But that long descent into the disease of alcoholism and addiction leads to only one of three outcomes: institutions, insanity or death. Adrian is not in an institution and he isn't dead. But his sanity is severely compromised. Although I have not met with him face to face for over four years, I do occasionally call him. And I choose to time those phone calls earlier in the day, before he gets too drunk or too high. Even in his more lucid moments, Adrian is a shadow of the man he used to be. His brain is too damaged by years of active alcoholism and addiction to work very well. I find that very sad. And I am grateful I am no longer married to him because I could not and would not want to live like that.
Looking back at our thirty year saga, I can say that I know I love deep and true. I can tell you that I will fight for love. And I can tell you that if anyone thinks love is enough to cure addiction, they are a fool.
When I chose to stay married to Adrian while he battled his addiction to pain pills, I had to learn something called "detaching with love." I wasn't good at it. But I learned a lot about it during those five years of hell.
Detaching with love requires healthy boundaries and assertion skills. It means you say no while keeping your heart open and filled with love. It requires staying connected to your empathy for yourself and for your loved one while refusing to indulge the dishonesty or the negative behaviors.
For instance, when Adrian verbally abused me, I practiced asserting my healthy boundaries by refusing to engage in a conversation with him while he spoke to me in that way. I remained calm. I didn't return his insults nor did I try to defend myself. I said no to the way he was talking to me and informed him that if he continued to yell and name call, I would have to remove myself from the room. If he followed me into another room, I would have to leave the house until he was more reasonable and respectful.
Obviously, detaching with love did not get Adrian sober. But it did help me to disengage from his denial about his addiction so that I could begin to see things more realistically. One of the reasons I teach what I teach is because I want to spare my clients from the years and years of suffering I endured. You don't have to put in thirty years before you are allowed to wake up and see the true nature of addiction in your loved ones. And you don't have to waste time trying to "educate" or "enlighten" them.
I can tell you that alcoholics and addicts will never change unless and until they are ready to do so. If you choose to stay in a relationship with someone who is drinking or drugging addictively, you can do so. But make sure you are not harboring any hopes that your love will change them. It won't. The only person you have the power to change is you.
used with permission -the article originally appeared on blog at www.TheShameFreeZone.com