it is hidden and feistily discounted), is to cut my losses and leave. Because this is too much. I am not an addicted kind of person. When I smoked, I would go days without even thinking or needing it. I did it for fun. Then I just stopped. Easy as that. I don’t enjoy drugs or alcohol enough to want to consume them, socially or secretly. They are just an option, that I tend to leave.
My crutch, if anything, is my spirituality. That harms nobody. Indeed it tends to be something many of my readers and clients find loving and helpful. So if I am addicted to anything, it is to the pursuit of a spirited wellbeing. So when I find out I’m thoroughly shacked up with a dude who is dependent upon substances, quite, quite dependent, I want to freak and get the hell out.
Yet I didn’t. And sometimes I don’t know why. The addict is unsure of who he is. And I think I see him more clearly. I see the loving father. The thoughtful chocolate bringer. The guy who cuts the grass when I can never be bothered. The moodiness and dark cloud aspect of his personality was previously channeled into songs and music, and so therefore, it was cool and romantic. Since the songs and music have dried up, and the kids and domesticity has taken over. The moods and depressive tendencies are just that, grim, foreboding, unwelcome.
There is little help for me. I take my spirit and I walk it around the house. I indulge it in the arms of my little kids. I pretend, fervently that all is well. Because, as it happens, I am quite happy. I’m lucky like that. I find contentedness comes pretty easy. I know myself. I have my faith. I adore my children. My glass is always half full, with water, or coffee, and only occasionally with wine.
Yet is is hard to be the other half of an addict. For their shadow casts itself, inevitably over the wonder that is life. I can be feeling the joy, big time. And a glance from him, a too heavy sigh, a bang in the kitchen, and it can all be washed away.
For that is where the rub is. The addict, my addict, your addict, medicates his existence. He cannot deal with real life. And I can. So we disagree, on that very fundamental point. I can cope, he cannot. It is a frustration borne of some heavy karma, be it mine or his, I really don’t care. In this instance, with this addict, it seems I am committed, through love, to the long-haul of recovery.
And so with a heavy heart and some reluctance, I’m reaching out, to other folk, ones like me who have an addicted partner or loved one. There is a void of infomrtaion for us, a void of companionship. We siuffer in silence. I am breaking my silence, I’m saying hey! I’m saying look at me, I’m okay, but I wouldn’t mind sharing this load with you.
I want you to know that you are not alone. That you are not to blame, and that you too, can find joy in and of your own existence. Where we go from next, I’m not sure. I am happier to write this, to confess to this, because my husband is actually seeking professional help right now. Not his usual declarations of ‘I’ll cut down’, but actual proper help, form someone other than me. He is trying.
Is your addict trying? And if not how are you sustaining your soul? Because it is all too easy to get lost in the nonsense, the black hole of illogic that the addict makes seem so very logical. So with all the love in the world, I offer a hand, and some thoughts, on how to be the other half of addiction…
Some ideas for you.
Be in the moment. If you are not around your addict, release and relinquish them and enjoy your life. Spurn their dark cloud in favor of your rainbow. Be with others that you love. Have your own secret life of happiness. Find comedy and laughter in everything. Their addiction is not you, nor is it ever caused by you. Find your self, first and foremost, even if it is just making time in your own mind to be with you and to figure out how you feel.
Listen to your intuition. If they tell you they are not actioning their addiction, but your heart says otherwise. Go with your heart. Try not to be a fool to it. I have been a fool hundreds of times over. I have believed his declarations of abstinence, even when I have found direct evidence of otherwise. Nowadays I just choose to believe in me instead, and to know that he is an addict. End of.
Get out into nature. Nature has a rhythm that prevents addiction. It flows beautifully. It spirals from one creature to the next, one plant to the next. One thing is only ever dependent on another in the most astonishing and healthy ways. Be like nature. Reject those things which try to pull you away from that which feels natural to you.
Talk to someone. Maybe a friend. Maybe a parent. Maybe a counselor. Yes they might judge. Maybe they should. Maybe you should. Get some perspective.
Check in on how you might be enabling the behavior, and then alter yourself. Don’t try to change them (mission impossible). But change yourself. Stop pleading with them to be different, and instead, plough that same energy inward. You be different.
Leave your addict to their own devices. You are not their parent, and even if you are their parent, you cannot parent an addiction. It has its ways. If you create something for them to fight against, then by golly will they fight and the addiction gets stronger, and you, my dear, get weaker. So don’t fight, go sing, dance, garden, bake, run a business or do zumba instead.
If you have a spirituality about you, then dig into it. Crack open a pack of tarot or guidance cards. Go to church. Pray by the sea. Manifest peace. Visit a temple. Be with likeminded souls. Meditate, of course you should meditate. Yoga, that too. Know that you are profoundly important. Ask to be guided. Ask for a sign. Follow what is offered. Listen to your gut, your instinct.
Love for you, love for them, love for the other people involved. Set that as your starting point and your goal. It isn’t weak. It can be very strong. Turn it inward. Make it the crux of your decisions. Love yourself first too. Always that.
How you can help your partner / friend / loved one with their addiction.
You can’t. Not really. They have to want to help themselves. Which they may try to do many, many times with varied degrees of success. Your lecturing / advising / pep talks and wisdom may play some part in support. It may fall on deaf ears. Make a conscious decision not to help, or at least not to try and enforce help. Just be present. If they need you, they will tell you. Otherwise your energies are better spent on yourself.
With that in mind you can model happiness by example. Get on with your life. Do what you want to do. Be who you want to be. Irrespective of the addicted person’s life goals (or lack of them). You must live. You simply must. Nothing goes on hold. You have infinite access to joy and love of your own creation. Find it. Search for it. Be it. If anybody wants to use you as a bloody good example of a life well lived, let them.
Don’t engage the behavior. If somebody has had a few tipples or whatever, and they want to fall into negative behavior. Remove yourself. If that behavior is aimed at you, disengage, step back, observe what is happening. Do all in your power not to get pulled in. Easier said than done of course, but essential for your sanity. Make notes if you must, that you can examine later to be reassured that it is not about you.
Know it is not about you. They may not know that. You can. And you should. By choosing to know that, and perhaps repeat that to them like a mantra, ‘this is not about me’, you keep your strength, and they may start to realize, that heck, it’s tall about them, always has been and always will be. The ball is then firmly back in their court..
Know when enough is enough. Addicts sometimes feed off of the crap in your relationship, it gives them a hook to hang their grievance on. Know when to leave. I once left my husband. It catapulted him into a dark night of the soul. We got back together. Things have never been so bad since, not even nearly. His addiction since that time has been quieter and far more civilized. It is a work in progress, that eleven days of separation was a catalyst for a long healing journey.
Capture the happy moments. The past few years have not been all doom and gloom. People are more than just addiction. Focus on things that work. Pour your attention into the times when the addiction is not causing a problem. Remember those times often, and repeat them.
Know it is a long slow burn to recovery. Truly. I have been in this for a long time. It is slowly getting better. I do credit to my own spirit by remembering that. It is getting better. People can change. We can help them. We too can change as a result. The human spirit is a marvelous thing. Allow it to grow in your both.
Finally, even recovery is not some magic pill. Recovery is for ever and as well as 'getting better' the addict must navigate a whole new life without their substance of choice. This, is hard. For everyone. Patience and support are sometimes hard to come by, but they truly help.
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