How to Love an Addict

It’s dicey, I’m not gonna lie. Loving an addict takes knowledge, skill, courage, and a healthy dose of clarity. Loving an addict is understandable too, since they are by and large charismatic, full of a life force that emanates undeniably! Many addicts are significantly accomplished, creative, and intelligent. They are straight up lovable people. Addicts don’t just crave that which destroys them; ultimately, they crave everything. They crave knowing the very essence of your soul and that which will fill the tiny crevices of their being. They can be quite…magical. If you are like me, you are drawn to addicts like a moth to the flame.

An addict will only find peace when they learn to seek that which brings life instead of that which brings death. But, statistically, most never do. According to American Addiction Centers, almost 20 million Americans struggle with substance addiction, influenced by genetics, environment and culture. Addicts present a risk and the Center for Disease Control suggests that only 10% of them will seek help in their lifetimes. Even if an addict recovers for over a year, they will always hold the potential for relapse. Many addicts underestimate the work needed for lifelong recovery, and the mental power of their addiction literally works against them as soon as they retreat from that work. The numbers for lifelong success are ambiguous due to lack of long term studies beyond the first year, but it is agreed the numbers of success are quite low, even below 20% of those 10% who do seek help.

Shall we then remonstrate the addicts? Cast them off for our own survival? Well. It is not that simple, is it? Some addicts are family, for one. Some are not living in addiction until long after we fall for them. Others may show signs, even extended periods of respite from their fantastic capacity for destruction. Hope surfaces. We try to love them some more.

Also, there is the keen awareness that some recover for life, and carry on superbly. This is the possibility, and that very possibility can carry us for years.

Therefore, it is important that we understand some basic tenets of how to love an addict, which is known to a very small portion of people in the world. It requires something that seems to be secret information to the world at large, and it is so simple that it is almost insane. Simple, but not easy.

The true secret to loving an addict is to Know Thyself and to Love Thyself, to know what you are, separate from them, and to know where your boundaries lie. To know where they end and you begin. To be capable of effectively loving an addict is to hold them loosely, and to fully appreciate that they are not in charge of YOU, and for goodness sake, you are not in charge of them. For years, I had awakened thinking, “So, tell me my love, how are we going to feel today?” The addict determined all of my emotions then. It requires a daily ability to detach with love, which is promoted in Al Anon for friends and family of Alcoholics.

However, this lesson may take years to master. In this case, alcoholism is synonymous with all other addictions: Gambling, Sex, Consumerism, Work, Food, Technology, and other potentially destructive activities. Addiction can take many forms, in sinc with substances, or in lieu of substances.

Thus, I wish to give a starting point. For if we are not careful to look at our own side of the relationship, and how we can contribute to their suffering, we have already lost.

Self-care is essential. It is common to let oneself go as we become overly responsible to the needs of the addict, and find ourselves depleted, resentful and sometimes alone. We must insist on demanding the very things that protect our body, mind, and soul. We must not give up our own power and our own needs.

We surrender our control over the addict. Every fiber of our being will wish to dictate the addict’s actions and thinking, but aside from setting our own boundaries, we are wasting our time. We absolutely can not control them.

Do not take it personally. No one, let me repeat no one, can save an addict single-handedly, nor are we to blame. And our way of trying to control can appear in a thousand ways: The silent treatment. Pretending we don’t care. Pretending all is well. Blaming ourselves. Begging them to stop. Begging them to live a specific program of recovery. Lying to others to avoid embarrassment. Lecturing. Making excuses for them. Wailing. Shutting them out. Taking them back. We forget that this disease is not under our control any more than it is under their control. It has literally nothing to do with us. As a result, we need to stop making it about us.

Have compassion. No one wants to be an addict, so stop thinking this person is doing something to you. It is okay to be sad, hurt, angry, but don’t confuse that with self-pity, or worse, indignation..

Spiritual fitness is key. It is not my way to pray for others, but many people do. I believe the gods allow us free will, and I do not like to mess with fate. Disease is a tragic and shadowy part of life. My spiritual fitness asks me to accept my lack of power over the addict, yet it promotes my power over myself and my own choices. I ask for the strength and clarity of how I might be useful. I am reminded that I am a divine child of the universe, and I deserve to be happy. I must know that loving addicts is no different than loving any other human being who faces all of their own struggles and risks, including their falls.

