How To Let Go Of Using Addiction As An Excuse
How To Let Go Of Using Addiction As An Excuse
We’re so excited to share this conversation with one of our Love Over Addiction sisters. She’s done so much healing, and let go of using her husband’s addiction be the excuse for everything.
Her honesty is refreshing. She’s clearly done so much healing and recovery of her own, and has found herself in a healthy place, truly growing.
Listen to the podcast episode here:
Or read the transcript below:
Michelle: The best way to start is to ask about how you met your husband. Because you are currently married, correct?
Love Over Addiction Sister: Yes.
So tell us how you met him, and when you started noticing there might be a problem here?
Love Over Addiction Sister: Well, we technically met when I was seven or eight years old. I was friends with his sister.
Growing up, we were on the same soccer team. So, I’ve known their family almost my whole life. I didn’t know him well at all. I did sports with his sister. She had three brothers, and I didn’t do anything with them that early.
Then I was just out of college, and I was in my 20s, where I was at his sister’s house for a get-together.
He asked me for my phone number there. To be honest, I knew there was a drinking problem back in high school.
However, at the time, maybe I didn’t…
I don’t know if it registered because I drank a lot in high school and college myself.
Pretty much all my friends did. So, I guess I kind of thought it was normal at that time.
Michelle: So you were a big drinker, and so was he. So, you guys would drink together, I’m assuming?
Love Over Addiction Sister: No, actually. I didn’t. I didn’t really drink with him. But, we were in the same school, he was two years older than me.
Sometimes I would wind up going to the same party, but we were never dating in college.
When we did start to date officially, I had become a born again Christian. I was trying to get away from some of those things I didn’t think I should be doing anymore, like excessive drinking and partying. At this time, I was trying to change my life and be led by God.
Now, I remember being alarmed at the amount he would drink even just out on a date.
It seemed like too much for just being out on a date. There were times we went out on a date, and then I had to drive him back to his house. Those were initial warning flags for me. At the time, I didn’t heed the warning signs. I was so used to burying my feelings and my intuition. I guess I just hoped it would go away.
Michelle: Why do you say that?
Why do you say you buried your feelings and intuition?
Had you done that in your childhood?
Love Over Addiction Sister: Well, yeah. I had a lot of opportunities growing up. And I don’t like to beat up on my parents. But, generally speaking, my feelings, emotions, and even things I wanted to do were not validated by them.
Then, I learned to people-please from a very young age. So, I didn’t trust myself to make decisions.
So when I saw all the drinking, and thought, “Oh, my gosh. That’s a lot of drinking.” I didn’t say anything. I didn’t bring it up as an issue, or even the fact that I noticed all the drinking. Literally, I didn’t say anything about it.
I didn’t make a boundary.
Instead, I just shoved down what I thought.
Michelle: Got it. So you justified his behavior by doubting yourself. You kind of ignored the red flags that were going on. Is that accurate to say?
Love Over Addiction Sister: I would say so. Yes.
Michelle: Okay. So, did you get to a point where you talked to him about his drinking? And at what was that in your relationship?
Now in the Love Over Addiction program, so you understand that this is a problem.
At what point did you realize, “Oh, this genuinely is a problem with drinking.”?
Does he have any issues?
Is there addiction to drugs, or is there addiction to pornography?
Or is it just about the drinking for him?
Love Over Addiction Sister: I would go in and out of denial about the drinking. He does have other behaviors that he uses as comfort. I would hate even to call them addictions, and that could have been part of the denial. He will go through periods with extreme exercise, extreme gaming, and also being extremely codependent and helping people. Early on in our relationship, I know that he used pornography, too.
Things would rotate. It would be like seasonal almost. I would sometimes forget about the drinking and think, “Oh, I guess he doesn’t have a drinking problem.”, but then there would be a new focus — for example, the exercise or the gaming. There always seems to be something. It’s always something that came first, something that was addictive or over boarding nature.
Just a few years ago, I came to the understanding that he did have a problem. I did a little more research and learned more about alcoholism. I always imagined continual, completely out of control drinking, and that’s not every addiction.
There’s a lot of people with drinking problems that are binge drinkers.
They do go in these cycles or bouts. It was then that I lost a lot of my denial, and admitted it was an actual drinking problem.
