He became addicted to marijuana when he was only 15 years old, and he’s sixty now but he still uses it every day. A high functioning person can become an addict or an alcoholic but still hold down a job and have a family. It is very deceiving because people will look at them and think that they are perfectly fine. Thus, when they suddenly have incongruent behaviours due to their addiction, most people don’t understand what is going on. Addiction is a very cunning disease. I was with my ex-husband for a very long time and I didn’t see that he had an addiction until I got educated.

What attracted me to him was the fact that we had a lot fun together. At the time, I was also a marijuana smoker so we used to smoke together, but eventually it was no longer fun for me so I had just stopped smoking. I had a lot of hope that one day he would just stop also, and I spent a lot of our marriage hoping that he would change. But he couldn’t stop; he tried many times, and it just didn’t happen. Therefore, I started to get some help for myself. One of the biggest issues faced by the family of an addict is that they believe if the sole addict is healed, everything should be fine. We think that they’re the only ones that need treating, counselling, and support, but during addictions, the people around them are affected too.

I quickly realized that my addiction was him. I was addicted to what he was doing, what he wasn’t doing, when he was high, when he wasn’t high, and how much he had to use. All my focus was on him. I had no idea who I was. I had no self-awareness, and no self-worth, because I would believe it when he told me that I was the one with the problem. One of the typical behaviours of addicts and alcoholics is that they blame everybody else for why they are addicted. For every one alcoholic or addict, there are a minimum of 10 people that are immediately affected by this person. The undermining issue that not many people realize is the matter of co-dependency. I care for other people at the cause of my own health. I used to believe that the universe or God or whatever, put these certain people in my life. Someone once told me that her husband’s ‘horns’ fit the ‘holes’ in her head.

There’s so much shame around being a drug addict or an alcoholic. People like my ex-husband’s family would say to me “Well what’s your problem? Why are you unhappy? He’s fine! He goes to work every day, and he provides. Come on, suck it up.” I got that all the time from his parents, because they didn’t want to admit that their son was a drug addict or an alcoholic, and they both died not admitting that. They knew he abused substances, but they just didn’t want to admit it.

People think that all alcoholics and addicts are homeless, that they live on the streets and they don’t have a job, but that’s a false perception that addresses only a small percentage of substance abusers. The larger percentage of alcoholics and addicts may include people like doctors, dentists, and real estate agents. Those high-functioning people are everywhere. They can still function every day, but they are either drunk or high. Because society puts so much value on how a person looks on the outside, the inner mental illness is so hard to see.

One of the lessons I have learned is that I am responsible for myself. I am responsible for my life, and I do not exist to support or help another human being, especially if they’re addicted, by doing something for them when they can do it for themselves. I can support them with love but not enable them, because enabling is what makes them sick. Most importantly, I learned that my well-being is not tied up with another person’s well-being. I regret that I didn’t leave soon enough; I stayed with him for thirty years, and his drinking and smoking conditions also affected my children. My advice to people who are going through similar experiences is to keep the focus on yourself, not the addict.

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