What stages does a relative of an alcoholic who wants to help go through? Why can't you get rid of the drug user? Sándor Bajzáth's recovering addict's writing about the relatives of drug users continues
No one lives with an addict by accident. As he wrote about in the first part of his article, relatives experience drinking and drug use as a problem before the drug user himself, so they usually apply to addiction consultant Sándor Bajzáth. In his latest writing, the addict's helper and recovering addict focuses on the path taken by a relative of a drug user.
Our author used intravenous drugs for many years, mainly opiates (heroin, codeine, morphine, methadone) and stimulants (amphetamine, cocaine) and sedatives, sleeping pills and lots of alcohol. After about 15 withdrawal attempts in hospitals and 40 months spent in several rehabilitation institutions, he has been drug and alcohol-free for more than 15 years, in recovery.
A codependent is someone who, when they die, someone else's life flashes before their eyes
In my opinion, the deterioration of a relative follows the same scheme, it progresses parallel and progressively with the deterioration of the drug user, and it is legal that only one addict similar to him - a co-addict - can remain with an active alcoholic or drug addict in the long term. Why? Because anyone who perseveres with an alcoholic all the time, at any cost, is suspected to also have serious addiction problems.
He who is not prone to co-dependence is able to protect his self-limitations, his self-esteem is in place, you can't do anything with him, you can't promise him endlessly, humiliate him, abuse him, he won't let you play many roles in his relationship, and after a longer or shorter time he is able to say "enough!". You can get out of a seriously demoralizing, mentally and physically destructive relationship.
From tomorrow everything will be different
Let's take, for example, an alcoholic man and his family, but actually this can be replaced by any other addiction, and of course the drug user can be not only a man, but also a woman or a child.
Alcoholics and co-addicts work similarly; they don't find each other by chance, they need each other, they satisfy each other's needs. The drug user's need is the drug, for example alcohol, to escape from his feelings, while the drug of the co-dependent is exaggerated help, rescue, the main thing is to not have to deal with himself. They function in exactly the same way, as addicts, in their game they are both characterized by the "then tomorrow" attitude.
The relative is "basting" the alcoholic, trying to stop and change. But in truth, neither party wants to change, it would be painful. Each party expects change from the other. The alcoholic says that he drinks because it's the only way he can stand being with his partner, and his partner says that he behaves so terribly because his partner drinks. It's a catch 22.
You've been drinking again! When will you stop? If you come home in this state one more time, if you hit me one more time, I will report you, evict/move out, you won't be able to see your children like this, etc. The alcoholic's answer to this: From tomorrow everything will be different, I promise, I won't drink again… That was the last, it won't happen again! Forgive me, please!
The relative believes and forgives. And since there are no consequences for getting drunk, everything continues the same way the next day. "Tomorrow. From tomorrow everything will be different." The alcoholic gets drunk the next day as well, and the relative is unable to step down or put him out the next day either.
He doesn't expose the alcoholic either, because he can't get over the guilt, he thinks he messed everything up.
Let's see how it is for the relative
They usually only expect change from the alcoholic. Go through the physical withdrawal, which is rough but takes a reasonable amount of time, with all its symptoms: shivering, chills, runny nose, nausea, diarrhea, irritability, insomnia, weakness, depression, muscle pain, dizziness, etc… Then the recovery that starts from there, which is really hard, requires lifelong work.
Relatives expect change from the drug user, but they do not apply the same to themselves. The relative thinks like this: "I don't use it, I don't have to change…" But this is not true, because both parties' brains are on the same "track", they repeat the same "and then from tomorrow" pattern, but neither of them applies the really useful "just today's slogan. And both of them can play this for twenty or thirty years, in many cases for life.
Co-addicts are also drug users somewhere, just their drug: the drug user himself, the alcoholic, the drug addict, the drug addict, the gambler.
How does active codependency work?
He is the savior, unable to say no, to be consistent, who wants to exercise control over the alcoholic's life. He is unable to keep boundaries, to cross things that would make the alcoholic face the sad consequences of his actions, so he actually supports his drinking. "What will happen to the poor without me? I will heal him with my love. “They will beat him if I don't pay his debt for him. I can't let him suffer because he's still my child…"
Guardian love does not heal, it kills
My bad news is that this protective, childlike "love" is harmful. It doesn't heal, it kills. We take away from him the opportunity to face what he is doing to himself and of course to others, i.e. we are harming him!
Let's not lull ourselves into the belief that we are good people, how helpful we are, because this is more about our fear and our misinterpreted, compulsive helping.
As relatives, we are really afraid of what will happen to us. Can we stand it? Can we do something that we know demands a lot from us, it will be painful, but it will perhaps help the drug user in the long run, or just to protect ourselves from bad feelings, we don't do what we should, and so the addict can continue using it with our help.
