Tethered To An Addict

cropped-one-vine.jpgWe are tethered: the addict and the one-who-loves-the-addict. We don’t experience our life separate from those we love. Just because we aren’t in the same room doesn’t mean our actions aren’t detrimental.

We each tug the other through our action—or lack of. What we do matters—for both of us. Sadly, we addicts are numb and largely unaware of the havoc we are creating. The burden falls on the one-who-loves-the-addict. They aren’t numb. They are the one thinking more clearly, at least at the onset.

We addicts dragged them into our world long before they were aware we had hooked them; often, long before we realized we were hooked.

The situation was unbearable, yet silently it remained. We were hoping it would just get better on its own. It wasn’t a phase, like thumb sucking. This wouldn’t just pass.

There is nothing passing by quickly with addiction. It is only getting worse. For some it gets worse quickly—as if someone pulled the Earth from their feet. For others it’s gradual—their feet firmly planted, but on a hillside that is deteriorating. Both are unbearable.

Presuming we want recovery:

  1. The one who is the addict needs to begin the process of hurdling addiction.
  2. The one-who-loves-the-addict needs to begin the process of letting go of the addict.
  3. They both need to occur and this is usually not the order they occur.
  4. None of this is a weekend project. They both require sustained effort at personal inquiry into self.

This is not the answer that most are looking for. If we have a broken arm everyone feels bad and we get the VIP treatment. If we have a mental illness/addiction people tell us to “pull it together.” While this seems “unfair,” let’s face it, this is the way of it. At some level we addicts need to get over it and get working on being better human beings on this planet.

We can stay sober a little while on determination, but that won’t sustain an addict for the long haul. What sustains us for the long-term is continued work on self—our emotional and spiritual self.

By “continued work on self” I mean:

  • Learning to live in a world that drinks (a lot) knowing you can’t drink because you can’t handle it.
  • Learning to figure out how to be comfortable in your own skin and live a full life without altering your mind.
  • Learning to stop whining about not being able to drink anymore.
  • Learning you’re not in a prison just because you don’t have alcohol.
  • Learning there is shallowness in wanting to escape life.
  • Learning that life is hard and you get through it anyway.
  • Learning to look within and grow up.
  • Learning to take responsibility.

People that love us don’t need to make our life comfortable so we can quit. Making our life comfortable is prolonging our numbness. They need to let us feel the discomfort we’ve created.

People that love us don’t need to plead with us to change. We already know they love us. It’s us that doesn’t know how to love us. Every time they do for us what we could be doing for our self we are sliding down a notch in self-respect.

People that love us don’t need to give us money so we can have a soda or a cell phone. They need to let us suffer without these extras so we can experience the depth of our addiction.

I am grateful to those who let me feel the misery of my continued choices. It was when I felt it fully that I was ready to change.

It could not have been an easy moment for them.
After all we are tethered.


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No Responses to “Tethered To An Addict

  • This post comes at the right time for me. I’m tethered-to-an-addict and I needed this. Thanks!

    • I love when I read “exactly” what I needed to read too. Interesting fact: This isn’t what I was going to originally post today. xox Lisa

  • Quite often alcoholics don’t get married, they take prisoners.


    • Ronnie, That’s funny.I’ve never heard that before. You are funny. Loving all your posts. You’ve got me laughing. Thanks for the love, Lisa

  • Wow, brilliant! The bullet points are so, so accurate–for me, anyway. And, my current bf is the other in your post, and I can see it all in there. Thank you for this, Lisa! xx

    • DDG, Thank you. It has been fantastic to watch you grow. Your chronicles are some of my favorite because I see all those “bullet points” consistently knocking at your door. You seem to manage to let them in where so many can’t/won’t (I don’t presume to understand this phenomenon). I like your dedication to self discovery. An appealing quality in any person (in my opinion), but especially beautiful in a young recovering woman.

      • Oh, thank you, Lisa! I could not have done it without your ideas and support. I love how you think, especially about treating addiction as a reprogramming of mind and self. Yes, I guess you could still call me “young”…LOL. Lots of love…

        • I have a confession to make. I was thinking you must be tired of me because you rarely came over to “comment” … (my goodness that sounds so insecure to write. Oh well, I need to walk my talk [programming integrity] even if it sucks to say it out loud) … 🙂

          • Oh, no! I rarely comment these days anywhere, mainly because…I don’t have time! I’m sorry if you took my silence the wrong way! I definitely read all my “fave bloggers'” (of which you are one!) posts, but I don’t often comment. SORRY, Lisa! I find your posts to be excellent, informative, and so instructive…

            I’ve also been spending (burning) a lot of time trying to get some freelance gigs going on, considering grad school/a move, and in general, getting a bit burnt out/sad when I write about my “drinking problem.” See? Who knew the chitter-chatter going on behind my closed doors? Lesson learned? Me, stop isolating. You? Don’t take anything personally?

