Leave the addict – Gain back your life

My Personal Story: Difficulty Letting Go

When I divorced my husband because of his drug addiction, I thought my life was over. Much like an addict I tried to fill the void in my heart with other things. Work, dating, and crying only helped a little at first but the hole was still there, inside me. I could not describe it to anyone and truly explain the depth of my pain.

I could not live with it anymore and I could not let it go.

It was invisible to others but it was the thorn in my side, the perpetual ache that only I could see and feel. People would ask me how I was doing and I would say I was fine. Those are the lies that the partner of an addict are used to telling. Everything was not fine, it had not been fine for years and it was not fine even though I left.

Things Seem Worse Before They Get Better

People will tell you that you are better off when you leave an addict but no one tells you that for a while things may seem worse before they get better. When you are in the middle of that situation, you do not feel like things ever will be better.

So, what’s getting in the way of your freedom? We explore more about letting go and issues of control here…from someone who’s been there and back. More from Amanda on losing and letting go. Then, we invite your stories, questions, or sharing in the comments section at the end.

The Illusion Of Control

Let’s be honest. You have become obsessed with the addict and trying to help them control their addiction throughout the relationship. You checked up on them, escorted them to the hospital when they overdosed, checked bank accounts and credit cards to see where their money went, and searched for them when they disappeared to bring them home. You did so many things to try and keep the addict on the right path. If your partner is sick, then it is justifiable for you to try and help them because they are so out of control.

Just because you leave the addict, the need to control and take care of things does not magically disappear. It’s difficult to stop helping an addict. That control issue is now yours and what you do with it is a choice, not a life sentence. But many times instead of letting go, we continue to try to help and protect because it is the last shred of control we have over our own lives.

Most of us leave because we were unsuccessful in controlling the addict. The only control you ever have over an addict was an illusion. When was the last time an active addict told you something and you actually believed them? When did any of your actions ever change the outcome of an addict’s choice to use drugs?

Control: A Way Of Life

Even after you leave an addict, you may wait around for a text, a phone call, or some sign that the addict is okay and not getting out of control. The worry and the knot in your stomach remain even though the addict is not. You wonder if you made the right choice because without you there, you know the addict is going to completely fall apart. You do not know another way to live because trying to:

…the situation are the only words in your vocabulary and have been for a long time.

If you leave an addict you are still going to have to deal with the behaviors which were part of your everyday reality.

YOU Are Out Of Control

What happens after you leave an addict? When the addict is no longer in your life and you lose the illusion of control, you start to realize how out of control you are. Your emotions, feelings, sense of loss, abandonment, lack of self-love and fear are overwhelming. The person you let down the most is … you.

SUGGESTION #1: Learn about yourself

The most important part of leaving an addict is to learn about you. To learn about you means to give yourself the love and understanding that you once had for the addict and realize that you do not have to hold down the fort anymore. You can learn that you are allowed to be you again.

The transition from crisis mode, caretaker, and responsible party to an independent individual again can be scary. Through living with an addict, the co-addict (a person addicted to an addict) can lose the ability to know how to live without trying to control everything around them. Furthermore, if you do not know who YOU are, then this pattern will repeat in future relationships because the fears that you are not good enough remain. The lack of self-awareness and confidence will attract the wrong person over and over again in your life.

SUGGESTION #2: Relearn how to live

Still, the hardest part of leaving is learning how to live again.

It is imperative that after leaving an addict that a person goes through a period of self-discovery so that they can re-define who they are without the addict. Without this step, the same patterns will continue with the same addict or even in new relationships.

If you do not know who YOU are, your likes and dislikes, what you want from life, and what drives you, then it would be impossible to know where you want to be and what you need to change in order to get there. It is highly improbable that you will be able to make life changes if you do not discover who you are without the addict.

SUGGESTION #3: Test and celebrate your journey

Leaving an addict is a journey that allows you to modify your life and follow a new path. Learning how to live again, achieving self-love, independence, awareness and confidence are the keys to moving on with your life. Once you get your life back and are in a healthier place, you will never second guess the decision you made to leave.

