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Relinquishing Control with Our Loved Ones

For those of us whose loved ones are addicts, our fears around their addictions can make us so desperate to help them, and to save them from their addictions, that we find ourselves trying to control situations, relationships and outcomes. We try to control how our loved ones go about getting better, what steps they take towards recovery, and how fast they make progress. We want to control the outcomes of their recovery, where they go for treatment, and how they go about working towards healing. We try to control both how they operate, and how we respond to them. Our need for control can make us assume responsibility for them and their addictions, and it can make us enable them as well, which ultimately doesn’t help them take ownership of their recovery and do what they need to do for themselves. Over time, we realize that we can’t control anything about their addictions, or their lives for that matter. When addicts get better, it is because they’ve finally taken the necessary measures to do so, not because anyone has pressured, pushed or controlled them. In fact, our controlling behaviors can have an adverse effect and end up pushing them away, because the pressure they feel from us causes them more fear and anxiety, so they resist and run from us and from their challenges rather than turning towards them and facing them.

Addicts struggle with contentious relationships throughout their struggles with addiction. They have a very hard time maintaining healthy dynamics with people because they can’t help but impact their relationships with all of their internal toxicity and conflict. As their loved ones, we sometimes respond to the issues that come up with fear and reactivity. We become angry. We feel frustrated and impatient. We don’t understand why our loved ones aren’t doing what they need to do to get better, why they’re continuing to self-destruct, and why they won’t stop hurting us. Our fear and confusion can make us instinctively want to control things, because we have a very hard time letting things be as they are. It can feel impossible to sit by while our loved ones self-destruct and destroy their lives. We feel we owe it to them to help them. We feel responsible for them and their well-being. We can feel ashamed of ourselves and very guilty when we don’t continue to do the things we’ve always done, when we don’t try to lighten their load, when they get angry with us for not enabling them.

Amidst these struggles of ours, we have to come to the realization that not only do we not have any control over anything pertaining to our loved ones and their addictions, but we also have to actively work to relinquish our feelings of control for our own peace of mind. We can’t fix our loved ones. We can’t save them. We can’t do their healing work for them, take away their challenges, or make things easier for them. Their addictions and their life problems are not our responsibility. We did not create their circumstances, nor are we responsible for the place they’re in. We have to release our sense of obligation to fix things for them. We have to stop trying to carry their burdens for them. We have to let go of our expectations of how and when they’ll recover. We have to release our expectations that they will treat us the way we want to be treated or that they will do the things we wish they would to get better. We have to release our attachment to needing them to be the person we wish they would be.

Relinquishing our need for control is one of the hardest things we can do during our loved ones’ battles with addiction, but it is necessary for us for our own well-being, and for their own progress in recovery. When we’re trying to control things, when we’re enabling their patterns and trying to shoulder their burdens, they often will fail to take ownership of their own problems because someone else has been doing that for them. They don’t take control of their lives because they’ve grown accustomed to us doing the work, trying to fix things for them and enabling their patterns. We’re doing them a disservice in their healing when we’re controlling any aspect of their recovery experience. Even though our intentions are to support them, and we want what’s best for them, we ultimately are part of what’s holding them back.

The thought of giving up control can make us feel a range of emotions, from fear and panic to anger and resentment. We’re afraid that our loved ones will suffer more if we’re not there to take care of things for them. We panic that their addictions will worsen, and that they’ll never be able to recover. We can become angry, bitter and resentful that we’ve done so much for our loved ones only to have them treat us badly, continue their destructive patterns and refuse to get better. As much as possible, we want to try to resolve these feelings within ourselves so that we can be at peace while we detach from the turmoil of our loved ones’ addictions and allow them to get better on their own time and in their own way.

The Guest House is a welcoming and supportive recovery home where you will be met with open arms, wherever where you are on your journey, without judgment or expectation. Call 855-483-7800 today for more information.