First, I should mention that a similar post hurt the feelings of an anonymous parent who had falsely interpreted the message as faulting parents for our addiction. Every single word I've ever written about addiction firmly asserts the precise opposite of that, that nothing outside of ourselves is to blame for our addiction and our selfish, destructive behaviors. That post was, To Parents, Spouses & Codependents. So just because the title of this older post below is Families & Codependency, that doesn't mean that all family members and spouses of addicts are codependent, and as such, may not apply to them.
Listen, my job is to tell you the truth, not to lie to you, or try to sound smart, or ramble on about shit I know nothing about, like your average therapist, addictions counselor, psychiatrist, academic, intellectual, meeting goer, news anchor, politician, government agency, methadone clinic, etc. etc. etc. Nope, sorry. If I don't tell you the truth and help vaporize the pile of bullshit you've been fed, swallowed and stored up in the attic, then I'm doing everybody a great disservice.
Families and spouses can become gravely sickened and pretty much go insane, just as the addict. Let's face it, if you live with a crazy person, chances are you'll find yourself going some degree of crazy yourself. An addict’s negative energy permeates all who surround him. If and when the addict gets better, spouses and family members are suddenly slammed with the pile of crap inside of them that had built up and was perhaps ignored by necessity. They begin to suffer greatly and wonder why.
Why do I feel more awful now that he or she has gotten well? I should feel better now... but I feel worse!
Our addiction is their bridge to insanity. The addiction of another can become a necessary preoccupation from their own worsening mental sickness, anxiety or depression. In a strange, almost pain-dependant way, families remain in a comfort zone of their own by trying to control, fix, manipulate, instigate, antagonize… all things a healthy person would recoil from. But for co-dependants, addiction provides them with a strange relief by enabling them to constantly deflect their own pain, self-responsibility, character flaws, or dependency issues. This is why most couples break up after the addict gets better. If one person gets better and the other does not, there isn't much of a happy future ahead. Also, the sober addict is often nothing like the way he or she used to be. His or her spouse might wake up and realize,
Wait a minute, I'm not sure I even like this person! Sure they were an asshole when actively drinking, but it was that old personality I fell in love with, not this new one.
Regardless of what happens, once an addict achieves health and sanity, many family members and loved ones cannot help but realize how much pain they are in. Therefore, parents and spouses usually need the same thing addicts do - for the hole inside them to be filled. It does not seem fair, and the truth is, it’s not. But it’s reality. Codependents have always had us addicts to distract them and to blame. If we suddenly get better, there is no more distraction and nothing more to blame. Everything inside that the codependent has neatly tucked away now stares them right in the face. Time to take some action.
I strongly suggest that any spouses, parents, close relatives or friends who are suffering, even long after the addict has recovered, go out and embark on a rigorous Twelve Step process. It may save them as well. To note, they can follow the exact same Big Book Twelve Step directions that we do. All they need is to find a recovered sponsor or an al-anon sponsor who has taken these Steps and recovered.
Ultimately, the only thing you can really do to change anything is to let go of the addict and go heal yourself.
God, please give our families and spouses the willingness and power to heal and grow...