The truth of the matter is, we do all sorts of crazy things in order to love an addict, and much of it will prove ineffective. On the other hand, loving an addict will teach us more about ourselves than we ever could possibly know without them. The choice to love an addict is rarely a real choice. We don’t usually make that choice to love. We just do. But there is a way to be safe and even experience great joy in our lives anyway.

It is understandable to have to leave or avoid or deny the addict, especially if they begin to abuse us or demand that which we cannot abide. But I have found that with mutual support and a spiritual path, with self-knowledge and a relentless desire to get it right, it can be beautiful. I no longer remain close to those who cannot recover. That does not mean I don’t love them. The irony of course is that I am also an addict, and I am grateful for those who have chosen to love me. I do believe I am worthy of it as well.

The Soul and The Spirit in Pandemic Form

Ever wake up wondering why you are feeling low? You begin by attributing it to outer realities, like the weather, your current personal predicaments, your relationships, the tasks that preceded your sleep, the experience of sleeping or not sleeping, your physical strength or pain, the looming day’s plan or lack of plan. These realities impact your spiritual state and thus, your emotions.

Oftentimes, the senses determine our moods as well. Is there a jarring noise present? Do you smell the litter box? Are you hungover? Do you realize there is nothing good to eat and must now forage for more?

What is available to us, and also what we seek and procure are the very sparks of energy that inspire us or leave us wanting. This is the case with Spirit. Spirit, or breath, is inhaled and exhaled, granted resources necessary for life. Spirit also breathes into us an energy that comes from the divine source. In this way, we are sponges for sunshine, birds singing, pancakes and a good massage. When we awaken to source, we build a vibration that resonates with all the gifts of our world, both inside a single home, inside the neighborhood, or expanding out on a global level, and finally also into other dimensions for which we may connect through meditation, dreams, and intuition.

Spirit is that which gives us inspiration to act, to fight, to love, to hold someone’s hand, and to rest, to keep going. Spirit is the life force within and without the body we inhabit at this time.

Soul, on the other hand, is that which resides within eternally and independent of spirit. It includes our inner thoughts, an untold or realized purpose, memory – both conscious and unconscious – the history of wisdom in this lifetime and prior lifetimes, the family’s genetic imprint, the current experience as an individual entity, and the future calling to another purpose, even beyond the grave.

When we think of a soul having depth or mass, power, equal levels of shadow or light, it is so often out of our human sphere; it is one of fate and divine orchestration, especially noted only if we are paying attention. Of course soul and spirit are inter-related as well.

In a pandemic, our spirit, or life source, is limited by the experiences which protect us from illness, death, and loss, and questions our responsibility to others. We must adapt in order to keep the vibration at a tolerable, or ideally, a joyful level.

We complain and cry out because we are lost and must fight in this new reality. We are agitated and clawing for the upper hand. We are also comforted when we find that the human collective shares in this. We are then not alone, even if we are alone.

However, in order to adapt, we must also surrender to what is. We must come to know new ways to feel inspired, energized, and hopeful. And let’s face it, we are being stretched, and only the strong will survive. The strong will see that they must evolve with it. The strong will continue to use their imaginations and sheer will to their own advantage. Madness may be inevitable. Yet, madness is on a continuum, and we can nurture ourselves out of it.

We have always freely used the world at our disposal. Now our world gives less of what we know. No more vibrating in massive groups. No more breathing in the collective energy of electric concerts, the drive of sporting events, traveling with abandon, and the aesthetic of movie theaters without great risk of meeting the silent, invisible spirit of death.

The soul lives on and integrates a new piece of what it was always meant to know. This pandemic is only another part of the eternal experience. Lessons are being taught.

The question is clear. How do we keep the breath of spirit moving? How do we now honor our ancient or newborn soul by feeding its own divine nature?

Thoughtfully. Intentionally. Bravely. This pandemic has left us weary, but there is still much time left to endure.

For me, it is one simple hour at a time. What does my soul tell me? What does the divine provide? What will I do, but more so, what will I choose to believe?

I can tell you that I believe in the bigger picture. I believe in me. And I believe in us. I believe in a song. I believe in looking into the eyes of the people I love. I believe in looking into the eyes of strangers too.

