There is no instruction Manuel that you can reach for in your middle car console when your addict girlfriend is sitting in the passenger seat insisting you not only bring her to her drug dealer, but that you give her the money to buy her heroin as well.
She is desperate and in withdrawal she starts to list reasons why you should do this.
Some of them even start to sound good if you listen long enough. She is manipulative and you are scared, and at the core of it all you love her.
As she’s fires off her list of reasons, you are overcome with grief and fear. You sit there with your head in your hands as she pleads with you. Confusion sets in as you play with the idea of doing it ” just this once”. You are ridded with angst and the worry that she might die if she doesn’t get into treatment soon. You are angry but too scared to show it. You start to feel crazy your head is spinning with what you should and what you shouldn’t do. You think back to an article you read after you googled the two words “enable” and “addiction.” You can no longer tell what is going to help or harm her. By this point she has made you feel pretty responsible for all that has gone wrong in her life, and all you want to do is get her back before it’s too late.
“Its a win win” she claims. This time she promises to get on the phone with local detox services, but only after she gets high. She has made this promise many times over, you think to yourself. This time though, she might really follow through. You wonder if you really want to take that chance, what if you refuse and she dies? You’d never forgive yourself. So you turn the key, start the engine and cave in. “This is the last time,” you tell her, as you bargain with her. Until she asks again.
If you are someone who loves an addict this story may sound all too familiar. Loving an addict who is still actively using is painful. It’s hard to not feel responsible at times and often you feel just as sick as they are.
Nighttime is the hardest. You lie awake in bed, your eyes staring up at the ceiling.
Since the relapse, your phone is always on, just in case. The volume is turned all the way up and the vibration setting is also at maximum strength . You make it your mission to be available at all times. Every time the phone does ring the lump in your throat grows.
This is the new normal, every night you are left, wondering where your loved one could be. The questions start to swirl in your busy mind causing a chain reaction of dread.
You start to wonder if they are in danger. Are they alone? Your biggest fear looms in the balance. What if they’ve overdosed? You know the crowd they are using with and know that they wouldn’t think twice about leaving them for dead . Yet there is nothing in that moment you can do to stop the worry. You feel helpless.
As time goes on, you start to realize as you look around you , that every aspect of your own life is suffering, just as much as your addicted loved one’s life.
You have become transfixed on trying to save your loved one. Reading up on all treatment options, and spending long days calling rehabs trying to get them into treatment.
Your job suffers, you neglect other important relationships and even your physical and mental health pay the price. Others tell you to let go and tell you it’s not worth the struggle. Towards the end you are left trying to save yourself.
Addiction affects everyone involved. There is no instruction Manuel on how to love an addict. There’s no checklist of things to say or do. For those who have been through this more than once, knows that it doesn’t get easier. However, in time, you learn how to protect yourself a little better from the hard blows addiction sends your way . You learn how to set boundaries, and limits. You learn that it’s okay to say no. You learn to separate the addiction from your loved one.
Most importantly you learn that you too need love and support to recover!