Like so many fans of Philip Seymour Hoffman, I was deeply saddened by his death. This guy was simply one of the best actors of our time and I loved everything he did on screen. So much has been written of him since his death by heroin last Sunday, but little has been written about the woman he shared his life with and who was the mother of his three young children. I think of him, but I think of her more because she is what is left behind in the vortex of addiction that was his life. I don’t know Mimi O’Donnell but I wish that I did so that I could send her a note of support. A note from one woman who once loved an addict to another. From a woman who decided to leave because the pain and suffering of living with an addict was just too much and I, like Mimi had had enough. I would tell her not to feel guilty which is much easier said than done, but the fact of the matter is you only have two options with an addict. Option one, you stay and continue enabling and living in hell. Option two, you leave because you love yourself and in her case your children, more than you love your life with an addict. Even more difficult in this case was the fact that Mr. Hoffman had been sober for over 20 years. By now the knot that lives in the stomach of us enablers had probably subsided for her. She was able to breath and feel good about their life together and perhaps even let her guard down a bit. Then the unthinkable happens, he falls off the wagon and the peace called sobriety they once had is now back to the constant turmoil of addiction. It is a horrible place to be. I would also tell Ms. O’Donnell that she did the brave thing, the hard thing, the thing that none of us want to do. She left him. It was the right thing to do and it took guts and immense courage. Those of us who have walked in these shoes know this; the pain will become more manageable and over time we get to a place of peace again. None of us are equipped to fight this formidable demon called addiction, it is like fighting a war with no weapons, it cannot be won. All we can do is let go and hope that the addict we love finds their way to treatment and gets the support they need. In the mean time we do the brave thing, the hard thing, the thing that gives us anguish. We leave. You did the right thing Ms. O’Donnell and although your grief and agony now is deep and cutting and you carry a heavy burden of guilt, you will be ok. It will take time and much support for your family, but you will be ok.
Everyday, all around us there are women living in unhealthy, co-dependent relationships. It is virtually everywhere. Women living with addicts, abusers and overall unhealthy individuals. These women are wives, mothers, partners, daughters and friends. I know these women because I used to be one of them.
If you love someone who is an addict or an abuser that I can guarantee that you are living a life of fear, walking on eggshells, and being controlled by someone else’s dysfunction. You dread going home and you walk around with a massive lump in your stomach waiting for the other shoe to drop. Your life is void of peace, happiness and joy. You are miserable and feel trapped. Depressing isn’t it?
I think you deserve a better life than this. I think you deserve to have peace and joy restored to your life. I think that you deserve all the good and positive things that this life has to offer. I know where you are, I have resided in that very place. But I got out and so can you.
My message to you is this; help is out there and is just a phone call away. Whether you get it working with me or take another approach, just get help for yourself. I promise you this, there is light at the end of this tunnel and you have the power and the strength to get there. All you need is the desire and enough love for yourself to say no more, I deserve better.
When I tell people that I am a life coach working with people who desire recovery they immediately say “oh you deal with addicts”. Well, actually …no I don’t. I do however work with many family members who are struggling with addicts.
The word recovery has long been associated with the world of addiction, so it is no wonder that people automatically assume that I am coaching addicts. What folks don’t realize is the definition of the word recovery. If we look it up in the dictionary it simply means To get back, or regain. I am hard pressed to think of one person that I have met in my life that this would not apply to. We all have setbacks, we all have issues that are not conducive to a healthy life, we all have baggage. We all need healing at some point.
Addictive behaviors have a presence in just about all of our lives. Many of us are addicted to certain emotional behaviors and patterns. That was certainly the case for myself, living with a drug addict, alcoholic for 16 years. I was the classic enabler. Enabling is an emotional behavior that will ruin your life if you let it. Domestic violence also requires recovery. Women who are victims of domestic abuse are victims not just of the abuse but of their own behavior of staying in the relationship. I can relate to them because staying with an addict and staying with an abuser are both enabling relationships. We feel trapped much of the time, and once we make it out of these relationships we need help. We need recovery.
