In 12-step recovery, we address the issues surrounding addictive behaviors and the person who participates in these behaviors - the addict. While the addict must focus on him/herself in order to recover, there is an innate need in life that distracts from that focus, and that is the love for another person. Any behavior that pulls the addict outside of himself, thereby offering a temporary escape, poses a threat to sobriety. But feelings of love for another person is something that most of us strive to experience; life is not complete without it. An honest program of recovery must acknowledge and allow for this need, whether the addict is 24 hours clean or 24 years.
When someone loves an addict, that person comes into close proximity of a world of addictive behaviors. Sometimes that person becomes completely immersed in that world, ultimately acting out in ways that are as sick as the addict’s. His/her behaviors largely center around and are driven by reactions and responses to the life that the addict lives - whether the addict is sober or using. Here at L&A we call this person the re-addict. If the addict escapes himself in addictive behaviors, the readdict escapes himself in the addict. Essentially, both use behaviors in an attempt to avoid their own lives and themselves.
After my wife and I met, she became obsessed with my recovery, and the majority of her actions were centered around maintaining my sobriety for me. In response, I tried to maintain my sobriety for her, sometimes lying and hiding “bad” behaviors, other times overtly displaying “good” behaviors in an effort to reassure her that I was sober and would never relapse again. Each of us was trying to manipulate the other, and no one was happy. Something drastic had to change, or our marriage wasn’t going to last.
So we established a program that supports a conscious awareness of three elements that are crucial to any healthy relationship, whether it is with a romantic partner or otherwise. We strive to develop and nurture each of these on a daily basis :
Focus on the self
The only person who can truly decide to follow a particular line of thinking or course of action, especially when either of these is in contrast to the typical thoughts or actions of the past, is the individual who is going to have the thoughts or perform the actions. Change is difficult. The only way to have any success at creating change in your life is to commit to doing the work that you need to do, to tackle the challenges that you face, to face the tasks that lay in front of you. In other words, mind your own business.
Focus on the partner
This doesn’t mean you don’t care about the other person, however. While it is true that you can’t do the work for him/her, there are ways you can offer support without being nosy, pushy, or obtrusive. Listen when the other person is having a particularly difficult time, without giving unsolicited advice. When it’s appropriate, lend a hand without hidden agenda or expectation of payback. Tell the person you care and that you believe in them. Do something simply because it will make the other person smile, without working the angle that benefits you. In other words, be nice.
Focus on the couple
One of the best things you can do to keep a relationship of any kind alive and healthy is to participate in activities that emphasize the joy you both receive from it. Don’t have unrealistic expectations of bliss or of carefree interactions. Difficulties exist in every relationship ; deemphasize these as much as you can and accentuate the good parts. Don’t regret the past or agonize over future uncertainty. Stay present and relish the presence of the other person in your life. There are many lonely people in the world, but neither of you are one of them. In other words, count your blessings.
These elements are products of the work we do at Love and Addicts. Our goal is to help couples in relationships as well as other people who are involved in some way with an addict who is in recovery. We strive to help people form and maintain healthy and fulfilling relationships that previously suffered from issues surrounding codependency. We offer individual and couples coaching. If you like what you read here, go to LoveandAddicts.com and sign up and look out for our free ecourse to get started repairing and strengthening the connection you have with an important person in your life. Relationships take work, and most can benefit from some outside help. I hope you reach out to us so we can work together.