What happens after you leave or lose an addict? The 5 Stages of Loss

Have you just left a relationship with an addict or lost someone you love to addiction?

Sometimes, knowing when to stop helping an addict can be a life-changer. Because we focus so much on the addict when we are in a relationship with them, once we have committed to leaving, we do not know what to do with ourselves. So much of our energy was given to their addiction and trying to save them that we lose our own identity. For most of us, the fears we felt about leaving confront us head on.

We have the time to ponder all of the “what ifs” we have discussed in previous articles that have kept us from leaving. Here, we address what you can expect when you DO LEAVE. We’ll review the Stages of Loss that are fairly predictable, and then offer you a section to share your story at the end. As always, we try to respond to all real comments personally and promptly.

What To Expect When Addiction Takes It All

When you leave empty-handed from a traumatic situation where there was no resolution you do not gain the closure most of us desire. Even if you are the one who decides to leave, loving an addict who rarely gives you the thanks and the recognition you deserve still hurts. You spent years loving them and trying to help them. In fact, many years are spent for most people trying to get the addict to see them and recognize that they would do anything to help them recover.

Leaving an addict can make your whole time with them feel meaningless. Coupled with the lack of gratitude and love you would expect to gain from your bold statement, you may also have anger, disgust and hate thrown at you on the way out the proverbial door. But the truth is that addicts affect families in negative ways. And there is a time to leave.

When I finally left the addict for good, I thought I would be immediately relieved but there was a period of time where uncontrollable emotions would come in stages.

It was Valentine’s Day, three months after I left my husband, and he had completely abandoned my daughter as a father so I had a great deal of anger towards him. But when the day came I cried like I hadn’t in months. I saw people buying flowers, heard friends making reservations for romantic dinners and I was a single, struggling mother trying to support myself and a child.

I got wind that he had a new girlfriend, a young stripper, and I felt the most horrific void and sense of loss and betrayal. Although I knew he was an active addict and that nothing he did meant much, I took a step backwards that day.

5 Stages Of Loss

When you leave, there will be a period of time where emotions run high and you will experience stages of loss. Similar to the stages of loss when a loved one passes away, I will give you my personal account of the stages of loss you may experience when letting go and leaving an addict.

Stage One: Denial and Rationalizing

This stage is shock. We leave and try to convince ourselves that we are doing the right thing and that if we leave maybe the addict will get help and come back to us. We keep tabs on the addict in small ways but deny that there is anything wrong with that. “I just want to make sure he/she is okay.”

The truth is that we are shocked the addict is not trying hard enough to make changes and win us back. This is a shock and a fear come true for most of us.

Stage Two: Anger

When we start to realize that the addict is moving on without us (in theory) and that we are left a broken mess, we can start to become angry. When reality kicks in we need a defense mechanism which usually comes in the form of rage. We want to know why we weren’t good enough to change for or why we are stuck paying the bills and raising the children while they are out still getting high. Each situation is different; however, if the addict leaves you, anger can be even worse because it was not our decision.

Stage Three: Negotiation

When the anger subsides and we realize that the addict is definitely no longer a part of our lives and perhaps still using or in recovery we tend to start bargaining. We start to wonder if we had done this or that differently, maybe the outcome would have been different.

Stage Four: Sadness and Depression

When all of the emotions that blind us to the feelings we must go through subside, depression may make its entrance. We no longer can justify, rationalize, negotiate, and make excuses for an addict’s behavior, indifference, lack of love for us and so on. We may realize that this is really the end and go through a very rough period of sadness.

Stage Five: Acceptance and Moving On

This is simply the stage where you are sick and tired of feeling the way you are and you may start to realize that you want more out of life than what you had with the addict. You start to feel a freedom and independence you have not had since before the relationship and you find a sense of hope for a new life ahead of you. This may take time and for some years but if you keep persistent in your own recovery, this can happen sooner than later.

Take Heart! Emotions Are Not Permanent

It is important to keep in mind that things are going to change as you go through these or your own set of stages. These feelings will not last forever so go through them and do not avoid them so that you can go through loss appropriately and not have chronic “relapses” of these stages later.