That was before I found your program. But after I admitted what was going on, that’s when I started searching for answers. And that’s when I found the Love Over Addiction program.
Michelle: That’s good. That’s great that you were searching. I think that’s so true because I think a lot of people feel that alcoholism, or addiction, or even extreme behavior needs to be daily.
The realization you had, that no, it doesn’t have to be all the time every day, but instead, can be in cycles or bouts is so true.
Addiction looks different for everyone.
You can be dealing with an alcoholic who binge drinks once every three months, but they still have a drinking problem.
Even if it doesn’t affect their job, some people that are alcoholics are wonderful parents. They’re great, engaged people who run their own businesses, and then after-hours drink in the evenings in excess where they pass out.
I think that’s super important and I love that you mention that because addiction is different for every person.
But when their drinking starts impacting their life, your life, and your relationship, that’s when you know it’s a problem with addiction.
How was his drinking affecting you and your family?
Love Over Addiction Sister: Well, that is multifaceted. Initially, it was affecting me because I was so obsessed with all of his behaviors.
I lost myself big time.
It affected my health.
I was just stressed all the time. I only focused on what he was doing.
Now, as I get more and more into my recovery, those effects are still there. They call it a family disease.
When you’re married, everything the other person does has an effect on the spouse and the children.
The big difference now though is that it doesn’t control my life anymore. I can’t say it’s not a problem anymore, but now, after the program, it feels like a different kind of problem.
We still have our issues related to his addiction, like our lack of connection at times, overspending, and overall lack of communication.
In a healthy marriage without addiction, I imagine you’re constantly growing and improving together.
And although we do have periods of growth and times we’re working together and figuring things out, we also have these ‘flop’ times.
And now, in those times, I double down on what I’m doing. Those times used to wreck me, but they don’t anymore. I focus on my program and all the personal work I’m doing.
It led me to enjoy things I had let go of when I was obsessed with his behaviors. Now I turn to friends and other people more now.
So, in a way, I feel like my life is so much better because of his addiction. Because I learned all these new skills that I never had growing up. I have a more fulfilling life now than I ever have my whole life. Hopefully, that makes sense.
Michelle: That makes such sense. I love that you’re saying this. I think this is such an important part of your story.
Because I say this all the time:
I think addiction was the greatest gift that ever happened to me.
Even though, for me, it resulted in divorce, among a lot of other issues.
I wouldn’t be half the woman I am now if I hadn’t gone through that.
You’re right; it does force you to take self-inventory and go, “Okay, I have two choices. I can either choose to continue to be obsessed with this person and their disease, and shove down every single dream and desire, and piece of self-worth that I have, or I can fight. Rise. Choose to heal. I can choose me.”
Sometimes, I think addiction comes into our lives because it forces us to make that choice. And if we didn’t have it in our lives, we never would’ve needed to make such choices. We’d settle for the comfortable, less best life if that makes any sense.
Love Over Addiction Sister: Yes, yes. Definitely.
Michelle: I love that you’re grateful. Do you feel that way?
Love Over Addiction Siste: Well, I definitely do. I’m surprised at how much growth that I needed. And I know that I still do need.
I would say, in the last year or so, there was a period where I was just angry. I didn’t have any gratitude.
But now, I have a lot of gratitude. Some things are coming out of me that I didn’t even know where there.
They were just so buried. I didn’t know they were there. So, I’m grateful for these challenges.
They feel hard, but every time I go through something and grow, I feel so good about myself. Proud that I grew past a fear or a roadblock. I feel like God is bringing out of me the gift that I have and making them available for others.
Honestly, when I think about myself when we first got married, I was a mess. I don’t even know how anyone could have lived with me. I didn’t have a drinking problem, but I was, really, really crazy.
Michelle: How were you crazy?
What kind of odd behaviors or baggage did you bring in to this relationship that you feel has healed now?
Looking back, do you think, “Oh, I remember I used to handle this situation this way with anger, or yelling, or screaming, and now I find that when I triggered or when I’m in that situation I handle it so much differently.”?
And what are some of those situations, and how do you contrast the reactions to them?
Love Over Addiction Sister: Well, I guess I would say that I came to the relationship kind of like a broken child myself.
I had had many relationships before my husband, and I got married.
So, I brought all of that to the table, and none of it was healed for me. That put up a lot of walls for intimacy and being close to another person. That was one area.
