Don't Ignore the Elephant in the Room… Addiction Can Become an Abusive Situation- Fast!
Leah here. I wanted to say a preliminary, "Hello" to you because Kara wrote this post and I think she pointed out something that we should all talk about.
Addiction can make for an abusive situation- quick... for BOTH parties. Yep. You'll see.
The thing is, we have all done things we're ashamed of. Screamed, yelled, thrown things, broke things, manipulated, lied, you name it. I'll bet there's something on the list of abusive behaviours that you can add to your arsenal of "dashboard confessionals". I know there is on mine (plenty!).
And worse? Well, debatably worse, we might not even feel so bad about it. I mean, bad for losing our cool, yes. Bad for reacting instead of acting with grace. Bad for doing something that we would be appalled had it been done to us buuuuuuut.... maybe also a little bit justified? Maybe sometimes, even a bit proud?
Truth time. Not all abuse is, well, abusive, exactly. There just so happens to be a grey area there. When is screaming too much screaming? Does that depend on who you're screaming to and the sensitivity of that person or is there an appropriate amount of screaming that I don't know about? What if you go all Carrie Underwood on them and take your Louisville Slugger to both headlights and slash some holes in all four tires of their vehicle... abusive? Technically, yes.
But, go Carrie.
Somehow, someway, we're going to find the balance between grace and power, ladies. She is a little bit Proverbs 31 and a little bit Carrie Underwood. Sound about right?
Feel free to leave your "dashboard confessional" below! Ha! Dashboard confessional. Carrie Underwood. Smashed the car.... get it? Get it? Get it?
It’s hard to love someone who hurts us over and over again; addicts hurt people.
When my husband was in active addiction, he made me feel like I was losing my mind. My intuition would kick in, and I’d sense something wasn’t right. I would ask him about it and he would turn it back onto me. Accusing me of, “Focusing on the negative” or give some overly-detailed, incredible story to explain the situation. As it turns out, most of the time my intuition was spot on! I had not let my imagination get the best of me. My husband was gaslighting me, one of many types of psychological abuse [read more signs of abuse in, 'Signs of Emotional Abuse You Need to Know'].
Abuse? Yes, it’s abuse. I never really thought about it like that until recently, and truthfully, it makes me sad to think of my husband that way. I don’t believe our loved ones always realize the abuse is happening. They're “protecting” the addiction and challenging anything that gets in the way.
“Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.”
–John 3:20 (NIV)
Gaslighting is a tactic in which the abuser makes the victim question their reality in order to maintain power. It is very common and done in such a way that the victim doesn't even realize it’s happening [source]. Other behaviors considered psychologically abusive are: breaking promises and not following through on agreements, isolating you from family and friends, making threats, infidelity and ignoring your feelings [source].
Addicts can also be verbally abusive; insults, blame, false accusations, criticizing- they're all forms of verbal abuse [source].
When you read those, did you cringe a little? I did. It made me question my own behavior toward my husband. Have I also been guilty of verbal abuse towards him? I wish I could say I haven’t, but that wouldn’t be true. Addiction brings out the ugly in everyone.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
–Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)
Unfortunately, loved ones of addicts may also be exposed to physical abuse. Any type of violence against you is physical abuse. Period. But physical abuse doesn’t stop there. Abandonment, intimidation and throwing things at each other are also forms of physical abuse [source]. (Throwing things? Really? Does it count if I throw something and miss? Convicted.) [Leah here, I'm editing today- me too!]
No type of abuse is ever okay, but physical abuse can be deadly. If you are currently in a physically abusive situation, seek help! For support and information, visit www.loveisrespect.com.
I know it’s hard to see a loved one, or ourselves, as being abusive, but it’s just as unhealthy when we allow abuse to continue.
I don’t believe anyone is a lost cause, and I believe in fighting for your loved ones and your marriage. For the moms out there, I’d never give up on my baby either. I wish my husband’s parents would have helped him. That being said, sometimes the best way to fight is to remove ourselves from the situation. If you feel you’ve been exposed to abuse, don’t minimize it. If you leave the scene, it doesn’t mean God will. Any heart can be healed by the Great Physician, even the most broken, addicted, sad, dare I say, abusive heart.
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
–Psalm 147:3 (NIV)
It’s time to take off those pretty, rose-colored, heart sunglasses and see the situation for what it is. We have to create boundaries and start fighting back… the holy way. I chose not to leave because I’m super stubborn, so God removed my husband from the situation through a chaotic course of events. It wasn’t fun, I don’t recommend it.
If your situation doesn’t allow you to leave, you can still take action.
Get professional help and follow through with their suggestions
Pray for your loved one
Pray for yourself
Work on your own heart
Sometimes we get in God’s way and interfere with his plans, prolonging our situation and making it worse. (<- That’s my story.) God used our time apart to work on both our hearts, a “kill two birds with one stone” thing.
“...but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
–Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)
Extended periods of abuse can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD can occur in people who have experienced a traumatic event or extended periods of trauma. People with PTSD continue to experience intrusive thoughts, nightmares, depression and anger long after the event occurred. (source)
If you have PTSD, you may have triggers. One of my triggers is my husband not answering the phone, even if he calls me back within a few minutes. I panic, even though I know that sometimes people have to use the toilet. Or work. Or put their phone on the charger in their truck. This is one area where I struggle with “letting go.”
Addiction is evil, but our loved ones are not. We must remember what we are fighting and who we are fighting for. May God bless each of us with the strength, courage and hope we’ll need as we fight alongside our heavenly Father for the healed hearts of our men.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
–Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)