Witnessing our loved ones struggle with drugs and alcohol can tear a hole in our hearts. As we struggle to support them, we might falter in the best way of doing so. Enabling their behaviors and addictions may relieve them of withdrawal, but it won’t help them recover. Punishing them with harsh detachment won’t help them quit, because addiction is inconsequential to the addict. Loving them feels too difficult. Of course, our love for them never truly ceases. Yet, the person we know and love is so radically different from the person we are witnessing. With sadness and despair we think of who they once were. What has happened? How do we love them despite the addiction ruining their lives? Setting loving limits is where the line is gently drawn. Through loving limits, we can embrace the wholeness of our loved one’s existence. At the same time, we only give within our personal capacity.
Flight attendants around the world demonstrate a profound philosophy when they demonstrate their airline’s safety procedures. When oxygen becomes depleted in the cabin, air masks drop from the ceiling. Passengers are always instructed to fit their mask first and begin breathing the fresh oxygen before fitting their child or another in need of assistance. Is this selfish? On the contrary, it is necessary. Before we can help anyone, we must help ourselves. As the saying goes, you must fill your own cup first before filling anyone else’s. Placing limits on what we will or will not tolerate from our loved one’s behaviors is our way of helping ourselves. Loving an addict can be exhausting. Without limits in place, our love and patience appears inexhaustible. Any parent or family member knows, this simply isn’t realistic. We certainly might think it to be, try it to be, and want it to be. It never will be. Though God appointed us as caregivers, He never meant us to be apprentices to His position. Stuck in our humanity, we have to recognize our limitations in giving. Limits do not mean we do not care. In fact, they mean the exact opposite.
Loving limits say, “I care so much about you that I’m going to work with you.”
The Center for Life Change cares about you and your loved one. We are here to work with you, individually and together. In addition to our intensive outpatient program for addiction treatment, we offer family therapy and family support groups. Healing starts with us. Call (951) 775-4000 for more information.