I had no concept of taking care of myself in any way with finances. Growing up, I went from my parents’ house to college where I had loans, and then to my husband’s house, and he just took care of us financially. So I was taken care of in that regard.
I was very selfish. Early on, I was demanding and wanting things my way.
I would say that I wasn’t very resourceful. I didn’t know how to do anything about running a house or being a mother.
It was more like just entitlement. I just thought everything should be the way I wanted it when I wanted.
That was nearly 11 years ago.
So over the last 11 years, with having kids and just the demands of life… My husband is very good at setting boundaries with me. And he used not to be, so that’s changed a lot.
I had to find answers because I think earlier on in our relationship, when I would whine, complain, cry, or try to get my way, he gave into me. But after a few years of that, he resisted giving in.
I remember him saying to me, “I feel like if I am keeping you what you want, it’s never enough. You just want more.”
In our relationship, he turns to things, like drinking or games, to satisfy that emptiness.
I was turning to him whenever I felt empty because I didn’t know that I could get it myself. From things like going for a walk, or painting, or doing something with a friend.
I never did any of that, so I just felt empty. He needed to satisfy that emptiness.
I think because of that, I wasn’t the best partner. I’m sure at the beginning it was very draining and tough for him to deal with.
Michelle: I cannot tell you how impressed I am. I am in awe of your honesty.
Love Over Addiction Sister: Oh, thanks.
Michelle: You’re taking so much responsibility for your side, which I think is so hard to do. A lot of people, me included, for years, blamed everything on the alcohol and addiction.
I love that.
I think our true growth comes from when we stop, detach, and are willing to own up.
When we take and say, “Gosh, when I came into this relationship, I was not healthy.”.”
It’s interesting because when I got divorced, I started dating again. I married the man that I dated. I thought that by leaving the alcoholic, everything would be better.
But I quickly realized that wasn’t the case. I still had a lot more work to do on me, so it wasn’t just all about the alcohol and addiction.
It’s so much more about our own stuff. I found myself thinking, “Oh, I still have codependent tendencies.” Or, “I’m still looking for somebody’s approval instead of my own approval of myself.”
I still put way to much stock into what other people thought of me. And I was trying to please everyone and caring way too much about their opinion of me. That was all my baggage.
So, I love that you’re at the point where you can remain married and still separate yourself enough to see your behaviors. That’s huge.
Love Over Addiction Sister: Well, thanks.
I feel very validated in you saying that because sometimes I doubt myself in that decision.
So, that feels good.
I think it comes from, the fact that I did have numerous relationships before I was married, and one was a four-year relationship.
It’s funny because some things my husband says to me, it echoes some things that my old boyfriend would say. So, I’m left thinking, “Okay. I obviously kept some of these same behaviors, so let me look at that.”
We both have our issues, but he’s been able to put boundaries in place, and whenever I cross one of his boundaries, I’m thinking, “Oh my gosh. What am I doing here that is hurting him? What am I doing wrong?”
Michelle: What are some of the boundaries that he places on you? Give us an example if you can.
Love Over Addiction Sister: Well, let me think.
I used to start fights with him a lot.
I would be upset about something, and he would be relaxing or doing something he wanted to do on the weekend.
That irritated me. I think it was because I couldn’t relax and I didn’t know what to do to relax.
So, I would start a fight. He engaged in those fights with me for a long time.
But then, I remember this one time that he said to me, “If you come to me and you do this again, I’m walking away. I’m not going to do this ever again with you.”
It just stuck in my head. I don’t think I was successful the first time that I tried not to start a fight with him, but I was aware of it.
And I wanted to stop doing that. I didn’t want to go to him and start a fight because I felt uneasy or not at rest. Maybe he was doing something that I didn’t like or that maybe wasn’t the best choice, but I didn’t need to go and start a full out fight over it. So, that was one area.
I would say finances was another because I brought a lot of debt to our marriage.
I was not made to work or learn how to save money growing up.
My parents took care of me financially. Which, in a lot of ways, it was like a blessing, but then it was not. Because I didn’t learn how to take care of finances.
So when we got married, he put a lot of financial parameters on me. I was so, so mad. We had a budget.
And I mean, even as far as a few years ago, we still are budgeting for things. But, it has made me grow so much in that area, and I feel so good about myself now that I can work. I work part-time because I have children at home. I can work, and then I can save. So, I’m grateful for that in that area where he has put boundaries for me.
