How Do You Know When to Give up on an Addict?
How Do I Know When To Give Up?
This is a question I asked myself so many times when I was waiting for that day when my husband would stop what he was doing and seek recovery.
It's a question I heard from so many others that I got to know. Other people loving an addict and playing the same waiting game.
Even after years of all the chaos, turmoil and heartache, one of the hardest things to know is when to give up fighting.
Fighting for the person you love.
Fighting for a life without addiction.
With every binge, high, drunken fight, relapse, lie, theft, or betrayal we ask ourselves 'When will I stop putting up with this'? The question is often more rhetorical than a genuine examination of what it will take to really end the cycle because when we begin questioning how much longer we will tolerate a life with addiction, the conflict comes in the belief that by no longer accepting or allowing our addicts negative impact on our lives we are giving up on them. That we are walking away from someone in pain, someone struggling to survive.
And, despite every negative action and behaviour of the addict in our lives we worry what it says about US if we leave or send our addicts away. Are we heartless and unloving because we can't continue supporting them? Will everyone judge us for giving up?
When we choose not to enable another, to no longer allow another to violate our boundaries, to demand better for ourselves and our families and to insist on respect, we're actually not giving up on anyone.
It's not about making a choice to 'give up' on the person you love. It's about choosing to take your own recovery into your hands and to take back your power. It's a choice your addict has too.
And if giving up means walking away from a relationship with an addict until they secure their recovery, you're still not giving up. You're simply setting boundaries and letting the person you love know that you haven't given up on yourself and what YOU need.
My husband (then boyfriend) walked out on me in a fury one day and even though he tried to return the next day, I didn't let him come back for over a year, until I was sure he was actively committed to his recovery. I NEVER gave up on him during that time but I did give up on trying to rescue him and make him recover.
I second guessed myself at first and wondered - What if I walked away too soon? What if something happens to him now that I've left? What if staying or doing just a little more is the last bit he needed to reach recovery? What if after all this time I walk away and then he begins recovery and I miss out? The doubts were especially strong in the moments when the addiction seemed to have left for the briefest of time and I would see glimpses of the person I always believed was deep inside.
Only you can know when it's time to stop fighting but I know for me there came a quiet feeling of knowing the time was right, and it was a feeling devoid of all frustration, panic or anger. It was time to give up the fight I was forging and begin fighting for myself. I had lost myself to the constant fight against addiction and it was defining me, my present and my future. I couldn't see past it. My husband's addiction was breaking both of us and our relationship into pieces and I had to stand back up and begin fighting otherwise I would be giving up on me.
So how do you know when to give up the fight and begin fighting for yourself?
There are always practical reasons that might force your hand like:
- When there is an issue with violence or intimidation
- When children are negatively affected or impacted by the actions of the addict
- When you can no longer financially support another's addiction
- When there is absolutely no consistent effort towards recovery
Or simply when the addiction is taking more of you than you would allow it to take from someone you love. When it causes you to be treated in a way you wouldn't have your best friend, a parent or child treated. When dealing with it means tolerating behaviour that goes against your values, standards and boundaries.
If the time comes, and you make the decision to leave or ask your loved one to leave, do so calmly and ensure you don't issue empty ultimatums which only undermine your self and your situation.
Letting go of what was and what could have been will no doubt fill you with great sadness and grief but ultimately taking the path that is right for YOU, will in time bring the peace you so desire and there is always hope that if your addict genuinely believes that your separation from them might become permanent, this could be the catalyst for them to seek recovery.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.