I will smile. I will sit in silence until the tears come. I will do the dishes and paint and write and dance. I wlll read and talk with my family on the phone. I will spend an hour just taking a bath or tending my nails. I will allow naps. I will walk outdoors as though on a pilgrimage, seeking new roads I have not yet tread. I will watch a comedy. I will curl up to the side of the few that I can, human or animal; it makes little difference if I decide it. I will close my eyes and listen. I will taste every bite.

When the holidays hit, and I am possibly alone, I will play Little Drummer Boy and drink egg nog anyway. I will keep the rituals that build a divine source of spirit with candles and pine boughs and bells. I will be grateful I am alive in a world that will find its way back to its natural state, a tiny sprout of green among the burnt remains.

I will dream of the day, not so far from now, when a warm mist rises off the morning streets, the children of God delight in the fragrance of lilacs and wet soil, and the earth swells with hope.

The Hope Dare

My sister and I hit the beach yesterday. We swam in the clear river, ate a tasty lunch from our tote, and spent three hours absorbing sunshine while breaking down every nuance of our lives. We love being together. We love to laugh at life and ourselves. We are thinkers.

My sister silently dared me to swim, she being a far better swimmer than I. I plunged quickly, avoiding my usual rationale to remain on the shore. We are sensitive, passionate women. Our feelings are real, but we prefer to entertain them less than our intellect and mutual dark humor. We come from a long line of thinkers who think that thinking is a very nice compensation for emotional distress.

Still, on this late summer Friday paradise, we considered Hope and its evil twin Fear. I told her that my fears of America under political tyranny were staggering, despite my lifelong determination to keep my political head in the lovely cool sand. Also, I shared that my fears of this election were so profound, that I preferred 4 more years of the current pandemic over any political tyranny of our country.

This implies that I was terrified and willing to negotiate with the gods.

Bargaining is a common part of grief. I was already deep deep into the third stage of the future grief I fully intended to experience, one day soon.

Additionally, the fear within my heart began to grow as we spoke. It was as if my words brought more energy to this wretched fear, and then multiplied like The Blob as I attempted to be understood, possibly even further united with my wise listener.

My beloved and level-headed sister was understandably intolerant of my defeatist tone. She stopped me right there and assured me that my greatest fears were unlikely to be realized.

She prompted me to view recent speeches and their power, and she encouraged me to rise to the power of dignity.

I sat up a bit in my beach chair.

I stared out at the choppy and wide waters of the St Croix river.

Then I felt a wave of hope.

I pictured myself on the morning after the election, with a smile so broad and so authentic, you’d have thought I had just beat terminal cancer. Or gave birth to a healthy child. Or finally found the love I had always wanted. Or really just simply got my way for once.

In my imagination, the tides had shifted and the sun was bright and warm; I’m pretty sure there were bluebirds tweeting as they helped to gather big white sheets from the line!

It was only for a moment really.

But it felt really good, this thing. This hope.

I mean, it actually felt really good. Much better than what I had been feeling just moments earlier. I could see that I was afraid to have hope, since I had hoped before. And it didn’t turn out so well. Thus, I was afraid that if I dared to hope again, and it didn’t go my way, I might not have the resilience to stand up again. It just might crush me in a way that could never be restored. Consequently, I chose fear under the daily guise of cynicism, sarcasm, and a vigilant preparation for the worst. Not even outwardly. But in the quiet thoughts of my inner world, where all good things go to die.

The irony of causing my own current discomfort, even sometimes paralysis, was a surrender to ideas that would certainly bury me alive.

But if I dared to hope for another flash moment, that strange comforting light returned straight away! Then I was once again relieved of the wicked trolls of Doubt, Cowardice, and Passive Aggression.

Hope is a direct sign of courage. Hope is the hallmark of a warrior. I began to remember that I have never ever hoped to be some infantile worrier subject to the beastly authority of any human. If I wish to remain the daring goddess-infused woman that I must choose to be, then I certainly must not choose this putrid, acidic, alarmed state.

I will rise, and I will fight for a vision of glory. I will absolutely dare to hope.

Why Online Dating is a Spiritual Experience: Part Three – The Combat Zone

The dating site survey was completed along with a rather compelling profile. I mean, I’m a writer after all. And I set the privacy mode to “All members may view.” Game on!

