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Why We Have to Stop Waiting for Our Loved Ones to Change

As the loved ones of recovering addicts, and many of us being recovering addicts ourselves, we are all too familiar with the long, exhausting process of waiting to see if our loved ones will change, if they’ll get the help they need, if they’ll finally do what’s best for themselves and for our families. Many of us have waited so long we’ve begun to believe that recovery isn’t possible for the addicts in our lives. We’ve watched them self-destruct and hurt themselves, along with everyone in their lives, for many years. We’ve given them everything we have, our love and support, our compassion, our patience, and understanding. We’ve also felt anger, frustration, impatience and even judgment. It’s very hard for us to understand why someone would willingly ruin their own lives. Sometimes we become convinced that addiction isn’t a disease but actually a series of bad choices and harmful behaviors. We assume that if some people can kick their addictions, then everyone should be able to.

Oftentimes we feel increasingly disheartened and sad the longer we have to wait for our loved ones to make important changes in their lives. We might feel anxious and depressed much of the time. We’re constantly worried about their safety and well-being. Many of us have been waiting so long for our loved ones that we find they simply can’t meet our expectations. This can be a painful process that we struggle to accept. We desperately want them to be the people we know they’re capable of being. We want to have a healthy relationship, or friendship, or family. We’re tired of watching our lives, and our relationships and families, be torn apart by addiction. Many of us have become so accustomed to feeling so disappointed in our loved ones and so heartbroken for them that our sadness and fear can turn to anger. We’re angry they’re doing such harmful things to themselves, choosing this life of addiction, and refusing to get better. We’re angry that they won’t stop killing themselves. We’re also angry and frustrated with ourselves that we keep giving them chance after chance, only for them to hurt us, and themselves, all over again. Some of us might feel as though we’ve given up hope on them and their ability to get sober at all. We’ve lost faith in their recovery, and we’re tired of waiting. There comes a point for many of us when we have to stop waiting for our loved ones to recover, and while that might sound harsh, there are some specific reasons why we have to stop waiting, and suggestions for what we might do instead to help our loved ones.

For those of us struggling with addiction ourselves, we know that for our loved ones who are working to get sober, our expectations can put a lot of extra pressure on them. They’re tired of always disappointing us and being unable to meet our expectations. They’re angry with themselves. They’re frustrated at their lack of progress. They might be continually relapsing, to feel not only their own shame and regret but also the anger and judgment of the people they love most, whose opinions of them they value the most. Sometimes our expectations can hurt them worse than they’re already hurting, and for many of them, their addictions have become their way of coping with these cycles of emotional pain. When we place extra pressure on our loved ones to get better, and when we direct them with the expectations we have for them to recover on our time frame rather than theirs, we can actually be doing them a disservice. People recover when they’re finally ready to, not necessarily when they feel pressured, directed or even encouraged to. We know from experience that years of our encouragement and support, or anger and frustration, haven’t done the trick, so we might have to give up the fight, so to speak, and stop waiting, stop trying to control the outcome, stop resisting the truth that our loved ones just might not be ready yet.

When we’re waiting for our loved ones to recover, we’re often giving a great deal of our energy to them and their sobriety. We’re filled with worry and concern which can make us anxious, depressed and stressed out. We often tend to neglect our well-being and our self-care in order to prioritize the people in our lives who we feel need us, who are sick and relying on us for help. Our health can suffer. We’re caring for our loved ones, or worrying ourselves sick about them, at the expense of our own health. We have to be able to give our focus to ourselves and to making sure all of our needs are met. We can’t give more time and energy to waiting for our loved ones to get sober than we do to our own happiness and well-being.

Instead of waiting, we might want to approach the way we give our support differently. We can give the help we feel comfortable giving, but then tell our loved ones that we love them unconditionally but that we have to simultaneously establish certain boundaries for our own wellness and peace of mind. We might need to make sure we’re not enabling them in any way, whether consciously or subconsciously, and for many of us we’ll have to stop doing certain enabling behaviors like taking on the responsibility for their recovery that is not ours to take on. We might have to make certain changes in how we interact with our loved ones. We might have to shift the dynamics in the relationship. We might have to create some space between us. And we may decide that we have to support them and pray for them from afar because being too close to them right now is hurting us.

The more we can focus on our own healing, the more we heal and strengthen ourselves and therefore our portion of the relationship. Our energy will radiate out and impact our loved ones’ ability to heal themselves. In this way, healing ourselves is much more beneficial to everyone involved than waiting anxiously for our loved ones struggling with addiction to recover.

The caring, compassionate staff of The Guest House is here to support you as you start your journey to recovery and healing. Call 855-483-7800 today for more information.