How do we help our loved one that is addicted? I struggled mightily with that question for years while I lived a life of a son actively addicted. I was never able to to understand; because my answer usually came down to a simple, I must fix him.
After many years I began to take some of the emotion out and go back to my own tried and true problem solving methodology. Back to the basics.
I'm a pretty simple guy without a single hour of formal education beyond high school so I usually use past experience and analogies from my life to learn. What I applied was something that made it easier to understand where I was in relation to fixing my son.
Many years ago when I was a lot younger I worked as a laborer in the local laborers union. Pretty much most of the time if I wasn't on the end of a 90 pound jackhammer busting out concrete I had a come-along in my hands pouring it back. That experience became a metaphor for life with me.
Life is like a sidewalk. As I walk along that sidewalk I look back over my shoulder. There is a concrete sidewalk behind me with hardened and set concrete. There is nothing I can do to change that concrete now. Around my feet the concrete is wet but it is quickly becoming hard. If I don't keep moving forward I will become trapped in that hardening concrete. In front of me the concrete is wet and pliable. I can shape that concrete any way I chose. I can look back over my shoulder and see the hardened concrete and learn from where I walked but I cannot change it. Ahead of me I can shape the concrete into a path I choose. I can add curves, or hills. I can work it to be as smooth or rough as I want. I have the power to shape my sidewalk. Sometimes I can walk along and do nothing, leaving it rough and ragged, sometimes I am on my knees working it with the care and tenderness of soothing a baby. My sidewalk becomes my choice to design and make.
As the father of an addict I hate to think how many times in discussions* (see definition of yelling) with my son I started everything with "YOU DID......." At the time that was important. "You did" was a way of keeping score and also trying to change the shape of that sidewalk over my shoulder.
After years of learning and reflection I have come to realized no effective discussion begins with, "You did......"
We all do it and most of us have had to done to us. Defensiveness is not a good way to begin any dialouge.
It's hard to do when we are all wrapped in emotion but when we realize and accept the sidewalk behind us is unchangeable we can more easily work on the things that make a difference.
In summary, if we don't work on ourselves first we cannot effectively work with anyone else.