Have you ever played Mad Libs?
You know what I’m talking about right? It’s the game where you have a short story with a bunch of blank spaces in it and you fill in random words. If you’ve played the game before then you know how ridiculous and fun it can be. But if not don’t worry because we’re going to play a modified GUC version right now.
Read the story below and in every blank spot add the info that reflects your situation.
Okay, so I’ll admit that the original version of Mad Libs is way more fun than the GUC version. But, I wanted to share this exercise with you because this is the basic story that I consistently hear from many men and women who are in relationships with an active drug addict or alcoholic.
It’s not only heartbreaking but you’d be amazed at how unfortunately common this scenario is.
So, if you’re in a relationship with an addict, alcoholic or both – if you thought you could fix him or her but are realizing that you were wrong – if your friends and family are telling you to leave this person because they know you deserve better and if you’re feeling lost, angry, hopeless and alone and you just don’t know what the f*ck to do, this one is for you.
I’m breaking down some of the most common problems people in relationships with addicts and alcoholics have and I’m calling on some of planet earth’s greatest philosophers and thinkers for guidance and advice.
I hope that what you’re about to learn inspires the peace, clarity and relief you’ve been searching for.
Also, in this post, we’re focusing on romantic relationships with an addict or alcoholic but this advice could apply to any relationship you have. It doesn’t matter if the addict or alcoholic you love is your mother, brother, cousin or friend. As always, take what you find here and apply it to your current situation.
When you’re finished reading, you know that I’d love to hear from you.
If you can relate to the Mad Lib scenario above, do you have any insights, ideas or thoughts to share on how to deal? Or if you’re right in the thick of it, what do you need help with now?
Or if you are one of the family members or friends of someone that loves an addict or alcoholic, what’s your take?
Leave your thoughts in the comment section.
Remember, your voice, experiences and insights are vital to this community. And what you have to share is not only unique but it may be exactly what someone else needs to read. And that someone could be you.
As always, thanks for reading and sharing!
Until next Tuesday,
#1 “I knew he/she had a drinking problem but I went into the marriage/relationship hoping that I could fix him/her.”
Whether your partner is addicted to alcohol, drugs or some other form of destructive behavior, it’s naive to think that you’d be able to love them into sobriety.
I’m not saying that it can’t happen but I am saying that the chances are much greater that it won’t. Now, there are already plenty of articles and blog posts floating around on the Internet that try to explain why this is so. That’s not what I’ll be doing here.
To be totally honest with you, and this may sound a bit harsh but please understand that I’m coming from a good place, I’m less concerned with helping you come up with a strategy to fix your addicted loved one than I am with understanding why YOU thought you could fix your addicted someone in the first place.
Instead of focusing on what you need to do or say for your loved one, I’d encourage you to ask yourself why YOU thought you could fix him or her in the first place. I want you to seriously ask yourself why, despite knowing that perhaps the relationship was doomed, you agreed to enter it anyway.
As the Stoic philosopher Epictetus once said:
“Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle. Some things are within your control. And some things are not.”
In this situation, your behavior and the choices you make are in your control. What’s not within your control is fixing your addicted partner.
So if we were to take Epictetus’s advice seriously and we want some degree of happiness and freedom then we need to shift our focus on what we can control.
Now I’m in no way implying that this advice is easy to take or implement. And I’m well aware that when it comes to relationships things are not as black and white as we’d like them to be.
But for now, all I’m asking you to do is to be at least willing to explore the idea of shifting your focus. And of course to seriously consider Epictetus’s advice – if you’re after happiness, understand that it’s wise to start with the only person you have any control over. And that, as you may have already guessed, is the one and only you.
#2 “His or her drinking/drugging has completely destroyed my life and my health.”
No one who’s ever loved an addict or alcoholic will tell you that it’s easy. The toll it can take on your emotional and mental health not to mention your financial well being can be devastating.
This is true whether the addict or alcoholic in your life is your husband, girlfriend, wife, mother, daughter, cousin or father.
Aristotle, the Ancient Greek philosopher and scientist had this to say about getting through rough spots:
“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.”
For someone in a relationship with an addict or alcoholic, I’d modify this quote to say:
“It is during our darkest moments that we must get quiet to see the light.”
