What I’m about to say will come as a surprise to many families and friends of active addicts. It’s about that mess the addict in your life continues to make of your house or family or finances.
They feel really bad about it.
They do? Yes, they do. But there’s no way you could know this. Addicts rarely show true remorse for the messes they make in other people’s lives. Sometimes there’s a mumbled apology. Sometimes there’s a promise that it’ll never happen again. But it always does.
What you don’t realize is guilt is part of addiction. No need for you to remind the addict (through a river of tears) how frustrated, disappointed, or hurt you are. The addict knows. No need to list each broken promise (at the top of your lungs). The addict knows that, too.
If so, why do addicts continue to break promises and make a mess in the lives of the people who love them? Because addiction is a tyrant. Between horrendous cravings and painful withdrawal symptoms, the addict feels completely powerless under the heavy fist of addiction.
Knowing this, what can you do?
You can set firm boundaries. That would include house rules for the addict, as well as emotional and financial boundaries for yourself. Make sure the addict is aware of these boundaries and the consequences.
The next time the addict messes up and crosses one of these boundaries, don’t lecture. No need to get crazy emotional. No need to add to the heavy burden of guilt the addict already shoulders. At this point, it’s more important to set a good example by calmly standing firm on your boundaries. When you do, you’re helping the addict you love more than you can imagine.
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