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a part of our secret world.
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Broken promises. For those of us who are familiar with loving someone with substance use disorder, broken promises are very much a thing in our secret world.
Promises to get sober are words we cling to and carry us to the next day, the next moment even. We hang our hope and our future on the promises of sobriety.
If we’re being honest, we’re not so sure.
Is it ever going to get better?
Will you, as a couple, make it until happily ever after?
I don’t think anyone can answer that question for you. I made it to happily-ish ever after. But not with my husband or any other man (more on that below).
Here are examples of broken promises I've personally experienced in my own relationship and hearing from others while writing about addiction for over a decade.
I also share how, in my relationship, I was breaking promises, too.
Examples of Broken Promises
Drinking only on the weekends, not the weekdays.
Stop doing hard drugs; keep it to the "natural" stuff like mushrooms or pot (which are both very much not natural.)
Delete the pornographic website/account or dating app.
Come home when promised.
Help more around the house or with the children.
Be more responsible with the finances (spending less of the family money on their addiction.)
Tell the truth - always.
Broken promises go hand-in-hand with loving someone who has a substance use disorder.
And the truth is - I kept wanting to believe that this time, THIS time, he really might keep his promises.
I worked overtime trying to convince myself that my doubts resulted from my neuroses, denying the possibility that my worry was because I was actually being lied to and promises were, in fact, being broken.
Many times a week, I internally whispered to myself, "You're just worrying too much. You've always had trust issues. Must be unresolved childhood trauma - gotta get that resolved ASAP."
Quietly taking the blame.
But it was destined to be this way. Our relationship.
From the beginning, I set it up.
"Give them all to me!" I would subconsciously say when listening to someone else's struggles. I'll take their issues, make them my own, and almost kill myself sorting them out while feeling ALL the feelings that belong to them.
I will feel enough for both of us.
I will work enough for both of us.
I will fix enough for both of us.
Please, dear reader, do not think for one second I am suggesting this behavior is something to be commended. No gold stars are being handed out for this act of "kindness." Volunteering to "save" our loved ones from addiction, or perhaps even the very act of feeling attracted to the broken-hearted, is an attempt to make ourselves feel needed.
We begin the relationship with the addicted by playing the savior role. The stage is set. Our relationship will consist of two main characters: the Broken-hearted (them) and the Healer (us).
But the joke is on you and me.
We are never the healers and always end up broken-hearted.
Addiction convinced me that I had some responsibility if my loved one chose to get sober. Most days were spent racking my brain for ways to relieve that burden of shame I carried for constantly being a failure of my responsibility.
If I was the one who was failing at sobriety by not successfully getting him sober, then - it was just a matter of trying harder or discovering the real solution.
A solution that no institution, rehabilitation center, doctor, therapist, or specialist has ever (or should ever) claim with 100% percent certainty.
I was trying to achieve what no single human expert in the world has EVER achieved…
… discover a cure for my loved one's addiction.
In my relationship - I was breaking promises, too.
Sure, I signed up under false pretenses - I had no idea he was addicted to anything at the beginning, but it was perfectly clear right from ‘go’ that I could and would fall over myself to "help" with the pain life has caused him.
And at the end of our relationship, when I needed a divorce, I broke my promise to him and stopped trying to help.
Instead, I started making promises to myself.
The most important promise I made at that time was: safety first.
Above all else, during our divorce, I put my safety and the children's safety first. No matter what.
Because trying to leave someone who is addicted (to many things) and doesn't want to be left can be dangerous. Mentally, physically, and spiritually.
So - safety first. Promise.
Even if it meant charging a newly opened credit card without knowing how to pay it off?
Even if it means changing the locks on all the doors and knowing the nosy neighbors will ask, "What's going on?"
Even if it means calling the police to your home many times (talk about neighbors)?
Promising to myself. Turns out - that's what I needed all along to feel good. To feel proud. To fill some of the hole, I was looking for a broken-hearted man, to fill.
Keeping promises to myself.
It had nothing to do with him. It never did.
What broken promises have you experienced? I would love to hear from you.