Death and illness also require recovery. For example I am recovering as we speak from hip replacement surgery. Anyone who has ever had a major illness and required treatment or surgery knows exactly what I am talking about. We need to get back to our normal life, we need to regain our strength. When we lose someone that we love it can be shattering. Grief is a very powerful emotion and the body as well as the human spirit go through a great deal of trauma. A recovery program that is grief specific is critical to those of us who are grappling to move forward after a profound loss.
Recovery is the only healthy option, and my hope is that more and more of us will embrace it as sort of a navigation tool to redirect our lives and be happier and healthier. Don’t be put off by the word, remember what it means and think about how it would benefit your life.
When people finally make their way to me they are terrified. They are desperate to get out of a toxic relationship but at the same time they are scared to death about what will happen to their child, spouse, partner, parent or friend if they should walk away. Many times we stay because we fear what will happen if we do leave or like in my case throw them out. It takes guts and courage to break away.
I remember one day in class my professor had the words “What would you do if you weren’t afraid” written on the blackboard. For some reason that question really resonated with me. Maybe because I remember how afraid I was to get out of the enabling relationship I was in for 16 years. Or maybe because fear is the thing that hinders our forward movement in so many aspects of life. Or maybe because it really gave me pause to think about what fears I had today that were constricting my life in some way. Have you ever thought seriously about what you would do if fear was not in the picture? Fear is a deadly enemy, a most unwelcome visitor and a toxic emotion that can cripple us emotionally and leave us exhausted and defeated. When you live with an addict you are afraid much of the time. Afraid they will die, go to jail, end up in a mental hospital or as was in my case a nursing home because she had damaged herself so much.She was living in a nursing home at 48 years old. But think about it, if the fear was gone would you be willing to take the steps to get out of the relationship? Would you be willing to let go?
The first part of any recovery program is anything that will help release that fear. In my workshops it is a combination of many steps including meditation, excercise, nutrition and self awareness. Calming the mind and slowly letting go of the stress and trauma that is causing the fear. This takes time and real commitment, no easy fix here. Recovery is hard work. It is critical at this time to rid yourself of negative sources, people, places and habits. Don’t be afraid to clean your house. Don’t be afraid to distance yourself from those who do not support what you are doing. I can tell you this because this is what I know; fear can be conquered and once it is you can begin the road to healing.
There are so many difficult things about loving someone who is an addict. There is the lying, the manipulation, the loss of trust and the enabling. Enabler is not a title we strive for in life, and yet most of us have enabling relationships in our lives.
I lived with an addict for 16 years, I contributed to the addiction every single one of those days. People ask me all the time “why did you stay so long and why did you put up with all of the heartache”? My answer is always the same; I loved this person and I clung to who she was under the addiction. Addicts are not bad people, they are good people with a very bad disease. We want so badly for them to “get well” we want so badly for the person who we know and love to come back, so we cling to the hope that if we just give them one more chance this time it will work. It is astonishing how long we will keep giving those chances. We just don’t want to give up on them because this time it just might happen.
Every time they go into rehab we become filled with hope. I remember talking to my partner from rehab and she would sound so clear headed, so well and so much like the person living under the disease. I would be renewed with hope and positivity. She was so convincing. I felt light had come back into our otherwise very dark world. I think deep down inside I knew better than to be so optimistic, I knew better than to relax and think that my constantly knotted stomach would finally ease.
Her story does not have a happy ending. My story does have a happy ending for me. I finally left the relationship and I finally embraced my own recovery. It was probably the hardest thing I have ever done short of burying my parents. I left the world of addiction and enabling behind me and I have never looked back. You cannot save them no matter how much you love them, love does not heal addiction. Love does however heal those of us who are enablers, those of us who are suffering from a brokenness that is so painful. I am talking about love of self. Love yourself enough to know when to let go and let the healing for you begin. There is life after living with an addict and I am living proof of that.
Every day is a new beginning, a new opportunity to start over and heal the brokenness in your life. If you are seeking recovery in your life then I invite you to follow me and together we will laugh, cry, share and discover your path to a healthier, happier existence. No matter where you are today and how rough things seem you have the power to create the change in your life that you need. I believe that we all know what we need….sometimes we just need a gentle nudge or even a good swift kick! Remember this: even on the worse days the universe has your back. You cannot arrive without traveling, so off we go to a place of healing, recovery and ultimate joy.