How to Love an Addict (Who Doesn’t Love Themselves)

I
grew
up
in
a
family
of
high-functioning
addicts.
We
looked
like
the
perfect
family,
but
as
we
all
know,
looks
can
be
deceiving.
No
one
was
addicted
to
drugs,
so
that
obviously
meant
that
we
had
no
problems.
Cigarettes,
alcohol,
food,
and
work
don’t
count,
right?

I
have
come
to
realize
that

what

we
are
addicted
to
is
nowhere
near
as
important
as
the
admission
that
we’re
addicted
to
something.
When
we
try
to
make
ourselves
feel
better
by
telling
ourselves
that
gambling
or
porn
or
beer
is
nowhere
near
as
bad
as
crack
or
heroin,
we
are
merely
lying
to
ourselves.
In
the
recovery
movement,
we
call
this
denial.

Denial
was
the
foundation
my
life
was
built
on.
We
did
not
speak
of
my
grandfather’s
abusive
behavior
and
alcoholism.
We
did
not
question
my
grandmother’s
chain-smoking
habit.
We
did
not
mention
my
other
grandfather’s
drunken
falls
and
injuries.
We
never
tried
to
help
my
aunt
who
was
eating
anything
she
could
get
her
hands
on.
No
one
questioned
the
countless
hours
my
father
spent
working.

There
were
so
many
things
we
just
never
talked
about.
There
were
so
many
things
that
were
secrets.
Things
I
had
to
hide.
The
unspoken
family
rule.


I
loved
my
family
members.
I
still
do.
They
were
good
people.
They
tried
really
hard.
They
just
didn’t
know
how
to
look
after
themselves,
to
value
themselves,
to
love
themselves.

They
did
the
best
they
could
under
the
circumstances
and
with
the
lack
of
awareness,
information,
and
support
at
the
time,
and
I
don’t
think
it’s
ever
fair
to
judge
that
from
the
outside.

I
have
gone
through
my
stages
of
anger,
judgment,
and
resentment
and
come
out
the
other
side.
All
that
is
left
is
sadness
and
love.

I
loved
my
family
members.
I
loved
them
so
much
and
all
I
ever
wanted,
even
as
a
little
girl,
was
for
them
to
be
happy.

I
wanted
my
granddad
to
not
drink
come
4pm
so
he
would
stay
the
lovely
man
that
he
was.
I
didn’t
want
to
see
him
shout
and
cry
and
fall
over.
I
didn’t
want
to
be
scared
like
that
and
watch
my
grandmother
cry
while
helping
him
up
and
cleaning
away
the
blood.
He
was
a
good
man,
but
he
had
seen
the
worst
of
World
War
II
and
I
don’t
think
he
ever
recovered
from
that.

Maybe
he
would
have
been
an
alcoholic
without
those
experiences;
I
will
never
know,
and
it
really
doesn’t
matter
because
he
was
not
just
that.

He
was
kind
and
generous.
He
played
with
me
and
made
me
laugh.
He
cuddled
me
in
bed
and
told
me
story
after
story.
We
had
so
much
fun
together.
Remembering
those
happy
times
will
warm
my
heart
for
the
rest
of
my
life.
I
will
be
forever
grateful
for
those
happy
memories
and
the
time
I
had
with
him.
I
guess
that
he
is
the
first
addict
I
ever
loved.

My
grandmother
was
the
kindest
person
I
have
ever
met.
In
my
eyes,
she
couldn’t
have
been
any
more
perfect.
I
wish
that
she
had
lived
longer
so
that
I
could
have
had
the
opportunity
to
get
to
know
her
as
an
adult.

What
would
I
have
seen?
Would
I
have
seen
a
woman
who
didn’t
set
any
boundaries?
Would
I
have
seen
someone
who
gave
and
gave
without
ever
really
getting
anything
back?
I
don’t
know.
I
cannot
say.
But
she
was
definitely
the
love
of
my
life.
And
maybe
that’s
because
she
might
have
been
codependent
and
treated
me
like
a
little
princess,
or
maybe
it
is
that
she
was
just
one
of
the
kindest
people
the
world
has
ever
seen.
It
might
even
be
both.

It
doesn’t
matter
who
it
was
and
what
they
were
addicted
to,
I
loved
them.
I
truly
loved
them.
I
loved
them
then
and
I
love
them
now
even
though
they
are
no
longer
alive
and
haven’t
been
for
decades.

