What does it feel like to be an addict or alcoholic – or to love someone who is?
Being an alcoholic or addict
An alcoholic or addict is focused on their drug of choice to the exclusion of all else – they have no choice
Believe me, no one would choose to be an alcoholic or addict although if you are someone who loves and cares about one, you must wonder why they can’t just stop or cut down. The fact is that once our drug of choice (which may be alcohol) has got hold of us, we are powerless over it. It affects everything we do – how we plan our day and get through it, how we obtain it, drink / use it and get rid of the evidence, how we feel about ourselves in terms of knowing we are in the grip but every time we try and cut down or stop we fail. It sends us into a slough of depression because we do not enjoy the lifestyle we are living (it is certainly no fun) and we often will feel guilty about our behaviour which is caused by our addiction.
Our lives feel pointless
We will wake up feeling empty and low, struggle through the day and go to bed feeling empty and low
Our sleep is affected
We will usually sleep badly, often passing out when we have had too much and waking up once the effects begin to wear off. Then our head will whir round like a washing machine and we cannot get back to sleep. We toss and turn, feel depressed and anxious and know that we need more alcohol or drugs to function.
Our appetite is affected
We may lose our appetite and worry that we cannot seem to eat due to the constant knot in our stomach and due to our feelings of stress and anxiety. We may worry about our physical health and the damage we are doing to our organs. Despite feeling all this, we cannot stop focusing on getting hold of and drinking / using our drug of choice.
We tend to isolate
We will often isolate, increasingly confined to the house and possibly even a specific room within the house.
Living and getting through each day is hard work
Life is such hard work – just getting through and surviving each day. We try to keep our addiction from the people who love us – but unsurprisingly they tend to get increasingly cross with us about it (sending us into defence mode). We have to lie to protect ourselves and our need for alcohol or drugs. We know that we need more but know that our families do not want us to have more, so we lie. It is also hard remembering the lies. We often have great gaps in our memories and we struggle to get through without being found out or anyone noticing that we don’t remember. We feel constantly on the defensive.
We don’t see a way out – we cannot live with the alcohol or drugs but can’t see how we can live without it.
We wish we could die
We exist and certainly don’t live. We do still love our families and friends and will try and convince ourselves that we are doing them no harm.
We may wish we could die – but know we do not have the courage to do anything about it. We may even wish we had some illness for which we could be treated – such as cancer – rather than have this depressive addiction which seems to have no possible cure or end.
Believe me, it is not a nice place to be and no one in their right minds would choose to be an alcoholic or an addict.
What is it like to love someone who is an alcoholic or addict?
You are helpless and cannot help them
Possibly the most strong emotion is helpless. If you have someone in your family or who you love that is an alcoholic or addict, you are powerless to get them to cut down or stop. They may tell you that they will but then fail you time and again. You may believe that perhaps they will do it for their children or someone else you believe they love – only to be disappointed. The only person who can decide that they want to change is the alcoholic or addict themselves. They need to want to do it for themselves and not to please someone they love – and they will need help if they are to do it successfully.
Their addiction always will come first
They may say that they love you or their children or another family member. And they probably do. Nonetheless their need for a drink or drug will still come first and need to be satisfied. You may think this is selfish – and it is to some extent – but they are in the grip of an addiction and it is very powerful.
You cannot trust them
You will not be able to trust them. They will lie to you about what and how much they have had. They will lie to you about where they have been. They will tell you they have not got any (more) drink or drugs when you are absolutely certain that they have. This is because they feel a need to protect their habit – which you threaten when you question them about it. You are making them feel cornered and they will lie to escape your questions.
They may react aggressively or angrily with you
Similarly they may react angrily or aggressively when you understandably question their honesty. They know they are in the wrong and so will lash out at those they feel are making them feel worse. They might also feel angry due to the effect of the drugs or drink. An angry drunk is particularly unpleasant to live with. A passive one who has no energy, sleeps all the while and who isolates is also frustrating. There are no winners here.
You will find them self centred and selfish
You may feel that the alcoholic or addict with whom you live is utterly selfish and self centred – and you will probably be right. However, they will have an absolute need t get hold of their drug of choice and their life will be revolving around that – they cannot help it while they are in active addiction.
They will go into victim mode
Many addicts and alcoholics will be in ‘victim mode’ – always blaming someone else for what is going on in their life.
The lies, lack of trust, volatility and selfishness of the individual addict / alcoholic is just about impossible to live with.
Help is available if they want it….
Help is available for the alcoholic / addict in an alcohol detox clinic or in residential drug rehab. If you cannot afford this option, the local drug and alcohol services may be able to help. Help is also available at 12 Step Fellowship meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. For the people who love an alcoholic or addict, you may find the 12 step fellowship group called Al Anon. helpful.