            Love all that you do, Lisa! I often think of you when I think, what do I want to be when I grow up. 🙂

          • For what it’s worth … good! I like to hear you are feeding your intellect and creativity. Time to move on from being an ex-drinker, whilst still being an ex-drinker—of course.. The only time I think about it (drinking) is when I have to remember (writing a post) pre-sobriety/early sobriety. Other than that I’m trying to figure out how to be a super mom, super friend, super runner (Kristy you reading this?), super coach, super whatever. No need for apologies. I need (I mean “get”) to take a look at me and why I need (I mean “crave”) EVERYONE’S (or almost everyone’s) approval. On another note: Moving? did I see that correctly? Geez, you’d think I’d send an email. Lots of love, Me

  • Wow, Lisa! You describe exactly what I’m going through with my dad right now – and what my husband had to go through with me. I’ve had to make some really hard decisions with my dad and I can only hope that one day he will respond like you have. Great post. Needed this.

    • I find it so interesting the way we think we “should” love an addict. Now that I am not active in my alcoholism, I see life on the alcohol-free side. I, too, need to watch my interaction with addicts. I hang out with addicts, blog with addicts, work with addicts, and grew up in an alcoholic home. I had an alcoholic dad (deceased, but found recovery) and an al-anonic mom (alive and well) so I have both personalities (some might say “multi”). Nevertheless, I continue to work on living within my spiritual principles (universal laws) because I am still susceptible to co-dependent behavior. My best for you and your issues with your dad. It’s never easy. But well worth the endurance.

  • Katherine
    11 years ago

    Lisa, this post is ‘spot on’ for me. I read it over and over and slowly. I felt sad and the shame all over again. The line that stood out in BOLD print for me was this one….”It’s us that doesn’t know how to love us”. It was ME that wasn’t loving ME when drinking. It wasn’t anyone’s fault but mine. I was standing on a deteriorating hillside, scared, angry, anxious, and feeling all alone. I didn’t know how to handle those emotions and the losses in my life that kicked my drinking up and so I walked closer to the edge of the hill and stood on crumbling ground, wondering why it was getting worse. Now sober (nearly a year), I am looking within, rather than looking outward. I backed away from the edge of the hill, standing on solid ground and face all those emotions with a clear head, eyes and heart. I can’t change the world, only my response to it. Hugs

    • This is just incredible to read. You have some huge insights written in these words. No one could have told me that I didn’t love me when I drank. It took so long for me to see that I didn’t love me. I was in recovery a couple of years before I could actually swallow that truth. I love, too, how you see yourself standing on the crumbling hillside. Why do we stand there? What are we wanting or hoping will happen? It’s great that you can look back and feel it and then keep moving forward. When I am working with people I say a phrase like, “just watch the parade go by, see it and then let it pass.” We have a tendency to pause the parade so we can stare at our past insanity. You’re in today—exactly where we all should be. It’s beautiful. Hugs coming back

      • Katherine
        11 years ago

        You are so kind Lisa! Thank you for being here to write such amazing posts. Your blog is a very comforting place to hang out for me! 🙂

  • There is something about your “continued work on self” list that really hit me. These are the “little” issues that come up, often privately, and they make us bristle because they do not always seem fair. Life is hard and we already feel we are sacrificing so much! (for others, it seems.) And learning to accept these tenets and think not only of ourselves is a huge hurdle, but it’s the only way to any peace. I just love how clearly and simply you broke them out in this post. Beautiful work.