Michelle: That’s huge.
I wanted to talk to you about something you mentioned earlier about anger and turning your anger into gratitude.
Because I think that’s key. So many of us get angry and frustrated when we see our partners using their substance(s) of choice, especially after they’ve promised they’ll stop.
We feel tricked and manipulated. Anger is a very real emotion when you’re in love with someone suffering from addiction.
How do you deal with your anger and turn it into gratitude?
Love Over Addiction Sister: Well, it’s been a process, for sure. I think my first big awareness of it came when I realized that I needed to stop talking about my anger to people.
Every time I would get angry, I’d call my mom and complain. Because she’s my mom, I guess she just would let me complain.
I might’ve done that for a couple of years. And now I can’t believe how long I did it, where I was just stuck in that anger and that complaining.
I finally realized that it wasn’t helping me. She would say something like, “Oh, you’re getting it out. You’re venting.”
But after a few years, which now I’m thinking, “Oh my gosh. I can’t believe it wasted a few years doing that.”
But after a few years, I just realized that it was the same. I was not going forward.
So, I had to seek out people to talk to.
I had purchased your program at that point.
I was listening to the teachings, but I didn’t feel comfortable talking to other people.
That took me, probably a year, of listening to your teachings and doing the program until I began to feel safe.
Love Over Addiction Sister:
I was terrified to talk to someone else.
Once I did, they did not put up with that complaining. I remember talking to people, and I could tell they did not want to hear me complain all the time. Maybe I could complain to them once. But if I called them again, they were not answering.
I realized I had to change. That this negativity was not good. I just began listening to as many positive podcasts as I could, all day long.
I used to be mad that I was in the kitchen all the time cooking or making meals, but now that’s some of my favorite times of the day.
I’ll put on a podcast and listen while I’m cooking. I guess I’m just trying to rewire my brain and my thinking.
Michelle: What is one of your favorite podcasts? Because that’s huge. I love that.
Love Over Addiction Sister: Oh, okay.
Sure. Well, I listen to your podcast, of course. I love your gentle approach because sometimes I feel like I need gentle.
So, it depends on the mood I’m in. Sometimes I feel like I need to be kicked-in-the-butt inspired. I listen to Spartan Up.
Love Over Addiction Sister: Do you know Spartan?
I listen to podcasts in the kitchen now – that helps with my anger.
Michelle: What is that?
Love Over Addiction Sister: I did a Spartan Race with my husband. They’re like those crazy, crazy races through the woods and mud. You do all these obstacles courses.
Michelle: Really? That sounds fun.
Love Over Addiction Sister: They’re called Spartan Race. I guess just Spartan. But, the podcast is called Spartan Up. They interview top athletes and top business people from all over the world. They’re usually really pumped up. I don’t want to say aggressive, but just go-getting kind of people.
So, sometimes when I feel like I need to be revved up, I’ll listen to that.
I listen to Recovered podcast. That is based on Alcoholics Anonymous. So, that has given me a lot of compassion or understanding for the alcoholic because the people that talk on there are recovered alcoholics. That has been really helpful to hear that side. Then, I also … I listen to The Recovery Show sometimes and Tony Robbins. I like him.
Michelle: I like him. Have you seen his documentary? Are you a documentary person?
Love Over Addiction Sister: No, I haven’t.
Michelle: Yeah, it’s worth watching. It’s on Netflix. It’s free if you have Netflix.
Love Over Addiction Sister: I actually only just got turned on to him, so I haven’t heard that much, but I like his podcast.
Michelle: Yeah, I like him, too. That’s great.
I love that you are taking action and actually doing something when you’re feeling down.
You’re not just sitting there. You’re not just falling into this trap of complacency and depression. Instead, you’re finding real-life tools, and in your case, podcasts, to motivate and uplift you. Or soothe and comfort you. That’s great.
Do you have any other tools that you use or things you do that help you?
Love Over Addiction Sister: Well, yes. Now I have a growing list of tools. Sometimes I just put on music and sing. If I start to get into my head and I’m thinking about some problem if I start singing along with a song, that gets me out of my head and out of the thoughts.
So, sometimes I like to sing because then the kids can be involved and hear music and I’m not just zoned out on my thoughts.
