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Addiction, Recovery, and Responsibility: Is It My Door to Open?

Every once in awhile, a profound piece of wisdom is shared on Facebook. When I saw the following statement on my newsfeed, I immediately realized how relevant it is to the work I do with the loved ones of addicts:

If it doesn’t open, it’s not your door.

Have you ever tried to force something to go differently, whether it’s a particular situation or a relationship that you know deep down is just not right? Or maybe you have tried to control a particular outcome, even if it meant twisting yourself into that proverbial pretzel to get it?

We may, at times, feel somewhat “successful” if we’re able to strong-arm a situation into how we think it should be, but that so-called success is never permanent – nor is it generally what we anticipated in the first place. If it takes superhuman strength, vigilance and constant work on our part to control and maintain the course of our desired outcome, it’s very likely that we are on the wrong path altogether.

It’s time to find another way that will lead to a door that opens – with much less effort.

Finding Your Own Door

This is a situation I see occurring frequently with the loved ones of addicts I work with, and I like to remind them of that quote when I see them pushing upstream, against the current.

If you’re the loved one of an addict, the only thing you want for them is to be free of their addiction so they can go on to live happy and successful lives. With that end goal in mind, you put our own life on the back burner while you do anything and everything you can think of to get the addict on board with your end goal. Your fear of what could potentially happen to your addict controls your every action; at the same time, every action you take, every sacrifice you make, every attempt at controlling the situation just leads you right back where you started. You’re living a version of Groundhog Day because any action done with fear as the motivating factor is always a losing proposition.

I get it. I know you love the addict in your life, yet I can also understand how angry you can feel when he or she persists in living in a way that may well end their lives all too soon. I get how frustrating it is to come up with one thing after another – everything from an intervention to coercing them into entering a treatment center – in an attempt to make them stop. Every failed attempt is merely prolonging your suffering and emptying your bank account. The addict is right back where he or she started – and because of your fear of what could happen to them, you may even allow them to move back home with very few expectations, which only guarantees that they will resume their prior lifestyle and the behaviors that go along with it.

Repeating the Cycle

If you’re wondering why this cycle repeats itself as often as it does, the answer is simple:

Because it’s not your door.

Only the addict can travel the road to recovery from his or her addiction. Loved ones simply cannot recover on behalf of the addict they love. The only recovery loved ones are responsible for is to free themselves from the chaos of being addicted to their addict’s addiction.

One of the most important ideas for loved ones to understand is that it’s never a loving act to enable an addict to stay in active addiction.-Candace PlattorEveryone has free will. Every moment of every day we are given the blessing and responsibility of choice. We all get to choose how we want to be in the world. Even the threat of bodily harm can’t convince a person to do what he or she doesn’t want to do – or to NOT do what he or she wants to do. We must be willing to understand and accept that we all ultimately choose for ourselves. This is a difficult pill to swallow for many people, especially those who witness their loved ones making life-endangering choices.

Your only viable option with your addicted loved one is to choose to make it as uncomfortable as possible for him or her to remain entrenched in their addiction. When discomfort is heightened, most addicts begin to make different choices for themselves – choices that no one else can make for them.

One of the most important ideas for loved ones to understand is that it’s never a loving act to enable an addict to stay in active addiction. When you make it comfy for an addict to continue using the addictive behavior, you are not helping them in any way – no matter what your best intentions may be. Instead, you need the addict in your life to know that because you love him or her so very much, you are no longer willing to support them, financially and otherwise, in continuing their addiction. As well, the addict needs to know that if and when they choose sobriety, you will be there to support that choice in any way you can. This is a decision that you, as the loved one, make that is based in love, not fear or desperation, and one that has the highest potential for success for all involved.

Opening the Right Door

You cannot open a door that is meant for someone else to walk through. You cannot work harder at sobriety than the addict in your life and expect positive, healthy results from them. Stop trying to open your addict’s door and instead become a role model by putting your own life front and center again.

When we choose to open the door to our own sanity, serenity and well-being, we often find that the addict in our life chooses to follow suit. It’s the only door meant for you in this situation and the healthiest choice you can make – both for yourself and for the addict you love.



Images Courtesy of iStock

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