Dear Readers – An uncle’s desperate plea for ways to help his drug-addicted niece and her boyfriend (January 13 column) brought a flood of responses. I’ll publish a selection over the coming days:
Reader #1 – “I’m an addict, who’s restarting the journey of recovery with just over three months of sobriety from any mind or mood-altering substance.
“This past relapse lasted over four years, nearly cost my life a dozen times, and cost me the equivalent purchase price of a house.
“I’m fortunate to have a supportive family helping me while I get back to work. Yet there are conditions on that support, but not on the love behind it.
“Addiction is a complex issue with many variables in each case. But there are simple truths common to all.
“The first truth is that "the only person I can change is me." I’m not responsible for the feelings or actions of others, I cannot change people. This is as important for the people supporting the addict to understand, as for the addict him/herself.
“Once those supporting people grasp this concept, they’ll know what co-dependent behaviour is when they offer unconditional support instead of unconditional love.
“The second truth is, "while in active addiction, I’m a liar, a cheat, and a thief, and nothing will stand in the way of my next fix.”
“Anyone attempting to help an addict needs to know this before offering time, shelter, support, or money.
“Understanding these truths will lay the foundation for effective support that can truly make a difference and possibly save lives.
“My support came only when it was evident that I’d hit bottom. My next step was jail, an institution, or death.
“I was now a willing participant in recovery. Before, any help would’ve been twisted and used to get more of my drug of choice and keep me stuck. Those around me got to know that reality all too well.
“Often, addiction runs concurrently with mental illness or precipitates it. Mental illness untreated in addiction is exacerbated by the substance.
“There are no quick fixes or silver bullets in addiction. But 12-step programs do offer support for both the addict and the people who support them on a daily basis.
“They educate people about co-dependent behaviour and how to develop healthy boundaries with the addict.
“I’ve learned that addiction is a disease and not a moral issue.
“The choice between helping an addict through co-dependency, OR setting firm boundaries is never easy, but the alternative is sure death. This is a fatal disease if left untreated.”
Reader #2 – “I’m a Canadian woman, who’s been clean and sober for 16 years, and an advocate in the areas of addiction and abuse.
“The writer’s niece sounds exactly like I was… I’d disappear and go on benders with my boyfriend and friends who had apartments of their own.
“It wasn't until I was on the verge of losing my job and being kicked out of my parents’ house that the “light went on" and I saw what a mess my life had become.
“I agree with the uncle about tough love (the addicted person HAS to experience consequences of their decisions) but the parents need to get support from programs like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon, or from family/friends’ groups through local addiction facilities.
“They’ll get the support needed to enforce boundaries and not enable their daughter.
“What they are currently doing is NOT a loving decision, but in fact making things worse.”
My ex, who dumped me four months ago and ended all contact, has sent me a Valentine’s card wishing me “A Happy Day.”
I’m unsure whether he stupidly thinks this makes up for his cold, abrupt way of ending our relationship (he just said, “It’s over, don’t call or text me”), or he’s expecting me to respond.
I’m furious, but also curious. It makes me feel like a fool to care but I’m wondering if it means he’s on his own again (I heard he was dating someone else for awhile).
Anyone who ends a relationship that way may do it again. He’s selfish, cold, and mean.
He’s also arrogant, believing that his card will reel you back in, even if he isn’t seeking to re-connect, but just wants to keep you on the hook.
Don’t respond, don’t be that Valentine’s fool. Better to be with a trusted friend than this jerk.
Tip of the day:
Even loving support given to an addict must include firm boundaries or recovery won’t last.