I personally have never been addicted to anything, but I have lived my life understanding what addiction looks like and how it affects a family. I am from a family of what you can call “functioning” addicts. They were able to hold jobs and we would appear to the outside world to be a” normal” family. But behind closed doors that never was the case.
I decided a very long time ago to keep contact with my parents to a minimum, gaining clarity from being out of a toxic situation. I noticed certain traits I took from those experiences affected my quality of life. As I have gotten older and recognized those negative influences, I am starting to dealing with them proactively.
One of the things I learned is that while all of us have influences from family and society, each of us, as individuals, has the ability to shape a better path for ourselves. The hard part is recognizing our behaviors and putting in the work to change them.
Growing up in the shadow of addiction, I tended to let fear of the unknown affect my decision making. When you don’t have a support network in your family and nobody else steps in to facilitate that role, a sense of caution permeates your life. You look at things from the perspective of what could go wrong. Because you know deep down inside if shit gets real, nobody is coming to bail you out of it.
One of things I had been grappling with in my journey to become a whole person was I had to stop letting fear dominate my decisions. While bad things can and will happen, ultimately life is meant to be lived and enjoyed. While I strongly believe it’s your personal responsibility to not do things that are dangerous, risky, or cause harm to others, it is okay to go out and try new experiences and to not let the “What ifs” dominate my internal monologue.
When your parents can’t take care of you, you wind up taking care of them. If you’re used to acting in the capacity of a care giver, you end up taking on that role in lives of your friends and partners. Since I can act sometimes like I know what’s better for others then they do for themselves, I have occasionally been accused of acting arrogant or condescending by the people I love the most.
I’ve learned as an adult it is not my responsibility to fix the people I come across and you have to acknowledge things are at times out of your and anyone else’s control. People will make their own choices and you have to respect that. If they are acting in a way that’s harmful to themselves or to you, you may have to cut them off and let them be. Mainly through trial and error, I learned I can only give my emotional and mental energy to people that have the capacity to take care of themselves, and are able to reciprocate care and love for me.
While old habits die hard, you can change. You just got to take it one day at a time.
Mouse running inside a maze image courtesy of Shutterstock