Addiction
may
change
how
they
behaved
at
times,
but
it
didn’t
change
the
essence
of
them.
And
that’s
what
I
have
always
loved.
It
doesn’t
mean
that
I
was
blind
to
everything
that
was
wrong.
It
doesn’t
mean
that
I
didn’t
sense
that
something
was
terribly
wrong.


Today,
I
love
the
addicts
in
my
life
from
a
greater
distance.
The
pain
of
loving
someone
who
doesn’t
love
themselves
is
too
much
to
bear.
We
speak
and
we
care,
but
there
is
an
emotional
depth
we
can
never
reach.
A
depth
I
craved
then
and
I
depth
I
will
crave
if
I
let
myself
forget
who
I
am
loving.

Because
that’s
what
I
found
to
be
my
solution
for
maintaining
relationships
with
people
I
love
but
who
struggle
to
love
themselves:

I
can
love
them,
but
I
can
only
do
so
by
accepting
that
there
is
an
emotional
distance
I
will
never
be
able
to
bridge.
I
have
to
accept
that
the
closeness
I
seek,
I
can
never
get.
I
may
get
a
hint
of
it
every
now
and
then,
but
I
can
no
longer
allow
myself
to
be
lured
into
wishing
and
hoping
that
things
will
change
how
I
want
them
to
change.

I
can
love
them
and
I
can
hold
space
for
them,
but
I
cannot
change
them.
What
I
can
do
is
remove
my
expectations
and
hopes
and
dreams
for
them
and
their
relationship
with
me
by
accepting
the
reality
of
our
situation.

This
gives
me
freedom.
It
gives
me
freedom
to
love
them
while
being
true
to
myself
and
honest
about
my
feelings.

It
allows
me
to
enjoy
the
contact
and
connection
that
exists
while
having
healthy
boundaries
in
place
that
protect
me
from
sacrificing
my
own
well-being
and
peace
of
mind
in
a
misguided
attempt
to
save
them
from
themselves.
It
is
that
separation
that
finally
allows
us
to
connect.

It
gives
us
space
to
respect
our
struggles
and
each
other
as
individuals.
As
long
as
I
failed
to
see
that,
I
tried
to
change
them,
and
that’s
what
stopped
us
from
connecting.

And
so.
learning
that
I
cannot
change
another
person
and
that
only
they
have
the
power
to
do
so,
opened
me
up
to
actually
being
able
to
love
them.


I
also
learned
that
I
cannot
love
another
person
into
loving
themselves.
I
used
to
believe
that
meant
that
my
love
wasn’t
good
enough—that

I

wasn’t
enough—but
I
now
know
that
the
love
they
needed
and
the
love
they
sought
was
the
one
that
only
comes
from
within.

Because
if
my
love
could
have
saved
them,
it
would
have.
I
loved
them
that
much.

But
love
that
comes
from
the
outside
needs
to
be
able
to
connect
with
the
love
that’s
on
the
inside,
and
that
love,
they
just
hadn’t
connected
with.

That
love
they
never
found
during
their
lifetime.

And
so,
they
couldn’t
teach
it
to
anyone
else
either.
No
one
knew
about
it,
and
everyone
just
coped
with
their
pain
in
the
only
way
they
knew
how
to.

I
wanted
them
to
look
after
themselves
and
be
happy
so
very
much.
I
wanted
them
to
be
healthy
for
me.
I
wanted
them
to
stay
alive
for
me.
I
didn’t
understand
that
I
couldn’t
save
them.
I
didn’t
really
comprehend
that
part
for
most
of
my
life,
which
paradoxically
has
cost
me
a
lot
of
my
life.

I
know
the
yearning
and
the
craving.
The
wishful
thinking.
The
rollercoaster
of
hope
and
crestfallen
disappointment.
The
believing
in
them
and
cheering
them
on
only
to
watch
them
fall
again.

But
I
was
always
on
the
outside.
It
was
never
in
my
control.
It
never
really
had
anything
to
do
with
me
or
meant
anything
about
me.

I
just
happened
to
be
born
into
my
family
and
love
them.

For
most
of
my
life
I
wondered
if
I
did
really
love
them
or
if
I
just
loved
what
they
did
for
me,
but
I
can
now
say
with
absolute
certainty
that
I
loved
them.

