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Control Won't Cure Addiction

Through her passion for writing and coaching, Rachael shares her experience and support in the journey of loving an addict.


You wouldn't believe how much time I spent trying to control the addict in my life.

I checked his phone, his pockets, his wallet, receipts, anything I could get my hands on.

I tried to control where he went, how long he went for and what money he took with him.

I would give him 'the word' or a steely stare when I thought he had drank enough, or when he started to act up.

I created budgets, reminded him to pay bills, checked bank accounts and tried to help him manage his money.

I did whatever I could to try and keep control of the chaos that was constantly bubbling up around us.

I know for a fact that our friends thought I was a total control freak.

They felt like I just wanted to stifle my boyfriend, that I couldn't just 'let him have fun'.

I'd ask him to slow down on the drink and they'd say 'oh, he's alright'.

I'd begrudgingly give him $10 when he asked for cash to spend and his mates would joke about him being 'robbed by his missus'.

What they didn't know or understand was what our reality was behind closed doors.

They didn't see the man I lived with, or the damage he was doing to himself, to me and to our relationship.

So as much as they rolled their eyes and shook their heads at me, I continued to try and control my addict.

I continued to try and force boundaries and rigid guidelines for how I wanted him to behave.

I did what I could to contain the damage and reduce the opportunity for my boyfriend's addiction to get a stronger hold on him.

It was a losing battle.

Like trying to plug holes in a sieve I could never do enough. The leaks were everywhere and no matter what I tried, the addiction, like the water in a sieve, would sneak through any gap and create more mess.

I used all the energy I had to try and stop it regardless of how pointless it seemed.

I felt possessed, looking for clues, watching for signs, ready to dive in and enforce control over whatever was getting past me.

The ironic thing is that with all my efforts I had no idea just how cunning and industrious addiction can be.

While I was busy snooping and investigating in one corner, my boyfriend was busy getting exactly what he need in another corner behind my back.

He found every which way to bypass my controls and for all the energy I gave to my mission, he had double the energy and determination to boycott it.

The more I controlled, the better he got at working his way around me.

And I was wearing myself out in the meantime.

I couldn't sleep for wondering where he'd been, what he was doing, why he was acting a certain way and what he was hiding now.

The minute he was out the door I was buzzing around searching for evidence that would confirm what I already knew in my heart.

And when I found it, would it solve anything? Would it make it him front up and confess to all his betrayals? Would it make him hang his head in shame and vow to never drink, gamble or take drugs again?

Of course not.

It would start a fight, he would tell me I was crazy and become even more secretive, and it would do nothing to cure his addiction.

I know you think it's helping, that you're at least doing something proactive when you confront your addict with evidence, or prevent them from having access to the things that support their habit, but control won't and can't cure addiction.

It may slow it's progress, it may create a few stumbles along the way but it won't instigate recovery.

A certain level of control can be immensely important once recovery is being actively sought, particularly when it comes to helping an addict in recovery learn new boundaries and ways of self management, but it won't heal an addict who is still actively pursuing their demon.

All the control you try to apply only serves to create a temporary hurdle that they are challenged to leap so they can keep moving towards what they want.

Whatever you think you are doing to stand in their way, they are still determined in their course.

What you can control though is you and the impact of addiction on your life. Your personal situation is all you can control. That's where your energy should be focused, not on the activities of your addict.

You can set personal boundaries and add controls that not only prevent enablement, but also protect your personal wellbeing as well as your personal assets.

You need to keep your energy for your recovery, for taking each step day by day through the emotional, physical and mental challenge of living with an addict.

You need to focus your efforts on making better choices for you.

Whatever you try to do to control your addict is wasted energy and effort, so save it for better uses.

You might feel like without trying to exert that control you are ignoring the problem, that you are leaving your addict to sink further down into their hell, but the problem can only be fixed by them, and only they can control whether they let themselves sink, or rise up above the black hole that's pulling them in.

So take a breath, let go, and learn to practice emotional detachment with your addict.

Create more space in your life for finding your way through this battle, rather than getting bogged down by all the details that ultimately have no bearing on the outcome.

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