Dealing with loss is ultimately a deeply subjective and singular experience — nobody can help you go through it more easily or understand all the emotions that you’re going through. But allow others, especially those who have had success with moving on, to be there for you and help comfort you through this process.

My main suggestion? Give yourself the opportunity to feel the grief as it comes over you. Fighting it only will prolong the normal process of healing.

When To Stop Helping an Addict

There is no question that addicts need help.

There are times when you can catch an addict on the right day and allow them to see what they are doing to themselves. You can also show an addict love and create boundaries which force them to get help. Sometimes, a serious event will cause an addict to seek help. Other times, an addict may come to the conclusion that they need help on their own.

So how can you tell when your “intervention” can actually help, or not? We discuss the difference between positive and negative help here. Then, we invite your questions, personal story, or comments at the end. In fact, we try to respond to all comments with a prompt reply!

Positive Help For An Addict

If you love an addict there are ways that you can help, but there comes a point when you need to stop helping because the help has transformed into enabling. Where’s the line between the two? Let’s use some concrete examples to help you understand the distinction. Productive help includes things like:

Performing an intervention with a specialist, friend and family
Setting up a place for recovery
Loving the addict from a distance (Let go and let God)
Setting up boundaries for the addict
Enforcing the boundaries
Supporting the addict when THEY decide to go into recovery
However, most loved ones of an addict have tried these routes and many of us have failed.

Addiction is an illness. The families of addicts feel so sorry for the addict or have guilt about their addiction that they want so desperately to help, control, or be a catalyst for change. In some cases, an addict will see what they are doing to their loved ones and go into recovery. But in most cases, the drugs have gotten to a point where they can no longer make choices. In many cases, there are severe underlying mental illnesses that the addict is self-medicating for and cannot see another way to deal with.

I describe most addicts as, “Self-medicating people that deal with the demons and the void they feel on a daily basis through substances”. However, what happens when the demons win and the addict will do anything or destroy anyone to continue to use?

If you are reading this article then you probably have experienced this. But families of addicts need to see addiction from the other side. When our guilt, fear and love for a person override our rational self, then we are most likely no longer helping and more than likely hurting or enabling the addict.

Negative Help For An Addict

If you have tried to assist the addict with Positive Help but there has not been any success and you are continuing to “help” then chances are you are providing negative help. Negative help – a.k.a. enabling – DOES NOT HELP and includes things like:

  • accepting chronic relapses
    begging the addict to stop
    cleaning up after the addict
    crying over and over again for the addict to stop
    giving the addict an ultimatum to stop (recovery) and then not following through
    giving them a place to stay when they are homeless
    lending money to the addict
    making excuses for the addict to family and friends
    making excuses for the addict to their work
    paying bills for the addict
    showing unconditional love by taking on things that the addict has dropped
    taking on extra responsibilities because the addict cannot function
    yelling at the addict to stop

Still, this list is not exhaustive and there are more items that can be added but the sentiment is the same. When you do anything to make it easier for an addict to continue to use you are:

  • Enabling their addiction
    Prolonging their addiction
    Prohibiting them from hitting rock bottom
    Letting Go Of An Addicted Loved One

Many loved ones of addicts will search feverishly for ways that might help them help the addict. And they have convinced themselves that leaving an addict is too hard. When they run into information that tells them to let go of the addict for the addict’s own good, incredulously they reject the information.

This is the point where a loved one needs to start looking at their role in the addict’s addiction. If you are at a place where things do not change in regards to the addict and your interactions with them, then something else needs to change.

You will need to stop “helping” in this situation. This is the time to let go and offer your support from a distance. That means you can extend to the addict the following support.

SUGGESTION 1: When they are truly ready and ask for your help for getting into recovery, be there for them.

SUGGESTION 2: As long as they continue to use and lie, do not assist them.

SUGGESTION 3: No longer be a party to helping them to be able to use. Period.

When Leaving an Addict is Too Hard

How Can You Make The Pain Stop?