The
things
I
loved
doing
with
them,
I
haven’t
done
in
decades
and
yet
the
love
is
still
as
strong
as
ever.
As
is
the
gratitude.

I
am
grateful
for
the
kindness
they’ve
shown
me
and
the
lessons
they’ve
taught
me.
I
am
grateful
for
their
perseverance
and
their
endurance.
I
am
grateful
for
the
thousand
things
they
were,
because
they
were
more
than
addicts.

They
had
dreams
and
aspirations
when
youth
was
on
their
side.
They
had
things
they
liked
and
favorite
clothes
they
wore.
They
had
friends
and
social
lives.
They
danced
and
they
had
fun.
They
kissed
and
made
up.
They
tried
really
hard
to
be
the
best
people
they
could
be,
and
how
could
anyone
ever
say
that
that
wasn’t
good
enough?

They
never
did
anything
to
intentionally
purposefully
hurt
or
harm
anyone
because
they
were
good
people.
Good
people
who
never
hurt
or
harmed
anyone
but
themselves.
And
witnessing
that
was
painful.
Knowing
that
that
is
what
happened
and
continues
to
happen
is
still
painful.

It
is
a
reality
I
wish
wasn’t
true.
If
there
was
something
I
could
do
to
change
that,
I
would.
But
I
know
I
can’t.
And
that
is
the
reason
why
I
can
love
the
addicts
in
my
life.


When
I
thought
that
I
could
change
them
or
save
them,
I
couldn’t
love
them.
Love
accepts
people
as
they
are.
It
does
not
seek
to
change
someone
so
they
fit
in
with
your
idea
of
them.
Love
is
inherently
respectful.
Trying
to
change
someone
isn’t.

I
could
never
really
control
them
or
their
substances,
and
I
have
lived
with
the
panic
of
not
being
able
to.
But
I
have
made
friends
with
it.
I
now
know
how
to
soothe
myself
and
in
that
way,
I
take
care
of
myself.
I
have
achieved
what
they
never
could.

I
cannot
control
what
my
addicts
do
to
themselves.
I
cannot
control
the
choices
they
make.
But
I
can
control
my
choices.

And
I
choose
health,
growth,
and
love.
I
will
not
continue
the
family
heirloom
of
addiction
and
self-abandonment.

Instead,
I
have
learned
to
love
in
healthy
ways.
And
that
includes
me.
I
have
learned
to
take
care
of
myself
and
dare
I
say
it,
like
myself.
But
I
couldn’t
have
done
it
if
it
wasn’t
for
my
family.

While
they
provided
me
with
my
challenges
and
relational
struggles,
they
also
provided
me
with
kindness,
love,
and
strength.
For
some
reason,
they
managed
to
love
me
enough
to
let
know
that
there
is
another
way
of 
being
because
that
is
what
has
kept
me
going.

I
always
knew
there
was
something
wrong.
I
just
didn’t
know
what
it
was.
And
I
also
always
knew
that
there
was
a
better
life
out
there,
and
I
was
right.
I
just
wish
that
my
addicts
could
have
also
had
that
experience.
I
wish
we
could
have
had
it
together,
and
I
don’t
think
that
I
will
ever
stop
wishing
that.

But
I
accept
the
reality
that
is
and
I
will
continue
to
do
for
myself
what
they
could
not
do
for
themselves
so
my
children
will
not
share
the
struggles
of
the
past.
I
focus
on
what
I
can
control,
and
I
take
full
responsibility
for
my
own
life.
I
look
after
myself
how
I
wish
they
had
looked
after
themselves.
I
do
it
for
me.
I
do
it
for
my
children.
And
I
do
it
to
honor
them.

Because
I
know
that
they
would
want
for
me
what
I
wanted
for
them.
The
difference
is
that
I
am
able
to
give
it
to
them.
And
I
do
so
with
all
my
love.

About

Marlena
Tillhon-Haslam

Marlena
loves
people
and
life
and
is
passionate
about
finding
ways
to
make
our
human
experience
as
fulfilling
as
possible.
She
works
as
a
psychotherapist,
relationship
coach,
and
Clinical
Director.
She
loves
to
connect
on

Instagram
or
via
her

Love
with
Clarity
and

Codependency
Today
Facebook
groups
and
pages.
She
is
an
expert
in
human
relationships
and
sees
them
as
the
lifeblood
of
a
meaningful
existence.

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a
typo,
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inaccuracy,
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offensive?
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