Relationships in Addictions (Understanding Codependency Works Both Ways)

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Relationships with an addictive partner often have a pattern that both partners create together. The non-addict has an enormous number of expectations with so many ideas of how life is supposed to be lived. The addict is often buried in Silence and slinks around to get their needs met through the back door.

Too demanding + Silent maneuvering = No Trust or
Controlling + Lying, avoiding the truth = No Trust

You can see how these work in tandem to create massive problems. While it is easy to point the finger at the addict, it is more of a struggle for the non-addict to recognize their part in things because they are filled with self righteous anger. The truth is both people have to change to make a relationship work over the long haul (or both people have to stay stuck with less anger & deceit).

This pattern is why so many marriages crash in recovery. Both people have to be willing to look at themselves & change. It is so much easier to blame everything on the addict.

I’ve listened to a lot of addicts struggle to be authentic and say “I didn’t tell you because I knew you’d be mad”. They swallow the disagreement or the more genuine response to make the other person happy. This strategy only works for the short haul.

Over time the lack of truth erodes the infrastructure. Most addicts have a hard time telling themselves the truth, much less anybody else. Often the burden of their own self hatred makes it impossible for them to believe anybody else really could love them. So they work hard to please others by deflecting the truth.

When the non-addict gets angry about all the lies they’ve discovered, then the addict crawls into their internal pile of shame & says “of course, this is what I deserve”. You can see the relentless pattern of misery that is created. Now the non-addict is more entitled to know what’s right for both of them and respect continues to erode.

The addict is often resentful & feels disrespected because they feel invisible (even though they have had a part in swallowing their own beliefs). The non-addict has lost their respect because of the lying & secrets they have stumbled upon. The future of the relationship depends on whether the respect can be restored to both parties in the process of recovery.

Relationships die because of a lack of respect. Codependent relationships (relationships where people are fused together or are too mushy) by their very nature, lack respect for the differences.


Marijuana Use Daily; A Problem?

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Marijuana is a problem because you feel good without doing anything. Love of marijuana often goes along with a lot of coasting in life; sidestepping goals & not working too hard on studying because you are satisfied with just getting by. Life is a lot of hard work and we adore avoiding the struggle.

People that I know who smoke pot don’t smoke it once in a while. Choice is what makes you mentally healthy. Smoking marijuana every day is not about making choices.

Someone I know is grateful he got in legal trouble which motivated him to finally stop smoking marijuana. He is glad that this happened because he realizes he was using pot to treat his anxiety, by self medicating. I asked him to share his experience:

“When I first quit smoking pot, I felt so bored. I’d get sweaty and clammy for no reason. I was so impatient about everything, like I was constantly on edge. I had no appetite or desire to eat. It was a battle falling asleep at night. Whenever I would notice these things, my first instinct was to smoke a bowl. I wondered when I was going to calm down and became very impatient about that too. This lasted for roughly three days.

I smoked a lot of pot; every opportunity I’d get I’d be smoking a bowl from the minute I’d wake up until the minute I planned to go to sleep. I knew it wasn’t the best thing for me but I also knew I could be doing a lot worse. Something about the way it relaxed me, it was like no other. It made it easier for things to just roll off my back.

I started going to NA meetings. Addiction is something I can easily relate to. It didn’t take long for me to feel comfortable at the meetings. I remember my third or fourth a meeting a guy said, “We need each other in these rooms, to tell us what we’re doing is wrong. As addicts, we can’t see it or simply don’t want to see it. Therefore, we can help each other.” It made so much sense to me.

The next day, I began applying these gems of wisdom in my everyday life. I would share these things with my girlfriend. We started reading the “Just for Today” daily mediations every morning together and we would talk about it. Before long, our relationship started getting better.

Today without marijuana, I can see myself becoming more patient. I am more motivated and do not procrastinate nearly as much as I used to. I remember things, like what I need to do that day or where I left my keys. My girlfriend tells me she can see the clarity in my eyes. She also tells me my mood swings aren’t so severe. And, I am much easier to talk to.

Some of the regulars at the meetings have started to recognize me. They hug me when I walk in and ask how I’m doing. I can honestly say people are genuine to me, and it really feels good. I look forward to going to these meetings and seeing certain people. They, the meetings and the people, make me feel better about myself. They help take the shame away. There is always at least one person that can relate to whatever I say within those rooms.”

A twist of fate helped him recognize marijuana was a real problem. Stop & ask yourself whether or not you might be more alert in your life without the daily use of marijuana….

Read more on my website: Listen to my podcast “What Healthy Couples Know that You Don’t” on website, iTunes or download with your favorite podcast app.


Addictions & the movie Flight

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Denzel Washington plays an addicted pilot with exquisite distinction. He demonstrates the powerful grip of addictions & how hard it can be to release yourself. It is painful to watch his bad choices pile up…….while he teeters on the brink of complete self-destruction.

