A hard and bitter truth is that it is not possible to shield a loved one from the consequences of their actions. It is agonizing to watch someone suffering from the despair of addiction. Perhaps we understand the depths of their confusion from personal experience or perhaps we simply love them and want them to become healthy. To observe someone’s self-destruction tears at our heart and soul. Our own feelings are in turmoil as we witness the downward spiral and we are sometimes misguided by our our own pain and emotional chaos to attempt to “save” them. We become so disoriented that we hope that if we say the right words or make the right phone call, someone else’s addiction will subside. We become afraid that if we say the wrong words, their addiction will escalate and become worse. But neither scenario is plausible or true. We do not have the power to change another person. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men cannot help them unless they help themselves. People change when they understand on a deeply personal level the tough truth of their affliction. We can continue to love them and pray for their awakening. We can attend Nar-Anon meetings and begin to understand that addiction is a family disease and listen to the wisdom of others who have traveled the same sad road we find ourselves on. But we cannot change another person. We cannot ask another person to do our will. We can’t control anyone except ourselves. That is a sad, frustrating and tragic truth but it remains the truth now and forever. Detach with love and work on making yourself healthier and more resilient. We didn’t cause their addiction, we can’t cure it, and we can’t control it. We cannot do the work of recovery for someone we love. Maintain healthy boundaries, accept with humility that we can’t alter the consequences of someone else’s behavior, and work on maintaining your own peace of mind.
This essay and thirty other meditations about life is from my book, The New Power of Positive Thinking, available from Amazon.