I am in a relationship with an addict.
Although I wasn’t aware of this condition when I met him, I obviously know it now, and it has been quite the journey.
I met my current partner at our old job. He was surprisingly very compatible with my personality, and despite my awkward and unsure demeanor, we quickly became very close friends.
His presence in my life helped my personal growth a lot as he would point out things I had never noticed about myself, like how I do so many unconscious actions to keep other people away but at the same time, wanted nothing more than to feel included.
I was completely unaware of how much he would help me overall, though. A few weeks into our friendship he decided he was ready to share that he had addiction issues, and was the first person I had met that openly shared that with me. I wasn’t very knowledgeable about anything related to that, besides what I had seen in movies and on TV, and so researched as much as I could so as to be a good support for him. I wanted to be a part of his recovery, and a person to help “fix” him. Little did I know though that I would actually be starting the process of “fixing” myself.
I hadn’t realized it up to this point, but I had something called codependency, which is an issue that faces a lot of us who are close with someone with addiction. And although I never knew before I met him, this carried into my relationship with him, which kept me sick, and was a perfect match for his addiction, even in recovery.
Through the years of his active using, recovery, and sobriety, we had our ups and downs, and at each crest of the waves I thought we would finally make it and things would be better. Through one streak of normalcy we got engaged, and through one patch of using I sat on the floor of our room crying into a suitcase as I packed mine and my daughter’s things so we could leave. At every turn I never knew what would come next, and I always thought when he reached a point of sobriety that he had finally done the work he needed to do to make sure things were better and would stay that way.
And while I realized over time that trying to fix everything and everyone was a feat I could never overcome, I never once thought about what I was doing to help my own life. How could I expect so much from someone else when I wasn’t even doing the work that I needed to do on myself?
After one particular year that consisted of repeated detoxes and rehab stays, and way too many embarrassing moments in front of family, I had hit my bottom and reached out to every resource available to me to try and build myself up and take control of my life. I was tired of being a victim, of having no fight in me, of being scared of the future, and I knew I needed to do more for my family, and myself.
I started going to program meetings and finding people who were just like me, continued therapy alone, read books on personal development, started working out again and practicing self-care, fixing and strengthening my personal relationships, and taking control of the only thing I could: me.
I also recently started a blog so that I could share my story, because I know that there are a lot of people who are in my same position but might not have the resources or support that I have.
I realized that I want to help by being a friend and supporter of others like me, because I’ve been there and I know how hard it is. I know what it feels like when everyone feels sorry for you, or when they don’t understand why you continue to be with that person. I feel like in society it’s hard enough to get a conversation started about addiction itself, and resources are hard to find for the addicts, but even more so for us. If you really think about it, we are forgotten, or just labeled as weak or stupid for allowing our lives to continue on in this way. They don’t understand that we know the person inside beyond the addiction, and how much we hope that they will make it through. And, like I had also believed for a long time, there’s the belief that nothing is wrong with us and we don’t need to change. After all, we aren’t the ones who are addicted, right? But in reality, just like the addicts in our lives, we are all good people who just have some self-work to do.
In this new season of my life, I am thankful for his recovery, and also my own. Through my experiences and the various ways I found a way to grow as a person, I am slowly starting to find my own voice, and through it, I want to both help others like me, and do my part to end the stigma surrounding addiction and being with an addict. That's why I named it Ashley Speaks Up, because I want to do exactly that: speak up! The society we live in has made this topic taboo, and has created a self-fulfilling cycle of negativity by reinforcing the beliefs that we and addicts have about ourselves: that we are undeserving of great things, or that we are destined to have lives that fall short on what we know we could be. Inside every one of us is a voice that wants to be heard, and an individual that longs for understanding and acceptance by both themselves, their loved ones, and society as a whole. I hope as well that the more I talk about it, the more others will in their own way, and we can all make this society a more welcoming and accepting environment not only for ourselves but for our loved ones who also have stories of their own to share.
I hope that mine has given you a little insight in this area of addiction and what it’s like to know someone who has it. And hopefully, you are able to leave with a new insight, viewpoint, and opinion on what it’s like, and maybe a little more strength in your own desire to share your story.
We all need to work on ourselves, be proud of ourselves and one another, and do our part to share our stories and make the world more understanding for addicts and their families.