Addiction, Recovery, and Relationships

Addiction, Recovery, and Relationships |

In a way, we are all looking for love. And perhaps that’s the only thing we are ever looking for. Put aside the basic needs for food, water, and shelter, once those are filled, we want love. Sure, we might seek for it in all sorts of places, even in places where you wouldn’t think love exists, like the dark corner of a bar, or drunk and swinging among the neon lights in a dance club. We want love in order to feel that we have full, rich, and meaningful lives.

Yet, often, when our parents, our siblings, or others have repeatedly disappointed us, we tend to wonder whether love existed at all. And without feeling loved, we lack the ability to love ourselves. We lack the ability to love others. Instead, in our attempt to find love, we seek those things that might fill that loveless void, like drinking or using drugs.

One common pattern of a loveless childhood is powerlessness. Without the loving boundaries of protection, security, and structure by parents, feeling powerlessness can become a frequent experience for children. Later in adult relationships, powerlessness can bring co-dependency, blaming, and shame.

Addiction is rooted in powerlessness. Ultimately, the addict hands over his or her power to the substance or behavior he or she is addicted to. Just as an individual might dismiss his power when he says that he failed the exam because of the teacher’s dislike of him, the addict is often completely ignorant of his or her power. A belief in being powerless, which often stems from trauma, easily results in developing an addiction.

Powerlessness is a feeling leads to believing that your power is outside of your control. It includes developing an external locus of control, which is what you deem to have power over the successes and failures in your life. If you are successful, you might claim that the power is within you and that achieved all your accomplishments because of your own inner power. And often, people will take ownership of the positive events in their life. However, when there are negative events, such as homelessness, addiction, ill health, unemployment, often people with blame others. Suddenly, their locus of control is external and others are responsible for their losses.

In relationships, the powerlessness and that locus of control often get played out. The belief in being powerless in life leads to a dysfunctional relying on the other person for things that one can and should do on their own, such as being financially stable. This underlying belief in being powerless seems to attract an enabler who in turn believes that no one else can perform a task as well as they can. Enablers tend to take control of a situation thinking that they are being helpful without seeing that it would be more healthy to allow the other person to do that task on his or her own.

For instance, relationships will usually have a pull between separateness and togetherness. Each person in the relationship with try to find a balance, albeit unconsciously, between wanting to separate and be an individual and wanting to relate more deeply with their partner. However, in co-dependent relationships there is frequently a need to merge to feel a sense of completeness and power through the other person.

The search for love is ongoing. However, slowly, in the process of recovery, there is a great turn of attention toward a love that exists inside. Instead of seeking for love in others, in drinking or in using, the only place where love can be found is reclaimed. That one place within that needed and continues to need love, although forgotten up until now, eventually becomes an abundant source of love, laughter, and joy.


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