Chaos abounds in the world of addiction. You just never know what’s going to happen next, how big the next explosion will be or where you will be when the shit hits the fan.
That’s why it’s so important for you to regularly seek time away from the chaos. Whether it’s a 30 minute walk, an hour at a coffee shop or finding a quiet space in your home to journal – it’s imperative that you give yourself a break.
Especially when your life feels like it’s been flipped upside down and even more so if your health has suffered, you need the focus that comes outside of the chaos to discover solutions and make decisions.
Now I’ll be the first person to admit that seeking quiet in the midst of chaos or during painful events is not the easiest thing to do. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about loving an addict/alcoholic it’s that you’ll never run out of opportunities to practice.
#3 “My family and friends tell me to leave him/her. They say I deserve better.”
Not only was Marcus Aurelius an Emperor of Rome, he was also quite the intellectual who had this to say about other people’s opinions:
“The opinion of 10,000 men is of no value if none of them know anything about the subject.”
Clearly, this bit of advice doesn’t apply to all situations. In abusive relationships, where your family and dearest friends are begging you to leave because your life is in danger, then YES their opinion matters. And I would personally encourage you to follow it.
However, in non-life threatening situations, even with people by your side who have your best intentions at heart, you need to do, say or be what you know is best for you.
I know this advice may seem a bit unusual but I don’t believe that anyone knows what’s best for you besides you. I believe it’s more valuable for you to make your own choices, mistakes and learn from them then it is for you to be persuaded or guilted into doing otherwise.
But, and this is a BIG BUT, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t listen to or completely disregard the opinion of your family and trusted friends. You can certainly consider what they have to say and if it feels right you can follow their advice but the choices you ultimately make are yours and yours alone.
No one knows the subject of your life and your relationships better than you.
#4 “All I think about are the good times and hope that this will be the last time.”
Marcus Aurelius also said this:
“Act, speak, and think like a man ready to depart this life in the next breath.”
I know it’s a morbid thought but it’s also true that the time we have to spend on this earth is limited.
So if you’re absolutely miserable and your relationship is sustained by one or two great moments in the past and the thin hope that things will get better in the future, it may be time for you to cut your losses and move on.
I know this isn’t an easy decision to make but you can start by simply asking yourself this – If you knew that your next breath was going to be your last would you regret the time and effort you put into your relationship?
If you can honestly answer no to that then keep on doing you. But if you know in your heart that the answer is yes then trust that the changes you need to make will be what’s best for you.
Remember, you only get one life. And it makes absolutely no sense to spend it miserable, stuck and confused.
If the end of your life angle isn’t resonating with you right now, then maybe this next point will…
#5 “I’m at a point now where I can try and make it work or just walk away.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a French writer, poet, journalist and pilot. But you may already know him as the author of the book, The Little Prince.
Antoine had this to say on relationships and love:
“Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.”
You may be at a point right now where you’re trying to figure whether it’s worth giving it another go or just walking away. It helps, while you’re looking for this answer, to consider whether or not you and your partner are looking in the same direction.
Intuitively you may already know this answer but if you don’t you may have some soul searching to do.
If your partner keeps saying that they’re all about recovery but they’re not actively, consistently seeking it then you may not be looking in the same direction. It may be time to walk away.
If you take a step back and notice the same dysfunctional patterns showing up over and over again in your relationship then you may not be looking in the same direction. It may be time to walk away.
However, even with a few bumps in the road or mistakes along the way, if you’re both taking action and seeking the help you need then it may be worth the effort in the long run to give it another try.
From my own experience I’ve learned that in order for any relationship to work each person has to give it their all. It has to be a 50/50 effort, equal from both sides. You both have to be looking in the same direction.
Hopefully, Epictetus, Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry gave you something to think about when it comes to your relationship.
In general, relationships are tricky and when you add a layer of addiction on top of it it becomes even more challenging to see the light.
But as Pericles, the Greek statesman once said:
“Time is the wisest counselor of all.”
Maybe you don’t have all of the answers you’re looking for right now but perhaps in time you will.
In the meantime, take what you found here and apply it where it makes sense in your life. Be honest with what you discover and always remember, despite how you may feel, you are never alone.