When Addiction Bullies You

I’m a big fan of Brené Brown. In one of her books, she talks about being vulnerable, and she has a rule that I’m about to break.

The rule is that you don’t speak of the things you are vulnerable about in public until you’ve actually worked through them and given them space to heal. I think that’s wonderful advice. I’m a big believer in that.

But I’m going to break that rule because I feel such a sense of urgency to share with you what’s going on with me. I think it’s what’s going on with you too.

Together, we can become stronger and help each other out. I always try to be the type of friend who is real and who never portrays that I have it all together.

With all that being said, I want to tell you what’s going on with me. I’m not going to get too specific because I believe in protecting the privacy of everybody.

I believe in sharing, but I also believe in being dignified and respectful about it.

There is somebody in my life right now who is bullying me and sending horrible, unkind messages that are difficult to read and completely false.

This person doesn’t know me very well. I think I’ve met them three times in my life and had very short conversations with them. So, they’re getting misinformation, and they have an ulterior motive for what they’re doing.

I am aware that I’m undeserving of this and that it’s uncalled for. It’s mean, it’s cruel, and it’s difficult. As I’m receiving this harassment from this person, I thought of you all because I always think of you guys.

I thought about the way it reminded me of my first marriage, and the way addiction used to bully and harass me. I also thought about how all of you reading this probably feel bullied and harassed by addiction too.

We are told that we’re worthless. We are told that we should be ashamed of ourselves. We’re told that we are not fun, we are overdramatic, we’re never happy, or never good enough. We are told that we are crazy. We’re told that we’re controlling. We are told that we nag. And we are reminded of all of the things that make us feel insecure.

That’s addictions way of trying to get us to be quiet.

Addiction is trying to put you in your place. It’s trying to say to you, “Listen, lady, you need to shut your mouth, sit down, and be quiet because I’m in control of this situation. I’m in control of your finances, your family, and all the extra free time of the person you love. I am in control.”

You are left feeling completely devastated. Your heart is broken. You feel like you’ve been beaten up, and you’re marred and cut and broken.

That is a horrible feeling. And if you’re feeling like that today, I am right here with you. We can feel beaten up and broken together.

But as I was thinking about this, I realized that addiction is a bully. It doesn’t matter who you are. You could be Mother Teresa or Oprah. You could even be God, and addiction would be trying to do the same thing to them as it is to you.

You’re an obstacle, and addiction’s goal is to get everything out of the way so that it can remain in control of the person you love.

So, do not take this personally. This is not your fault.

We have lots of podcasts and tools in the program that can teach you how to regain control because I do not believe that we are powerless at all; I think that’s a bunch of bull. We do have power.

We have choices. We’re not helpless, and we do not have to sit around and wait for things to get better in order to start feeling better.

So, what do you do when you’ve been bullied? What do you do when addiction is trying to put you in your place with a bunch of lies? Do you retaliate and fight back? Do you walk away and give up?

The first thing that you do is take a deep breath. You have to pause. When this person was sending me text messages, I did not respond. I’m a feisty woman, so my initial instinct was to fight back. But I took a deep pause, I put my phone away, and I thought, “I need to get quiet. I need to make space to think about this.”

And then I asked myself, “Is there any truth to this? Do I need to be refined? Is there some lesson I need to learn?” This is clearly not a healthy way for someone to teach me a lesson. It’s not dignified, rational, or kind. It is cruel, and it’s mean-spirited. But if I sift all of that away, and if I’m left with just the words, is there a point they’re trying to make?”

I thought about that and said, “No, there’s no point to what they’re saying, so I’m going to practice boundaries.”

I blocked this person from my phone because I don’t need this in my life. It isn’t helpful. This is coming from a place of yuck. So, I practiced what I preached: I set a boundary.

When someone bullies you like that, you feel beaten up, don’t you? You feel like you have been broken and bruised, and you’re damaged. You’re thinking, “Why me? What did I do wrong? Am I really that bad? Are they right? Is this accurate? What did I do to deserve this? I thought I was a good person. I thought I was kind.” And you go through every instance in your mind of the ways you’ve been kind, or you go through every instance where you’ve made a mistake. Then you have a choice:

You can choose to believe the cruelness and the lies about yourself, or you can choose to believe the real you.

