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5 normal feelings to have when you love someone who struggles with addiction


When you love someone in addiction, often you wonder, "should I feel this way" or "is it wrong for me to think these thoughts" And finding someone who actually gets it or knows what you're going through can make it hard to know if you're going insane, or if you're reacting reasonably. Luckily, I happen to be a recovery coach for partners and families of those in addiction, so I'm here to demystify the feelings we often have when we love someone who struggles with alcohol or substance abuse. This list includes just 5 of the messy and uncomfortable feelings many of us feel when we love someone in addiction. I experienced all of these when I had a loved one who was struggling, and many of my clients report the same experiences. But the good news is, these feelings are also a great jumping off point for discovering the true healing experiences you need to create a better life for yourself and your loved ones. So, in no particular order, here are 5 uncomfortable feelings that it's totally normal to have when you love someone in addiction.




Feeling 1: Anger/hate/resentment

While not a “healthy” emotion to harbor long term, feeling angry, resentful, or hateful toward the person you love is actually a totally normal feeling that comes as a result of believing you’ve been wronged by the person struggling with addiction. You may have been. And feeling wronged without any recognition of how it hurt you can often fester into resentment, either toward our loved one, or toward other people who we think “don’t get it” or are making the situation worse. If the person in addiction has betrayed or hurt you while they were actively struggling, and there are others who we think could have helped but didn't, we can become resentful and angry toward many people, or even toward the world and society at large.




Feeling 2: Insecurity or “not enough-ness”

There’s an expectation that when you’re in a committed relationship with someone, you sacrifice for them. You do things for the sake of the other person, for the sake of the relationship, and to prepare for your shared vision of the future. Addiction breaks this expectation, which leads to an assumption that there is something wrong with us, for not inspiring that sacrifice in our partners. We end up wondering "what's wrong with me, that they can't sacrifice their drug for me?" or even worse, we may over time come to believe that we don't deserve good things, as a result of our experiences with their addiction and unhealthy behavior.




Feeling 3: Responsible for Them


This feeling can start out from something we think is a virtue - but as it continues unchecked it can become a serious problem. If you’ve ever said to yourself “I’m the only one who understands them” or “I’m the only one who’s helping them”, chances are you feel as though you’re responsible for them. Eventually this feeling will fuel the first two feelings I mentioned (anger, and insecurity), when despite this feeling of responsibility, we discover that we can’t swoop in and fix everything, and we can't singlehandedly solve their problem with addiction. (Keep reading though, because there is still a lot you can do to encourage recovery).





Feeling 4: Fear


Fear of losing them, fear of their presence, fear of losing yourself, fear of no change, fear of too much change… Loving someone in addiction highlights the obvious about our mortality, which turns our survival instincts on full blast. When we fear for the survival of ourselves or our family, we find ourselves in a state of fight, flight, freeze or fawn - the survival responses activated by the limbic system. Fear is there to pump adrenaline and turn your nervous system on to the emergency in front of you. The existence of fear can be a good thing, because in part it is designed to keep you safe. But once it starts to paralyze you from making healthy choices, it can become a major problem for you and your loved one.




Feeling 5: Grief


Many people who love someone in addiction refer to “grieving their death” before it happens. This can start as a healthy practice for detaching from any attempt to control their outcomes, but it can also turn into a feeling of chronic hopelessness and pessimism. Even without the loss of their life, it is still tragic to watch someone we love engage in patterns of self harm, self hatred, and destruction. Taking time to grieve when we need to can be a necessary part of managing our emotions, so long as we do it in healthy doses. It's important to stay connected to reality and not become lost in grief. When we reach a place of assuming the worst will happen, we disconnect ourselves from the present moment where there is still potential for change and improvement. Getting stuck in an assumption of negative certainty often prevents us from making necessary positive changes in our lives.




There is help for you

Just like our loved ones in addiction need to seek recovery and help for their issues, we often need to seek help and support as well. Talking to a mentor or coach who understands addiction and codependency can help you navigate your emotional recovery in a safe and healthy way, with tools that apply to your unique situation.


If you’re struggling with any of these feelings, The Recovery Revolution is here to help. Click the link below to schedule your free connection call, or visit therecoveryrevolution.com for more information on programs and support for partners and families.





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