I try to do my art as much as possible. That is helpful for me, or journaling, or writing.
Often, just getting out of the house and changing the environment, going somewhere and doing something else is helpful. Going to a park or having a short break with a friend.
Just anything to stop that train, where that train of thought is going, to divert into something else is what I try to do now. I do not want to waste a whole day worried and obsessed about a problem.
Still, I can get tripped up maybe an hour or so, but I’m much better at flipping it around and doing what I have to do.
The other thing I do is I make a lot of to-do lists.
That keeps me focused. I do have a lot of goals, a lot of things I want to accomplish. I’ll sit down and write, “These are things I want to do today.”
Having that list brings me back, and I can focus. I’ll tell myself, “This is what has to be done. I have to stop. There’s nothing I can do by worrying. It’s not helping anything.”
Sometimes when I’m at my low point, I force myself to think of something that was a victory so that I’m trying to think of victories all the time.
So, I those are the top tools that I use.
Michelle: Amen. Amen. I’m clapping for you. I’m so proud of you. That is so fabulous, like textbook perfect, exactly what you should be doing.
Love Over Addiction Sister: Oh, good.
Michelle: I have no doubt: no matter what your future is, I know you’re going to be just great. Because that is exactly what you should be doing.
I think what makes you particularly strong is that you have this innate ability to be a survivor.
You’re a fighter. You’re not a settler. You won’t just sit there and wait for someone else to change so that you can feel better. You’re not just waiting for different life circumstances to come and get better.
And you’re not waiting for your husband to get sober in order to have your own happiness.
That’s so strong and so courageous, and such a wonderful example for your kids. You are a leader. I don’t know if you consider yourself one, but that is leadership trait and leadership quality. And that is very, very rare. Most people in this life do not do what you’re doing.
So, you should feel so proud of yourself. You should feel so excited for what’s to come.
Love Over Addiction Sister: Thank you.
Michelle: Yes. I’m amazed. I’m in awe. I love what I’m hearing. It makes me feel so good. I wish I could give you a big hug because I’m so proud of you.
Love Over Addiction Sister: Oh, thanks.
Do you find it difficult to accept?
Is that something that you’re still working on where it’s difficult to accept compliments or difficult to accept the love that people are offering you? Or do you feel like you’re at a place where you can see the value that you bring?
Love Over Addiction Sister: Well, I would say that is a very new place for me. Even as you were saying those things, a little voice in my head doubts, and before it was a very big voice.
So, it’s only, I would say, in the last few months where I felt like I can accept or I’m going to accept those kinds of compliments and believe them.
I’ve been reviewing a lot of affirmations. Those were things that I turned to the last few months.
I just had a baby, so I felt like I needed to feel good about myself to have a beautiful birth. I had a home birth, so I knew I wouldn’t have medication.
Michelle: I remember.
Love Over Addiction Sister: I knew, and I know from experience, it can be really hard if you are filled with fear.
I did not want to be filled with fear.
I wanted to feel good about me, and I just kept telling myself a lot of those positive things.
So, yes. I think I am at that place.
I can hear it. It feels really good, and I believe it. But it is a new place for me.
Michelle: I do love it when you share in the group because I know that it just raises the group to another level.
Thank you so much for your time. I’m so grateful. I’m so, so grateful. You just made my day.
Love Over Addiction Sister: Thank you for interviewing me. It makes it feel like I’ve come somewhere, come from somewhere, made progress, so …
You have made boatloads of progress.
You keep telling yourself that.
I hope that you do something today to celebrate that, I really do. I hope you take a big chunk of time out to celebrate how far you’ve come because it’s amazing.
And you’ve come so far so fast. I mean, I normally expect this kind of progress from somebody who’s joined for years, but you’ve come very far very fast. So, congratulations.
Love Over Addiction Sister: Thanks.
Michelle: I will talk to you soon.
Love Over Addiction Sister: Okay. Thanks, Michelle.
Michelle: All right. Take care. Bye-bye
Michelle Anderson has over 10 years of personal experience with loving someone who suffers from addiction. She was married to a good man who suffered from addiction to alcohol, illegal drugs, and pornography. She's used her experience to create powerful resources for women in the same circumstance. Using her own personal experience, combined with years of research and studying, she presents ideas, tips, and tools on how to handle this disease, and take care of yourself, and your family.
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