How To Choose Friends When You Love An Addict
How To Choose Friends When You Love An Addict
Let’s talk about how to choose friends. Because when you love someone suffering from addiction, we really need our support network with the right people.
We’re starting a series, and it’s seven helpful tips. And like I said last week, I’m breaking down the tips into bite-sized chunks and giving you actionable tasks each week.
I’m going to ask you to do things that might make you scared and that you might need a few days to process. You might need to listen to the episodes in this series a few times.
But, I’m also giving you homework around how to choose friends.
I’m asking you to rise up and meet the challenge that I’m going to ask you to face. I believe in you, and I know that you can do it. So, I want to break these down, instead of giving you all seven in one super long episode, into individual bite-sized helpful tips.
Last week, we talked about the importance of finding your team. If you haven’t listened to that episode, go back after this one and check it out. In this episode, we’re going to be talking about the need, the absolute need, for asking for help.
Now, here’s the deal. You guys, I know that you are incredibly independent. And I know that you are incredibly ambitious because that’s the type of people that we attract in our community. We don’t attract people who sit around and feel sorry for themselves. We don’t attract people who are in denial of what’s really going on in their relationships and their homes.
Instead, we attract people who come to us and say, “Just tell me the five steps I need to do. I want to share my story, but really, I just need action items to get the heck out of this terrible place that I am emotionally at.”
So choosing friends and creating your network may not come naturally to you.
It was challenging for me at first too.
That’s the type of people that we attract, and that’s who you are.
It is very, very easy to think that we can power through this. That if we just know the steps, we can push forward, we can fix them, we can fix ourselves, we can make it all happen, everything will line up, and we can say goodbye and good riddance to addiction.
I love you, but let me tell you why that’s not going to work. Because part of this journey for you is about learning how to soften your heart again.
You came into this relationship with an incredibly soft heart. You are thoughtful, you are kind, you are loving. And addiction has kind of hardened you up. That makes sense because you’re protecting yourself from getting hurt.
So, how do you do that?
You numb yourself out.
You avoid putting yourself out there. And being vulnerable consistently because you have found that when you do that, pain results.
They look at you, and they make promises. After a tender moment of your vulnerability, where you tell them how much they’re drinking or drug use hurts you, and what it’s done to you, they then look at you and you have a moment and they say they’re going to get sober, and they apologize.
They say all the right things, and you really think that this time is going to be different. That they finally got it. That you’ve hit rock bottom and that things are going to start to get better.
Then, they don’t.
They lie to you or you feel lied to because they go back to their old ways. This is a pattern and a cycle that you’ve been through for years.
So what happens in the long term is you stop having those vulnerable, sacred moments. You stop putting your feelings out there in a tender, loving way because you know you’re going to get hurt again. And instead of being tender, you start to communicate with anger or with super passionate words, which is another way of saying anger. And that’s okay. Anger is very, very much a part of this disease.
But, unfortunately, the more you isolate yourself, the more that you think that you can just get through this on your own. The more that you keep this disease a secret from your friends and family, the more sick you become. Secrets make you sick. You powering through it is exhausting you mentally, physically, and spiritually.
In all three of those categories, you’re feeling tired.
They’re taking a toll. This disease is taking a toll on all of it. You’re battered, you’re bruised, you’re damaged and you’re frayed. And that is okay because I was, too.
So what’s the way back to revival? What’s the way back to renew, to refresh, to rebirth? One of them is by telling the truth, by asking for help, by saying to a select, very select, few people, “I need you. I’m not okay. Things are terrible. Things are difficult. I don’t know what I’m going to do in the next 12 months, let alone two weeks.”
I’m comparing myself to everyone I know and thinking, “How did I end up here? Why are things bad? How did I get to a place where my life looked like this?” Those are the kinds of conversations that you need to be having because they will set you free.
Your secrets will be released.