There were lots of hits at first. Men seemed intrigued and sometimes quite forward about their desire to date me! Ego scores!

It was no shock a few hookup whores were lurking. Some wanted a younger woman to bear their children and had not even bothered to read beyond my photos. A few just stopped communication as if they were refugees in a state of war. Ego down.

This is the part where a film montage of dating absurdities rolls with a punk rock 80’s song.

I had no experience setting these boundaries, or how sometimes I had to get messy and mean. Dating was not for the weak. Dating requires a warrior, a champion, a goddamn barracuda in a lovely shade of pink!

Dating had its own culture, its own code, and I was catching on to the rules of engagement:

Rule 1: Never allow a stranger to come to your home. Especially when they say nice things but have pointy ears and sharp teeth.

Going to another person’s home, because you have mutual community ties, is fine. Unless you find out that he is Obsessive-Compulsive and stops to take another shower in the middle of the date.

Rule 2: Police Officers date. The one I dated was a fantastic human. In the end, he just did not have enough time for dating and lived too far away.

Rule 3: Never meet anyone you have not spoken to on the phone at least once. Two or three times is even better. It is amazing what you can learn from phone calls. Texting was not nearly as telling. Let me be clear: I am a strong player in the texting world. I love the flirtation of texts and the witticisms and the naughtiness of texting when you should be acting like a normal human being. But hands down, wordsmiths are outrageous masters of illusion and phone calls are several degrees closer to real.

I figured out one guy was a total stoner after 2 phone calls; he was the most adorable man but smoked weed nonstop. Nope.

Another guy held a job my teenager could have secured, but seemed to do nothing else. I asked him what he did with his time when he was not at work. He paused, then said, “Laundry.” That was it. He was incredibly good looking too, so it was painful to step away from Mr. No Life. He said he was hoping a woman would change all that. Phone calls are a precious opportunity to avoid a future divorce.

Rule 3: The way a man discusses what happened with his ex, or a past love, or how he “got here”, suggests volumes. Is this man a graceful diplomat, a childish tyrant, or a tortured civilian? If he talks too long about her, he isn’t over it. If he doesn’t talk at all, he might take himself too seriously. Does he think his loss is greater than the loss of others? Is he under the impression his pain is the totality of importance? Did he martyr himself for 20 years? I pay attention to what their experience might have been.

Rule 4: Dressing up and going to high end establishments was a mistake because within 5 minutes, I already knew if this was a no. Going fancy meant long hours of what to wear, and the time needed to doll up! Going fancy meant being hostage to a lot of waitstaff conversation and the time it takes to be elegant in public, typically a couple hours. This is all good if you have no friends and you just want company. But I was on a mission and had plenty of other things to do. Fancy was for a second or third date.

Rule 5: Men with a PhD and expansive careers, the type that travels the world and uses words I have to research are out there. They exist and they are glorious examples of how a girl can find her prince later in life. But my limited experience told me these men can also be rather repressed and shine only in certain arenas, not necessarily in my arena. For example, if an honest, rich, handsome man cannot make me laugh, I would prefer to live as simply and humbly as I do, alone. I would rather laugh with a homeless man under the bridge than live with a socialite genius who would be a far better match for another sort of woman. If you think it wasn’t painful to reject the potential of financial security with a man who would likely treat me very very well, you are mistaken. But I know who I am. And I absolutely MUST be laughing, dancing and being a total goof while I live a life of comforts.

By January, I had moved into jeans and a nice shirt for coffee dates only. 40 minutes tops. After 3 months, I had dated a chef, a farmer, a cop, a doctor, an author, a corporate attorney, and a photographer. There were zero second dates.

My spirit had not yet waned but I was beginning to wish women were an option. I had expected the Minnesota winters might be chilly. I had met some passionate, smart, talented men. I had been true to myself thus far. I was practicing the skill of saying no. I was learning that a really good person was not necessarily the right person for me. But a majorly dysfunctional person was a lesson I had mastered long ago. Perhaps I taught them a thing or two, but I doubt it. The cool part was that my intuition was en pointe. I was listening to my gut for the first time in my life. That was an awakening I had not imagined.

I had no idea what was coming next. And not knowing what was up ahead was ironically the impetus for hope.