When we first learned of our loved one’s addiction, some people chose to leave the relationship, and some people chose to stay. Some, like myself, had no clue wtf to do… Those, like me, that stayed became hypervigilant and found themselves spending endless hours online looking for answers by either snooping, searching the internet, books, YouTube, or anything that could give us more insight as to why our partners continued to lie and act out. Was it something in their childhood? Was it something I did? Is it a psychological disorder? Can it be cured? Can I do anything to help?
Don’t get me wrong. Striving to learn new things and increase our understanding of life and all the complexities around it is a very good thing. We should always question our world. But sometimes we have to take an honest internal inventory of our motivations and ask ourselves, “Why am I putting so much attention and time into this?” I mean, c’mon. Isn’t there something you would sooooo much rather be doing?
It took me over a year to finally realize that my curiosity to “understand” my partner’s disease was not just fueled by my need to know, it was fueled by my need to control, my need to feel safe, and by my need to justify me staying in the marriage. By finding something online that justified me staying, I didn’t have to look inside myself.
What I eventually learned from all of it, though, is not what I set out to know. My first year in recovery as a partner of an addict was me taking classes, going to therapy, reading every book on the market (EVERY BOOK), talking to people similar to myself, and spending hours online trying to understand who my partner was and if I should leave him.
In the end, even though I sincerely believed trying to understand him was about me trying to justify why I would want to stay, the truth is… the UGLY truth is… that what I was really doing was avoiding trying to understand myself.
It’s funny to me now because I realize I always knew the answer. I knew who I married. I knew he had a problem. I knew that it would be a very rocky road if I stayed. I knew that staying meant being hurt over and over and over again. I knew that none of it was personal. I knew I didn’t cause it and that there was nothing I could do to stop it or even make it worse. What I was really looking for wasn’t in any of those books I spent countless hours reading. It was all inside me. The question was not, “who is my partner?” or “should I stay?” but “who am I?” and “Do I want this or not?”
The truth is, we can’t make sense of addiction. And while science and research has helped us gain a better understanding of who our partners are and how their addictions work, no amount of searching online will help us make sense of what really matters. YOU.
As I justified my newfound passion for learning about this addiction, the reality was that I was externalizing my pain, putting a huge spotlight on him, and running from my own personal healing.
People are going to make bad choices. We can love them and stay. We can love them and go. We can love them and be unsure of which action to take. But until we are able to put the focus back on “who am I and what do I want” we are just as stuck in ourselves as our partners are stuck in themselves.
So I take this week to reflect on me.