You watch the lying almost in admiration because he is so damn good at it. You watch him run from any attempts at truth or even brief moments of reality. You watch his girlfriend struggle to decide to hang on to her own sense of reality and not get sucked into his lies to himself.

He is both a true hero and an addicted bum. It is my experience that addicts are wonderful & awful.

The depth of anger by his wife & son is realistic. Years of lies & empty promises take their toll which usually ends up in disgust. Disgust becomes the boundary of “ENOUGH ALREADY, I DON’T BELIEVE YOU ANYMORE. I AM TIRED OF YOUR COMPLETE SELFISHNESS!”

Watching the screen you can feel the empty hole inside his soul. He’s stuffing the hole with booze & cocaine. He keeps himself numb to avoid feeling his own pain & the pain he causes others.

The process of real change, begins on the screen the same place it happens in real life. You have to begin by telling the truth. This is the origin of the AA custom of beginning in meetings with saying your first name and adding “I am an alcoholic.” no matter how long you’ve been in recovery.

You watch Denzel’s character have no real connections to anybody else except his drug dealer (played by John Goodman). If you are not wired to any truth inside of yourself you can not be connected to anyone else. The depth of his loneliness is true for anyone suffering with addictions.

The addict is so busy lying there is no one who knows him, including himself.

The movie also captures the reality that there is a way out of the hell of addictions. The way out includes the hard work of taking responsibility for the consequences of your addiction. The way out requires a huge effort in facing horrible truths about all of your addicted rationalizations.

For Parents who Fear Losing their Children to Addictions

This is one of the most terrible things to endure in life. It is absolutely heart breaking to file a report with the cops because addicted kid, alcoholic adult children, parents with addicted children, helping adult children, addicted children, child addiction, children and addiction, addictions, my son is an addict, addictsyour son or daughter has stolen your credit cards. It’s hard to say they can’t stay with you because they are still using drugs & who knows if they will end up homeless?

Generally the parents take turns caving in & saying Yes when they know they should say No. It can take a long time for both parents to get on the same page. As long as one parent is still playing the “Rescuer Role” then there will not be success. Both parents have to be a team together to be successful.

Both parents have to recognize their children lie & manipulate while looking you straight in the eyes. You as a parent, have to understand that generosity and pretending reality isn’t that bad only helps your kid dig the hole deeper.

I asked a Father to write some of his thoughts down about this powerful journey:

“I just wanted to contribute to the blog about our visits with Rhoda and Nar-Anon meetings.  The reason we see Rhoda and go to Nar-Anon meetings is because we are dealing with our son who is 28 years old now and has been on Heroin for 10 years.

My wife is the one who mostly visits with Rhoda and occasionally I go with her.  One of the main ideas Rhoda tried to get across to us was “get on the same page”.  I have to say once we did get our heads together and start acting more like a team, things did get better for us.

When your loved one has an addiction such as this, believe me you are asked to do the most un-natural thing any parent could be asked to do.  Detach.  Oh we tried and tried but finally I guess we hit our bottom and we really did detach from our son and his addiction.

We are letting him suffer the consequences of his addiction rather than enabling.

We started having more consistent boundaries & stopped being so foolishly generous. Last week he signed himself into rehab.  Now we know this is not an end at all but it is a start.

He has been there before and walked out.  We just pray he’ll stick with it this time.  Our time with Rhoda and Nar-Anon has been well worth our time.  It is amazing how much it helps to be able to talk to someone who understands and you can really say what is on your mind without the fear of being judged.”

This is a hard path for parents to travel because you know your kid can die if they don’t turn things around. I admire the strength so many parents have shown over the years in learning to stop enabling. “Detach with love” is the key.

Stopping Addictions Requires Ruthless Honesty

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Addictions are all about feeling good fast without any effort; swallow too much booze or pop a pill & float, find porn on the internet instead of messy sex with someone real, gamble, or have sex with strangers because it adds drama to your life. The opposite of all this ease would be the choice to do the hard work of being fiercely honest with yourself & anyone you love…..not easy at all.

Addictions are all about deceiving yourself & everyone else. Alcoholics Anonymous has an expression about active addicts: “If their lips are moving, they’re lying.”

Active addicts thrive on a huge amount of selfishness. Their thoughts & feelings constantly loop back to themselves. Even when they are generous to a fault it’s really all about forgiving them when they are “bad”.

Self-hatred also lies at the very heart of most addictions. “Let me numb myself so I don’t have to think about how terrible I’ve been to anyone else.” Loving an active addict really requires loving them no matter what.

Active addicts are unable to love themselves & require everyone around them to supply constant unconditional love so that they can feel ok. Only kids 17 & under deserve unconditional love, not adults. If you are someone who supplies constant unconditional love it is likely that you are codependent.

Codependency is not really love because it lacks respect.

