Below is a question from one of the many wonderful readers out there…
“Charlie can you please address or answer this dilemma? In my 12 step experience through Alanon, it is stressed that we can love the addict/alcoholic but keep our distance from their problems and not enable. How is that done? When I haven’t heard from my addict for weeks then I know what he is up to. So if i drop him a line and say that I love him or that I’m praying for him, then that is his sign that I’m concerned and then asks for help. I believe he honestly does want help but then the same old story starts to unfold. He gets into some sort of recovery program and gets the whole family behind him and achieves a certain level of success and then without fail after a few months drifts right back into drugs and alcohol. This has occurred at least 20 different times! I honestly do not know how to convey my love without getting sucked into this gut wrenching ordeal.”
The cycle described above is textbook. Addicts are famous for this exact pattern. We are sabotage artists. For 15 years, I ran around in circles. The cycle is as follows: Relapse and destroy everything – get sober and sink into depression – as depression subsides, regain false confidence -get a job, make money, repair relationships and trust – relapse and destroy everything – get sober and sink into depression…
The Big Book also describes our proclivity towards sabotage:
“Here is the fellow who has been puzzling you, especially in his lack of control. He does absurd, incredible, tragic things while drinking. He is a real Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He is seldom mildly intoxicated. He is always more or less insanely drunk. His disposition while drinking resembles his normal nature but little. He may be one of the finest fellows in the world. Yet let him drink for a day, and he frequently becomes disgustingly, and even dangerously anti-social. He has a positive genius for getting tight at exactly the wrong moment, particularly when some important decision must be made or engagement kept. He is often perfectly sensible and well balanced concerning every thing except liquor, but in that respect he is incredibly dishonest and selfish. He often possesses special abilities, skills, and aptitudes, and has a promising career ahead of him. He uses his gifts to build up a bright outlook for his family and himself, and then pulls the structure down on his head by a senseless series of sprees.” Alcoholics Anonymous, p.21
By the way, the hot and cold behavior of an addict/alcoholic is one of the reasons we are so abusive. It would be better to just be an asshole or just be loving all of the time because others would know what to expect, but hot and cold twists people emotionally, and that is abusive.
But as you can see above, you would be well justified to ask what kind of insane moron would willingly sabotage all good things in his or her life over and over and over again. Let me see if I can help.
Addicts and alcoholics sabotage everything because, believe it or not, they have actually gotten used to the absence of happiness, success or satisfaction. If you can fathom, imagine for a second that good things make an addict more uncomfortable than their status quo of misery, chaos, failure, disappointment, etc. Maintaining success would send the message that we are okay, but the sad truth is we don’t want that. We want carte blanche to fuck everything up and use the way we want to. Furthermore, setting the bar low is a very effective addict strategy. If the bar is set at or just above rock bottom, no one expects anything of us. Any success will gain back your graces sooner, and when we fail, no one will be surprised.
Look, this sort of thing literally defines what it means to be an addict. Using is more fun when everything is okay… especially right when stuff is going our way and we are on the verge of some amazing opportunity. Remember that addicts want to use and not much else. Believe me, if we wanted to pursue our dreams more than we wanted to get jammed then we would. Therefore, we MUST sabotage everything so we can continue being self-absorbed shitheads who, instead of accomplishing great things in life, would actually rather just sit around and get high. I’ve written about the whole sabotage thing in older posts such as, Unfamiliar Territory.
So how do you love an addict but keep your distance and not get sucked into our problems? For one, you can love and forgive someone silently or internally while setting very strict boundaries or even refusing to engage with them at all. Letting go is more of an internal process that is accomplished along emotional lines. You can let go of the chaos. You can stop focusing on it. There could be a world of shit circling you but you can remove yourself and let it fly by without jumping right in front of it and getting smacked in the face with a pile of shit.
How do we let go? We work on ourselves. How do we love and forgive without attachment? We focus on ourselves. Write a 4th Step maybe. The better we get, the easier it is to let go. If you are codependent, give to yourself. Nourish yourself, get stronger, and build a reservoir of peace within and you will be better able to avoid the temptation of inserting yourself into the drama and the problems of another – even if it’s a loved one, even if it’s a child.
Ultimately, you have to give your life and the life of your child to God. If you don’t think so, think again. We have no control over anything, which is, by the way, one of the reasons why central planners, regardless of side, are so clueless. They actually think they can manipulate the whole world and its environment. This is where we get the term, delusions of grandeur. Doctors have that problem too, thinking they can both prevent and treat/cure addiction and mental illness with lab cocktails.
At any rate, we can only find peace in letting go, and this way of loving and forgiving must first take place internally/emotionally. Yes love is action, but if you cannot change someone, it is a lesson that you must shift your focus. We learn to love properly, to love better, by changing ourselves. Let the tornado spin around you if you want, but do not step in its path. That would be sort of masochistic, of course, which would defeat your whole purpose. So make sure not to sabotage yourself 😉
It sounds backwards, but true service is putting ourselves first – in the healthy way. We cannot serve God or love others if we ourselves are not well. We addicts, and people in general, are inclined to follow others who exemplify personal health, strength, calm and spirit. We follow people who glow. So the best thing anybody can do to change anything is to live in the precise way you wish for others… not that you don’t, but you see my point. Instead of getting sucked in, love yourself enough to take care of your own soul, and there you will learn to love from a distance.
