Control is a hot button issue for many, especially in addiction. Those new to recovery often have to define what they can control and how they’re going to do it. Those living with someone who’s addicted may go to extremes: trying to control everything and actually having control over nothing. Here are three ways to start gaining some control over addiction.
1. Define Then Control Your Territory
Put some serious thought into what you want to claim as yours. Maybe you’re willing to fight for your fridge by declaring an ultimatum, “No alcohol in here.” The key here is to start small. Protecting your entire town from drug use is too big of a perimeter to maintain. Protecting something smaller like your bedroom or apartment sets you up for success.
When we’re new to claiming territory, our talk is usually much braver than our actions. Choose something you know you can defend. You must be willing and able to enforce your boundary.
Many times, we, the new empowered boundary setter, can’t see our own weak spots, but our loved ones can. They look for weaknesses in the boundary and then attack there. This has nothing to do with your love for each other or respect. It has to do with old habits and patterns of behavior. Be prepared for several attacks to the same weak spot. Boundary busters don’t give up easily.
2. Define Unacceptable Behavior
Accepting unacceptable behavior is common for people who struggle with addiction and for those who love them. Many of us bring other hurts and traumas to the situation. In many families, addiction is a way to self-medicate the pain from abuse or mental illness. Adult children of alcoholics, for example, struggle to define what’s “normal.”
Again, it’s important to start small. Pick one or two behaviors that are hurting you the most. Then get ready for battle. Strategically plan what you will do when the behavior happens. This is not an “if” situation. Like boundaries, our friends, loved ones, and drug dealers won’t welcome any change. They are probably quite comfortable with the relationship’s existing dynamics.
Often, when we are ready to make this change, we’re beyond frustrated. We want ALL of the behaviors to change yesterday. This is because we’ve accepted the unacceptable behavior for years. Making a small change isn’t for their benefit. We benefit. Success breeds success. After we tackle the first behavior, we’ll be stronger. Then we move on to the next offending behavior.
3. Define Your Support Team
Abuse and addiction survive by keeping their victims trapped in silent fear. Tell someone you trust about what’s really going on in your house or with your family. The first step is to admit there is a problem.
Recovery isn’t only for the addicted. Many groups like AA and NA have parallel support groups for family members. Al-Anon and Al-Ateen follow the same 12 Steps as AA. Nar-Anon is the corresponding family support group for NA. The best news is, you can attend these groups before your loved one starts treatment. Other groups like CoDA (Co-dependents Anonymous) and ACoA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) also offer support.
These groups cost very little. Members are encouraged to chip in a buck or two share the costs of meeting space. They teach about boundaries and healthy living. Often, they have “old timers” who’ve dramatically changed their lives and are willing to tell you what worked for them.
To sum it up, we all have the power to change ONE person, ourselves. We can only control ourselves. Focusing on these three areas lets us start small and gain momentum. When we start to change, the other people in our relationships then change by default. We just don’t get to control how they change.
Do you need help getting control over addiction? From rehabs to support groups, Recovery Guidance lists hundreds of choices. Take our self-assessment test to find out where to start..
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Pam is the author of Co-dependent In The Kitchen, and she's a contributing editor for Recovery Guidance. She's a recovery advocate who likes long walks on the beach and chocolate.