The majority of comments people post on my blog end with statements like, “I keep going back and I am dying inside. How can I make this stop?” It is scary to make a change and leave someone you are in love with. It can be the most painful experience. It feels like a black cloud is looming over you. You feel as if no one person can understand how you feel. You do not know how to make it stop.

But here are a few things to keep in mind as you start to consider your partner’s addiction and how it impacts you:

1. Loss is normal.

When you lose someone you love to their addiction, you are experiencing loss. It is very natural to have feelings of despair, hopelessness, sadness, depression, anxiety, and fear. When you are having these emotions, you are experiencing a normal response to this type of situation. It would be abnormal to feel happiness, joy, and gratitude when you are watching the person you love destroy themselves.

Nothing lasts forever and all things either change or come to an end. Knowing that you are in a situation where your emotions are responding in the appropriate manner, you can also understand that these feelings are situational, meaning they will not last forever.

When you leave an addict you may experience pain, loss, heartache, depression, and an array of negative emotions. These emotions are not static, they are transient. You will never be completely depressed or sad over something situational for the rest of your life. The hard part is getting through and sorting out those feelings, but if you believe it will get better, it will.

If you let your emotions determine how you are, then you can allow yourself to wallow in the sadness. If you experience the emotions, go through them, do not avoid them, eventually they will lessen and then go away.

3. The hardest part is the leaving: It gets worse and then it gets better.

Knowing that the hard part really is leaving but there will come a point when it will be the best decision you ever made is the hope and inspiration you can channel to get you through the hard part.

The following is an addictionblog.org post from the wife of an addict.

“I realize now that all my fears of how difficult things would be were justified, it is difficult and painful, but making the decision to let go was the best and what took the most courage. Alongside the sadness, shock, numbness, anger, fear, and loss has also sprouted hope, clarity, joy, courage, and a greater sense of empowerment and self-love. I laugh more and cry less each day that goes by. Each bad day I take it as just a part of the journey and not as an indication that life will always be this difficult and overwhelming.”

Leaving An Addict Pays Off In The End

If you have faith that change and an end to the pain and sadness is inevitable then you can change your perspective on what leaving actually represents. Leaving an addict is a hard choice that will pay off in the end. You may have to struggle, but you are guaranteed a new chance at life.

Being awake in your life and embracing happiness is usually preceded by a courageous journey. A renewed sense of gratitude is your reward.

How To Help A Drug Addict: The Law Of Attraction

The Law of Attraction implies positive attracts positive. If you are acting in a negative way and expressing feelings of sadness and negativity, then it is likely your spouse will feed off of that and/or use this against you. If you behave in a positive way and live your life positively, despite your spouse’s addiction, it may generate positive results.

If you perpetuate anger, disappointment, and sadness, you may generate similar results in the exchange you have with your spouse. You may not be able to change someone else, but you can either inspire them to change or inspire yourself to move on. So, what does this look like in practical, real life terms when living in a codependent marriage. How can you live with or love an active drug addict?

You Want The Lies To Stop

WHAT HAPPENS: The lies and manipulation can hurt the most. Some of us would rather our bank account be emptied for a weekend bender than have a spouse look you in the eye and tell you they are sober, when they clearly are not.

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WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT: If you can understand that lies are part of the addiction, the lies may not hurt as much. If part of the disease is to hide the truth to maintain the addiction, then take a step back and expect to be lied to. You know very well, the truth from a lie, deep down inside. If you want the lies to stop, then try to trust your instincts. If something does not sound right or feel right to you, then that is the truth.

You Want Him To Get Into A Program

WHAT HAPPENS: He may have failed at rehabilitation programs, tried to kick the addiction on his own, or refused that he needs help. You are fully aware he has a problem and you know he will need help.

Rehab or detox does not always work, especially not the first time. You do not have to give up simply because your spouse has failed at recovery. You can however change your strategy. If an addict is forced to get help, it probably means they did not want to. How many times have you done something you did not want to do and kept doing it? The person who is addicted should want to get help, not feel like they are doing it for someone else.

WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT: You cannot control someone into getting help, but you can make it less likely their addiction will run smoothly. Decide to stop enabling a drug addicted or alcohol husband. Shed some light on what is going on to the people around you both who do not know what is really going on. If you have open and honest conversations with people you love and trust they may be able to help and stop enabling the addict. When an addict has nowhere and no one to turn to, sometimes they will have no choice but to see just how unmanageable their life has become.

You Want Him To Stop Hanging Out With Other Drug Users

WHAT HAPPENS: You want to show him how the “friends” he is using with are not a good influence on him. You block or track his calls, you throw his phone out, hide his keys, or confront his friends but he still goes out with them. These are not his friends; these are his dealers, his drug buddies, and people who are in the same point in their life as he is. You cannot compete with anyone that he gets high with. If you try, he will just lie.

WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT: So try a different approach. Stop caring about who he hangs out with and let him do what he wants to do. Stop fighting him. He knows you want him to stop. You have made the things you want him to change clear. Why play the game?

Stop playing into his addiction and let him realize that you are moving on with your life, and he is welcome to do the same. He only detests you when you try to stop him from using, so perhaps letting him know you are not happy with his addiction, that you are going to live your own life, will send a clear message; he will lose you.

Should you leave an addicted or alcoholic spouse? It’s going to be your decision. But once you decide, get help and support to follow through. This time though, you will be showing him, not just telling him.

Can You Get Your Husband Into Recovery?

“I will stop using as soon as I get through this stressful month at work.”
“I need you to help me; I cannot live without you.”
“I will stop drinking for a month, I can control it.”
You pray that each time you hear words of remorse or shame from your addicted spouse that this will really be the last time. You have read every book on recovery for families and how to help an addict and…no luck. You hang your hopes on the few stories you have heard, like urban legends, of wives who have helped their husbands into recovery. You are skeptical of anyone who tells you that you cannot fix your husband.

The truth is that YOU CANNOT CHANGE YOUR SPOUSE. This is a harsh reality. We know this. So, if you need to share and know that you are not alone, please leave us a comment here. We’ll try to get back with you ASAP.

How to STOP enabling my drug addicted husband

Are you ready to hear the truth?

Some women will post on my blog about how they want to stop enabling their husband’s addiction. Their posts seem so desperate and so imminent. I know what they are going through because I have been there; I was married to an addict, too. So, I spend time and energy crafting a heartfelt and realistic response. I try to address their needs and personalize the advice for them and then … weeks will go by and … nothing. Months and … nothing. Some of these women never reply.

I thought about this for a while and tried to put myself in their shoes. When they are reading online for answers and posting their frustrations and their stories they are usually in a crisis situation, either the addict is binging on drugs, disappeared, or done some other inexcusable act. Just because they are posting on my blog does not mean that they are ready to hear what I have to tell them.

When I explain what is most likely to happen or what will help them in the long run, they do not answer back because that is not the answer they were looking for. Most women are not ready to hear that they need to change. Perhaps telling their stories just helps them purge all of their anxiety or they still believe I can tell them how they can fix their partner.


Six years before I started to consider leaving my addict partner, he had a major relapse and disappeared for the weekend. I stepped into the room of an Al-Anon meeting. I went, half-hearted, because I thought it was something I should do. I learned the terms,“let go and let God,” and “detachment,” in those meetings but I wasn’t ready to do that. I thought if I let go that I would be giving up on him. When my husband would use, I went to meetings to get away from my problems. After a few months, I stopped going.

Years later, when things were spiraling out of control in my marriage, I started to go again. I was desperately looking for answers. I saw the same people, some still living with the addict. Al-Anon teaches that you can emotionally detach from an addict while still being with them physically if they are actively using. I would never be able to accept a life with my husband if I was in recovery, and he was not. I wanted to be with him but refused to continue living with him while he was actively using.

The concepts and approaches discussed in Al-Anon were enlightening. They helped me realize that I had to put the focus on me. Even with this new refreshing insight, I felt a disconnect in the meetings. Though I realized it was not for me, I was still able to take what I needed from those rooms. I forced myself to get up and leave my husband and make a new life for myself and my daughter.  I needed to start treating codependency and behaviors associated with it.

Letting go of an addict starts by finding help