I remember going to church after this happened, and I wasn’t singing the worship songs along with the band. I remember closing my eyes and thinking, “What do You need to tell me? What do I need to hear right now?” And I felt Jesus cup my face in his hands and say, “I love you. I. love. you.”

It was so overwhelming to me because it wasn’t “I love you, but Michelle, you could have done better in this situation,” or, “I love you, but you really need to work on this trait. I love you, but you’re falling short in this area.”

I felt this amazing confirmation that I am absolutely, unconditionally loved no matter what anybody in this world thinks of me. I’ve got this unconditional love that I can tap into at any point in time.

It was so overwhelming and so pure that I realized giving anybody the weight and worth of my heart and my acceptance is giving away my power.

Whether it’s to somebody who’s being a bully, or whether it’s to somebody who is giving me a compliment, it’s all the same.

It’s giving away your power to what other people think of you. And at the end of the day, even if you don’t believe in Jesus (that’s completely okay because we welcome anybody of any faith or no faith at all), it truly is: what do you feel about yourself?

We are sisters. I know that you are reading this today and going, “I need help. I’m alone. I feel broken, I feel hopeless, and I feel guilty, embarrassed, and ashamed.” I am here to say to you: there is nothing that we need to be ashamed about.

You are lovely. You are beautiful. You’re magnificent. You are caring. You are thoughtful. You’re a good woman, and anybody that is healthy and not struggling with addiction is able to see that.

Addiction is a bully, and it has nothing to do with you.

It has to do with the ultimate goal of taking over the one you love. You are an obstacle that is in its way. Addiction is doing everything it can to get you to be quiet and leave it alone.

You do not want to retaliate. You do not want to get into the boxing ring with addiction. That’s draining to you because you’re stooping to their level. It’s also ineffective. It doesn’t work.

When have you ever gotten into a fight with somebody where they come out going, “You know what? You’re perfectly right. I’m going to stop drinking and using drugs. I’m going to change my entire life around.” And maybe they said that, but did it really happen? Did it result in long-term sobriety? No. You know it doesn’t. So don’t waste your breath, your time, or your energy.

I’m working on recognizing that this person is no better or no worse than I am. I don’t want this to sit with me. I don’t want this person to have control over my mind in my quiet time. And that’s what happens when you don’t forgive. It just creeps into your pores: anger, resentment, and yuckiness.

So, I’m working on seeing this person for the goodness in them and reminding myself that we are all human, and we all make mistakes. I forgave my ex-husband a long time ago, and that was the best gift I’ve ever given myself. If I can forgive him, I can forgive anybody else.

That should be your goal, my sisters: forgiveness.

How do you do that? You give it space. You’re compassionate with yourself. You don’t reciprocate. Understand it’s not personal, and look for the goodness in them. Remind yourself that they are not rotten through and through. Remember that you are not perfect. And forgive them for you.

It doesn’t mean that you still allow abuse in your life. I’m not going to unblock this person from my phone, but I am going to work. Now that there’s quiet, and now that I’ve set up that boundary, there is space, and I have the intention of forgiving them.

If you get nothing else from this, I hope you get that you’re not alone, and I’m here with you.

I also want to mention that the tools you learn when loving somebody with addiction are tools you can use for the rest of your life. Addiction showed up in your life as a teacher. It’s a terrible teacher nobody wishes to have, but it gives you an opportunity to grow.

It gets in your face and says, “You’ve got to deal with me. Are you going to choose to deal with me today?” You are going to choose to learn the tools that you need in order to develop into the very best version of yourself.

Once you learn these tools, and once you start practicing them, they are going to save you time and time again for the rest of your life, whether you decide to stay in this relationship or not.

I encourage you, if you have not already, join our community. Check us out at LoveOverAddiction.com. Discover one of the programs. We have an amazing movement taking place with over 20,000 women, and I love each and every one of you. We’re in this together.