And you know what is released when you share your secrets? Shame. The shame that you are carrying around. Because you run the risk when you’re isolated by thinking in some twisted, weird way that their behavior and that your relationship is somehow your fault. You need confirmation from other people, good other people, that this is not your fault, because none of it is your fault. Whether you decide to maintain your relationship or not, they’re going to continue with this until they decide to stop.
Today, your homework is this. I want you to think of one, two, dream world would be three, people with which you can share what you’re going through. You can choose these people as your friends.
You’re going to call them your SOS people.
These are your ride-or-die people. These are going to be the people that you choose to walk you through this period of life. You’re going to explain to them.
It would be great if it was just one group of your chosen friends where you call them in to coffee or your home for an afternoon. Making sure your loved one is not there. And do it together, instead of individually one at a time, because that’s very exhausting. It’s very draining.
It’d be great if they don’t know each other. Introduce them to each other. Tell them they have been selected by you because you know they’re safe. They’re judgment-free, that they are kind, and that they are available. Tell them you will pay them back, that there will come a time in your life and their lives where there will be an opportunity for you to give them the attention that they’re preparing to give you. But, tell them the truth and let them help you.
Here’s the other thing. I want you to make a list of those people, and then I want you to make a list of what your chosen friends can do to help you. Be specific. Because a lot of times women ask each other, “How can I help you? What can I do to help?” and you, as an independent woman say, “Nothing. I’m okay.”
And you know what? It doesn’t feel good for you to say nothing, and it doesn’t feel good for them to receive nothing because you’re leaving them guessing. So, make a list of things they can do for you.
Here’s some ideas:
They can pick up dinner, and be specific. You can say, “These are the restaurants that we love to eat at.” You know how when somebody has a baby and they send out that email asking everybody to bring in food? I love the emails that give me specifics, like, “I love Carrabba’s. Pizza with pepperoni on it is my favorite. I don’t enjoy enchiladas,” or whatever. Be specific. Help them so that they won’t waste their time guessing.
If you need child care, if you need someone to come in and watch your baby or take your child to swimming lessons, or take your kid to soccer or piano.
Another one would be, “I need you to make a date with me every week to go walking. I need to move my body. I need to get out in the sunshine just for 30 minutes to an hour. So every Tuesday at 6:00, we’re going to go walking.”
Or you can ask one of your chosen friends, “I need you to find me a therapist, like a really good, well-qualified therapist who comes highly recommended, and I need you to drive me to the appointment.”
These are all things that either friends have asked me to do or I’ve asked friends to do.
You need a team of women, your chosen friends.
Or if you’re a man listening to this, a fellowship of men, that are going to really support you through this and are going to hold you accountable for your growth. These are the people.
You should have one friend in there that’s like the truth teller. You know that one friend that you never know what’s going to come out of her mouth? It’s usually helpful, but sometimes it stings a lot. I’m sometimes that friend.
You need that. You need one of those people because they’re going to say to you, “Hey, hey, hey. I’m not going to come over, and we’re not going to spend the evening driving around town looking for their car and where it’s parked in front of what bar.”
So you need an honest, truth telling friend who’s not interested in the drama.
Now, the friend that’s all about the drama, you don’t need that friend. That friend is getting wrapped up in the chaos and likes drama too much.
You need the level-headed, thoughtful, nonjudgmental friends.
Here’s what you don’t need: You don’t need a friend who’s going to tell you to leave, or to go, or to stay, or that it’s sinful, or tell you God hates divorce, or tell you whatever dumb advice that they think they should tell you. You don’t need that friend either, okay?
Because that friend, you’re just going to be trying to meet their expectations. You’re going to be afraid to tell them things because you know their advice. You don’t need that friend either.
Try to avoid the friend that is going to be gossipy.
You want to pick a friend who is trustworthy. You don’t want a friend that’s going to go back to the neighbors and tell everybody your gossip. These are all boundaries that are super healthy when looking at your group of people that you’re going to have help you.
I hope you found this helpful.
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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