Furthermore, despite our support, there is still a chance that you could die from it. You can also die of an overdose at home, or "just" slowly, over many years, the person will drink himself to death at home, and the life of the whole family will depend on it. Yes, for children too
The family member's life becomes narrower, he becomes lonely in the same way as the drug user. His attention is primarily limited to the drug user, with whom he cannot go anywhere because he does unacceptable things because he is ashamed of him. The relative is often ruined financially, loses his job, or gets seriously in debt because of the actions of the drug user.
Nobody lives with an addict by accident
Most relatives are afraid, what will happen to him if he is left alone, thinking that even an alcoholic, an abusive person is better than being alone. That's when self-deception comes in: he's a good person anyway, when he doesn't drink, you can spread it on bread. Yes, but this person is already approx. he has been drinking and beating and abusing the family for thirty years!
Unfortunately, children will see the same pattern and have similarly dysfunctional relationships as adults, because this is what they bring from home, this is the learned pattern. They don't learn intimacy, they don't know what is he althy.
You must have met a woman or a man who, as soon as one dysfunctional (alcoholic) relationship ends, the next one immediately follows, and God forbid, an alcoholic. And it will happen like this throughout his life, if he doesn't start to develop and take care of himself. His relationships will always be at the level he is at. No one lives with an addict by accident.
What is the solution?
The key is admitting helplessness. This happens when the relative, after many years of suffering, really realizes that he is not able to control his partner's use, his life is ruined, and he has to change. By this time, he had probably gone through all forms of begging, controlling, making promises, commanding, blackmailing, controlling, threatening, coercing, and physical and mental humiliation. This is the point when you feel that there is no further down, no more suffering can be endured.
Unfortunately, the stronger the relative feels - "I can handle everything" - the later the redemptive low point comes. When he is really in crisis, he will be forced to change, to act differently, to give different answers to the same situations and events. Some people are able to do this on their own, but the majority are not, they can learn this most effectively in the company of professionals and peers.
Degradation also takes place over many years, during which bad schemes are burned in, so does recovery, because what we have learned over many years cannot be changed in two days.
The worse the better
During recovery, the relative must learn to focus on himself from the drug user. Codependents always see and interpret everything from the other's point of view, ignoring their own. In the course of learning this, he becomes able to move on and let go of the drug user. This involves lack, fear, and pain. With feelings very similar to what an alcoholic experiences when the alcohol that sustains him is taken away from him. How parallel things are, right? It is equally difficult for both parties.
Then all of a sudden you get the feeling when your heart is about to break, but you no longer call the drug user to find out what's up with him, while you want to know about his every move… You get the feeling when he sends you away or doesn't let you his partner, his child, because he's drunk again, and meanwhile his stomach clenches from the fear of what will happen to him? This is what he feels when he no longer goes to the pub to bring it home. This is the pain he feels when the other person begs him to give him money because he's fucked and he won't give anymore… and he almost dies mentally.
This is a real paradox. The worse the better. If the alcoholic gets screwed up enough, they might start to come to their senses and change. Every rescue only hinders this, so it's counterproductive! Learning to apply this is a huge challenge.
The only way to get help is to take your hands off him and trust that he will be able to stand down and accept that this has no effect on him, it depends solely and exclusively on the drug user
Just as the self-help community is one of the most effective ways to recover for drug addicts, the same is true for their relatives. In group therapy, they realize that they are not alone with their problems, they can identify with others, and this can be very liberating. Here, the person receives support and acceptance, hears the experiences of those who are already ahead on the road, and receives phone numbers to call if there is a big problem. This can be invaluable in some cases. In the groups, he learns to focus on his own needs, it becomes clear how much he was not living his own life until then.
On these groups you can ask yourself:
- What could I do differently?
- How am I present in my own life?
- How much time do I spend on myself, on my own needs? (hairdresser, cosmetics, etc…)
- When was the last time I went to sports, cinema, theater?
- How much time do I spend on my professional development?
- How much money do I spend on myself, how much on my drug-using relative?
- How much can I say no?
- To what extent do I subordinate my own needs to the needs of others?
- How long is my responsibility for my relative's drug use?
- How am I in my relationship? What could make me better? What makes me happy?
The drug user's relative must reconnect with others, start living, do sports, relax, and experience what it's like to be alone.
As I wrote about this in the first part of the article, relatives usually notice the problem first. They are usually the first to ask for help, they are the most motivated, and you can deal with them within the framework of the consultation. A change in their behavior and attitude can change the drug user as well.
Finally, a very useful quote:
"During my long and strange life, I have learned that people should be left to live their own way. It is a futile and wrong effort to force them out of what they have to experience, because then they will find the same situation for themselves elsewhere. I'm not saying, it takes a lot of self-control, watching helplessly as someone rushes to their doom of their own free will, despite all warnings… but you get used to it over time.” – Mária Szepes