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Addiction is a disease that breaks hearts. It has a profound adverse effect on everyone. Spouses, children, extended family, and friends, suffer heartbreak.
Addiction damages and in some cases destroys relationships. Feeling utterly powerless while watching someone you care about self-destruct is painful.
Addiction is one of the most difficult relationship patterns to treat in couples or family therapy. Relapse is a constant threat. When relapse occurs, it can wipe away any progress made in relationship recovery.
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The most troubling aspect of addiction is that it breaks hearts. Here is a sample of heartbreak that some people report:
You cannot change the heart of an addicted person. But what can you do about your heart? You can guard it from being destroyed by collateral damage.
“Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23
Here are 5 things to do to protect your heart from being permanently broken.
#1: A broken heart needs treatment
Often we focus on the addicted person needing treatment. Support here is limited. What often gets neglected is the person or people who are directly affected by the presence of the addiction in the home.
You need support–and if you have children include them too! Family members often fake feeling good. Behind the mask are painful feelings. Masks have to come off in order to treat the heart.
So, what’s next?
#2: Establish a trusted support system for yourself
Addiction survives in secrecy. You cannot afford to keep silent. Neither can you go through this alone. It will take some courage, but you will feel much better when you open up to others for help.
Establish a small group of trusted people you can rely upon for support.
- key family members
- trusted friends
- support group like Al-Anon or Al-Ateen
- spiritual leader
#3: Become a student of addiction
Learning about addiction will have a profound effect on how you deal with it in your family. Becoming a student will help you understand the nature of the disease and the effect it has on the person. The addicted suffer in ways we cannot fathom.
You will also learn how it affects family members. This information will provide an accurate lens to deal with the problem.
Read books. Do research. Join social media support communities.
#4: Clarify your boundaries around addiction
Family members often struggle feeling responsible for the addiction. To compensate they work harder to control it in their loved-one.
Remind yourself of these three realities:
Clarify who you are responsible for:
- I did not cause it.
- Nor can I control it.
- I cannot fix it.
When addiction manifests enact boundaries with the person so that you and your kids are protected.
#5: Live within your limits around addiction
Repeated cycles do severe damage to the heart of loved ones. To combat relapse, hyper-vigilance governs the relationship. Power struggles intensify. Walls of resentment build higher and wider with each episode. Broken hearts become cold, then callous.
The effect on children can become severe resulting in mental health and/or behavioral problems, low self-esteem, self-identity, and/or poor psycho-social development.
- I am responsible to protect my heart.
- I am responsible to protect my kids.
When addiction reaches this level some partners reach a limit. They cannot subject themselves or their children to the toxicity harming the family.
A decision to stay or end a relationship damaged by addiction is deeply personal and is more likely achieved when the individual has a healthy support system. Some find a way to make it work. Others cannot due to the severity of toxicity in the home.
If you decide to end a relationship it is not a statement of failure. Rather, it is a choice to survive.
Now it’s your turn
How is your heart? Is it broken? Mending?
If you are suffering under the toxic effect of a loved-ones addiction then it’s time to give help to your heart. Look over the 5 areas. What are you currently doing? What can you do next?