People who suffer from a Substance Use Disorder require a team of people to support their addiction; they will also need a team to support their recovery. I know this feels very unfair to family members. Spouses, parents, children of and siblings of an impaired person find it irritating to go to meetings about their loved one’s “issue” while the loved one stays home and pops a beer (or 12) while zoning out on bad tv in a recliner. But don’t let the casual air of the afflicted one fool you. If they cannot manage to find the wherewithal to manipulate and trick those around them to step around the disease and pretend it doesn’t need treatment, then they can not sustain their disease for long.
Misdirection – a talent of the impaired – manages to distract the family and often delays treatment of the critical issue that needs addressing: substance abuse. Here are some common examples of how this works:
- When confronted with a job loss due to under-functioning, the user says he/she is happy that job is over because it doesn’t suit their “passion.”
- If a spouse confronts their beloved over the addiction’s effect on the relationship, the impaired spouse turns the tables and accuses the concerned partner of being inadequate, inattentive, or even uncaring.
- Compliance – sporadic, short-lived attempts to clean up their act, accompanied by cloying attentiveness, is another example of misdirection.
- Acting remorseful without ever changing their behavior is another tricky trickster move.
In any healthy relationship, with or without a compulsion issue, we expect the following: direct conversations about problems without distractions, honest efforts to change behaviors that are troublesome, a willingness to seek outside help if the problem is resistant to change. Honesty is a key ingredient in healthy relationships; people who love each other care when there is an unresolved issue damaging the relationship and both parties work hard to change (in theory).
In unhealthy relationships, secrets, hiding and diversionary tactics are common but often unrecognized. This is why it is important for all of us to learn how to NOT be directed by someone else’s reality.
Have you done the kind of work you need to do in order to be clear about your own wants, needs and preferences? Are you building satisfying, interdependent relationships that offer reciprocity? Or do you find yourself in relationships that you feel are all take and no give? That’s a problem! Hold on, eventually we will move toward a solution!