And please feel free to let me know if that makes no sense whatsoever.
God, please wrap your loving arms around our families, embrace them and give them comfort, peace, happiness, joy, love, health and prosperity…
Made absolute and understandable sense to me! Thank you.
Thank you for your reply Charlie, it means so much to me. I think the saddest thing is that you explain that they've gotten used to a lack of happiness. It is hard to fathom living that way. But I have to realize that I have too! The most shocking of shocking things no longer shock me…and that is sad. I must continue to take care of myself and stay in close contact with God each day. I know he has our backs and has a plan that is bigger than I can even imagine. That's really how I have gotten through this…my faith. Thank you for your answer and for writing this blog. It is a life saver. xo
Makes sense! Thank you Charlie!
thank you charlie. i have read this at least a dozen times.
“make sure not to sabotage yourself.” i've never quite looked at my helping/enabling like that before. so true and so powerful. x
thank you charlie. i have read this at least a dozen times.\”make sure not to sabotage yourself.\” i've never quite looked at my helping/enabling like that before. so true and so powerful. x
Once you remove yourself from the chaos of addiction (for me it is my son) you work hard to stay out of it. Once I started working on myself my son involved me less and less in his drama. I have a relationship with him, it just wasn't the one I had planned on.
“Let the tornado spin around you if you want, but do not step in its path.” – this sentence really resonated with me. Likewise, the discussion about self-sabotage increased my awareness in reference to my own addiction to misuse of food and being overweight, from which I am recovering. I feel and receive the love and caring you put out there in the world with your blog and book.
Thank you Sheri! Great to see you 🙂
Faith is certainly the answer, especially when we consider that faith is trust. If we have total trust, we don't need to interfere anymore. Thanks for reaching out and the kind words.
Thank you! 🙂
Thank you, Janet. So appreciate this. x
Tori, this is wise. When we let go and work on ourselves, we see the results. Toxicity will only focus on you when we give it attention, but will retreat when we don't give it power.
Pamela, God bless you. I can't even begin to express how much this means to me. Thank you for reaching out and sharing. Thank you for reading the book, and the blog. I am so grateful.
I just found your blog which is crazy to me that I just found it for I think I have searched enough things on alcoholics because I am married to one but a very functioning alcoholic who goes to work everyday & drinks alone & is never sloppy. This has been going on for 5 years until August when I went out of town for 9 days on a mission trip to come back to a mess that lasted for the next 3 months. Now I am in a place where I cannot go back to tolerating it. I can love from a distant & I am a strong, independent person with a strong relationship with God but my husband wants us to be normal & I can't unless he wants to quit so this leaves me with a decision to make that is not easy. I either stay & go back to tolerating it or I tell him to leave until he is ready to quit. Reading your blog, I know what I should do but it does not make it any easier & my heart breaks for our kids!
Thank you!! This gives me a better perspective on my son's addiction. I am trying to love from a distance ( I have literally moved to a different state to have peace)and this confirms my choice to stand clear of the drama. He is now trying to get help but still playing the \”guilt game\” with me. I just found peace in my life and can't go back to this again!
Thank you so, so much. I needed to hear this. I just ended my relationship (again) with my alcoholic fiance, and I always seem to get sucked back in when he gives me that little glimmer of \”I love you and want to change\” bullshit. And the guilt man! \”I'm not being a Christian if I don't show him love…\” always runs rampant in my brain. I needed this. I needed permission to move on. Thank you. Be blessed.
It just seems so easy to let go and take care of yourself but I just don't know how to do that. I love my recovering alcoholic ex wife and she treats me like I don't exist. I feel cheated and left out of experiencing the sober woman I fell in love with. Why can't I be happy with her? She gets sober, I get left out. How do I stop this unbearable pain?
Me too. My son got sober and now I have no contact after providing so much help. I've been to Al-Anon it makes sense but I am still in so much pain. I am going to have to learn to put the focus on me and leave him alone. I know the pain. I just have to accept this it will be my only way out of this. I'm not a big fan of Al-Anon it just keeps me stuck. I want my life back where I use tto be happy before getting sucked into all of this. Know you're not alone. I want out of this pain and only by loving myself first will I get out of this dark place. I want to become a Happy Holic and get back to the joy of living which will take time. I plan on having compassion for myself and making a grateful list that has to do with me. I understand. I have days when I backslide to \”why doesn't my son care after all I did\” but then I remember \”compassion for myself everyday\” and to remember to stay in the moment. It is the only thing that works for me to keep me out of the rabbit hole. I have learned to do small things for myself on a daily basis. I hope this helps for anyone suffering.