    • “Continued work on self,” It has taken every day of sobriety for this to sink in my brain, my being. I really believed I had a little drinking problem with wine—every night at 5 o’clock
      I was the only one who was shocked to see how ill-prepared I was for life’s little hurdles let alone the big ones. Alcohol had been my solution for so long and I really was convinced it was the problem and I was fine. I find this theme common in recovery so I don’t feel so alone about it. I guess what I have learned is that there is a lot of growing to do, and it never ends, and it’s ok—it’s just all ok. We’ll all grow up together. xox

  • As per my usual M.O, I stopped by earlier when I go the little message that you posted (yay!) and read it, clicked “Like” and moved on to reflect upon it. I have to admit today, upon first viewing, I didn’t think there was much for me to say, as I don’t have the issue of loving an addict / alcoholic, and I can’t really discuss what it is (was) like for my wife or parents loving me (I can’t speak for them). But what did strike me on second and third reading (this dull mind needs attention to your deep posts) is the shift of playing victim to taking responsibility for the addict. And yeah “get over yourself” isn’t quite useful when talking to an addict, but as you mention, there really is a kernel of truth to that. And literally, getting over “self” is what I had to do, and have to continue doing daily. Once I get out of the way of myself, things are fine. Not where I may expect or want them to be, but they are fine. Where they’re supposed to be. Not my rules any more.

    Your bullet points speak to that, especially about complaining about not having booze, or feeling that you are a prisoner without the drug(s) of no choice. The often brutal shift to tackling the addiction is no small feat. And for me, part of that was realizing that I can’t go back, and that when I complained about not having booze, I quickly made the not so far leap to the past and look at my experiences and soon realized it was game over. And once I was able to move through that, through a program of recovery, I was able to see some of the other things you mentioned – living life although it may be hard at times, taking responsibility, and most importantly – looking within and growing up…and out. That is the most important part of my path – growth.

    What a wonderful, poignant post, Lisa. I loved it.

    Thank you – what a service and blessing you are to us all.


    • The more I read, and blog, and comment, the more I am wondering why the lovely bloggers of the world aren’t running the world.I see a genuine community of acceptance and true love of different ideas, stages, and paths. I am enjoying growing up with all of you. BTW: “you spot it you got it”

  • xnavygal9916
    11 years ago

    When one finds themselves dealing with an insidious, progressive disease such as drug addiction my experience wants to say: approach it systematically. Break the denial, learn the facts, stop trying to change the addict, seek out 12 step meetings or counseling, reach out to others, reach out to the addict, reach out to God and take heart. When the addict reaches the limits of desperation and hopelessness, they just may ask for help. Now your knowledge of addiction will prove invaluable. Get help right away! The addicted person should actually make the contact to insure they are freely taking this step. Remember that recovery takes time and unfolds progressively. Stay in close contact with a support group. You will learn much about facing life and accepting love. During the course of addiction both the addict and “co-addict” family member are subject to “cycles of addiction”. As the addict becomes obsessed with drugs and/or alcohol, the coaddict becomes obsessed with the problem. Both deny, rationalize and blame others for the situation. And while the addict is compulsively using drugs, the co addict is compulsively trying to stop the behavior. Ultimately, both feel hopeless. Practicing “tough love” is necessary unless you will be seriously harmed. Steel yourself against coddling and overprotectiveness. The suffering you are trying to ease may be the very thing needed to bring the addict to a realization of the seriousness of the situation. “Addiction is the only disease that tells you that you don’t have it.”

  • Hi Lisa,

    I’m back home, and jumped on to read this post because I know another one is coming out today! It’s funny, if I had read this last Sunday, I might not have absorbed it as well as I just did, having come off a vacation with a slew of extended family members, many of whom drink (moderately).

    I have 18 months of continuous sobriety, and 2 1/2 years of life without alcohol, and yet I did grow uncomfortable when there was drinking going on around me. And I must rush to say: absolutely, positively, moderate drinking. No one ever got even tipsy at any point during this vacation (just take a minute and re-read that last sentence. Could you imagine drinking on vacation and not getting drunk? It boggles the mind!). Once I even went up to my bedroom.

    What the hell is that all about? And no, it was not because I was triggered, or thought I might develop a taste for it. It was because I was being a whiny, sulky, baby!

    So your first bullet point, obviously, is spot on for me, and I obviously have some work to do!

    But that’s okay with me, because, as you say, recovery is not a weekend project. I need to keep working on myself, in order to maintain the peace and serenity I have accumulated!

    I am so happy to be home, and so happy to have time to read and comment on your fabulous insights! I can’t wait for later today to do this again!

    • Boy have I been missing you. I get all of what you said. How do they do that? How? Really? How? Why? Someone explain this phenomenon to me? Total mind boggle … total. We’re all in the trenches together. I’m still working on me too. Thank goodness I have such good company.
      ps. you’re not a sulky baby (imo) just a girl trying to heal xox

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