Active addiction demands too much from other people. Recovery requires a lot of work from the addict.

The key to interrupting addiction is a tricky path because ruthless honesty is the only way out. This level of honesty can also fuel shame which can spiral into self-hatred, giving up & relapse. A.A. helps addicts in recovery stay afloat because everyone there knows about shame. It is sharing shame that makes it more bearable.

In my role as therapist it can be very difficult to watch the addict begin to grow & change, yet not be believed because of a huge history of lies & betrayal. It’s easy for me to have greater faith in the recovery because I witness the new path of truth & the new-found courage it demands.

I’m also very sad when the addict isn’t authentic about stumbling on the path of recovery & then they are discovered once again to have lied. Already the partner is at their wit’s end & now they only want out.

If an addict in recovery can pick up the phone to tell their sponsor, their therapist or their partner then they will succeed. When a recovering addict retreats to their old habits of hoarding secrets they are doomed.

If you attend an A.A., N.A., or S.A. meeting & falsely reassure yourself you are not like anybody else who is there you will fail.

It is heart breaking when a partner has been crystal clear that this is the last chance & the addict in recovery hasn’t crawled their way in to the final chance that truth offers. Then it’s too late because of course the lies are uncovered.

Recovery for any problem is really about truth-telling.

The Movie The Fighter: Complicatedness, Addiction & Codependency

This 2010 movie is based on a true story. Mickey Ward is a boxer who has been losing when he allows his management to be left in the hands of his drug addicted brother & controlling mother. The Fighter, Addiction, Codependency, Authentic

It’s actually depressing to see his 7 adult sisters lined up on the couch, having never left to define life on their own terms. They are like a giant potato sack race masquerading as a supportive family. Melissa Leo deserved the Oscar she earned playing the mother who clearly adores her sons more than her daughters.

Often it is the fresh voice of an outsider that helps someone recognize how their kooky family may be holding them back instead of helping. Mickey falls in love with Charlene who helps him get some distance from his family.

There is a reason the incest taboo is so pervasive in a majority of cultures. Kids have to leave home for sex.

Leaving home and family to determine who you are, different from them is an important rite of passage. Then you come back to the fold and can appreciate both sides of who they are. Love is really all about, wanting to become a better person.

Mickey’s brother goes to prison and stops doing drugs. He gets out and is able to have an honest conversation with Charlene. He is important to Mickey winning and he knows he has to stay straight to do that well.

My favorite part of this movie is the respect for the complicatedness which keeps the story authentic. Dickie is a complete waste and yet, he figures out how to step up for his brother. Addicts all have both sides to them. Never underestimate the ugliness of the disease of addiction or the power of recovery.

Mickey needs to interrupt the mushy codependence of his family and figure out how to live with his own choices. It’s also crucial for his success that he not just leave them in the dust. The secret to life is the middle ground, rarely either/or solutions.

Christian Bale plays the junkie brother to perfection. He redeems himself and stays straight in order to help his brother. All people who have achieved recovery have accomplished miracles and deserve tremendous respect for enduring that battle every day.

What is Recovery? Why Relapse?

Relapse & Recovery, Addictions, Al Anon,Relapse is seductive. Relapse is looking backwards & longing for the comfort of numbing yourself with booze, pills etc. Recovery is a whole lot of hard work. It’s very difficult to want to do all that is required.

I have always believed the DARE program for school children was not authentic enough to be effective – It’s a scare program that doesn’t acknowledge the truth; drugs and alcohol etc. temporarily make you feel real good.

It’s alarming how much booze young people put away. Large amounts are ordinary. It separates them from the hard bits of life; loneliness, unemployment, anxiety and painful realities.

The core of addiction has 3 intractable parts to it:

1. Taking the easy way out is a driving force.

2. Often addicts are people easily overwhelmed and filled to the point of drowning in shame.

3. The power of their self destructiveness is a truly terrible thing.

Yesterday, I drew this picture for someone to explain their relapses over the years. The picture makes it clear how attractive and comforting it is to get lost in the floating feeling. Floating is so much easier than dealing.

So like dipping your toe in the water to see how cold it is, people begin the path of hard work and find it oh, so cold.

Doing the next right thing, learning to make pain bearable and dealing with shame is not easy. I have tremendous respect for my clients who’ve stayed on that fiercely honest path of recovery. It is a huge accomplishment.

One of the saddest parts is that partners who live with someone with the disease of addiction build up tremendous resentments over time. It can be hard for the partners to be willing to look at themselves and know they have a part in what happened. It’s so much easier to blame, than to join the journey of recovery.

Addiction wipes out entire families. Addiction is a fierce disease to fight. Addiction is in the genes. Addiction provides a lot of short-term benefits. Recovery is a long-term, hard work proposition. Stay on the path of recovery and you will have more courage, honesty, integrity and character.