Adult children of addicts marrying their parents

Fuchsia

New Here
I've read that it's common for adult children of addicts to end up in co-dependent relationships with someone who repeats the same patterns/abuse as their parents. I've just begun to realise that I've done exactly that. How do you go from realisation to action? Just getting here has taken most of my adult life and I'm just so tired. Has anyone else been in this situation? Or found a way to break free? Thanks to anyone who reads or replies.

My dynamic with my heroin-addicted parents is the classic role-reversal: me trying to look after myself, my handicapped sibling and both of them. I love and hate my parents. I have immense empathy for the abused children they once were and the traumatised, addicted adults they became. I understand that they never intended to harm me and only did so because they were unable to care for themselves in the most basic ways. But I also have so much helpless anger and resentment towards them.
As a deeply lonely, depressed teenager I ended up in a relationship with a much older man (I was 16, he was 26) from another country. He was my first boyfriend and first love. My parents let me go live with him abroad shortly after we met online. I thought it was the best thing that ever happened to me at the time, but as an adult looking back, I'm furious with them for allowing it. He and I argued a lot because of his drinking, which made me feel confused, frightened and alone. He was often back late from the pub, leaving me alone in his flat. At times he was so drunk he wet the bed in his sleep. One time, he smashed a wall in a drunken rage. I was unhappy, but I had no idea what a normal, healthy relationship or lifestyle looked like. It was easy for him to convince me that his drinking wasn't out of control (I don't drink at all and only had my far worse parents for comparison). Eventually, we moved back to my native country.
You'll be unsurprised to hear that I married him. He doesn't do drugs, but he is probably what you'd call a high-functioning alcoholic. Like my parents, he lies to me about his substance abuse, makes false promises to change, refuses treatment, etc. Like my parents, he doesn't work and has no income. Like them, he often stays up all night and finds it very difficult to stick to any routines. Like my dad, he spends the entire day in front of the computer. And like my parents, he is essentially a good, kind, decent person who has serious trauma of his own. I have no doubt that he cares for me, but like my parents, he is unable to take care of me or himself. Once again, I'm the healthier person responsible for keeping everything afloat.

I remember feeling so worthless growing up, knowing my parents would always prioritise their drugs over me and my well-being. I once told my mom that I don't believe addicts are capable of loving someone. She told me I was wrong and cruel to say so. But was I? Isn't honesty, accountability, and some degree of selflessness essential to a loving relationship? In my experience, addicts are unable to provide any of those things.

This is a classic example of the sick dynamic I've carried with me into my marriage: Last night, my husband offered to go and buy me some chocolate as a snack after dinner - I asked if he felt tempted to drink and if that was the real reason he wanted to go out - he acted hurt and I apologised for "being paranoid".
Of course, I knew all along that he was going out for the booze and that the chocolate was just an excuse. But I wanted so much to be wrong. How do you stop being an enabler as an adult child of addicts? How do you stop putting yourself in a situation where the addict must choose between you and their addiction, knowing what their choice will be, but hoping so much that they will choose you, so that you will finally feel loved?

The older I get, the more protective I feel towards that lost child I once was (and still am on the inside). I'm only now beginning to face the reality that I can't blame my parents or my husband for not taking care of me anymore. I'm an adult; I need to learn to love myself and take care of myself. If this had happened to a friend, I would tell her to get away while she can. And yet I know I'll almost certainly stay.
 

coraxxx

Policy Enforcement
Sponsor
It takes time to realise that type of thing but I would frame it in a lesser guilting way and a more behavioural way: if we’re raised by wolves, we think wolf patterns are normal. There is no frame of reference of what a relationship should be.

Also, while having been forced to be codependent as a kid certainly heightens the chances of being one in the future, what happened to you could very much have happened to someone whose parents weren’t heroin addicts, nor alcoholics, but had a perfectly normal life. So it isn’t something set in stone in either way. You are not condemned to repeat this pattern, not any more than any normal, secure person is guaranteed against falling in it.

I’d say you’re on the first steps of radical acceptance. This situation sucks, my husband has a severe drinking problem, he’s not doing anything about it and I am miserable. It sucks to say it but after a while it becomes liberating because you stop thinking the problem is you. You’re not being the enabler because he thinks chocolate is a good cover story. Your presence can be an excuse; your absence can be an excuse. If he’s looking for someone to enable him, he will find that person.

I took a long time to accept I was in a domestic violence situation so severe it did meet criteria for torture. It’s now two years I’m still coming to terms with this. I didn’t want to get out. I barely remember how that happened it took many, many times before that bond was finally entirely severed.

Don’t worry about your timeline; time is yours and you know when is right for you, but worry about your well being. Even inside of that kind of mental prison there are little moments of bliss unrelated to him; a particular sunbeam, your bed, a bird chirping. It can be very small things. I started to try to focus on these things that made me happy without the pressure of wondering if it was good for him or not that I started to build some strength and self care back and fight for the things I really loved (like myself lol, but more seriously, actually yes, in a profound way).

I’m sorry for the reasons that brought you here, but glad you found us 🌅
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
i managed to avoid marrying a substance abuser, but i still ended up with many of the same relationship problems as my parents. i resisted the urge to dump the chump because i have also noted that divorcees tend to keep marrying the same person with different names. i am pretty convinced each of us needs to work through these issues, even if it means carrying them into the next life. i figured it was better to work things through with one chump rather than continually starting from scratch.

anyhoo. . .

alanon was/is my number source of ways to work it through.

gentle support while you sort your own case.
 

Fuchsia

New Here
It takes time to realise that type of thing but I would frame it in a lesser guilting way and a more behavioural way: if we’re raised by wolves, we think wolf patterns are normal. There is no frame of reference of what a relationship should be.

Also, while having been forced to be codependent as a kid certainly heightens the chances of being one in the future, what happened to you could very much have happened to someone whose parents weren’t heroin addicts, nor alcoholics, but had a perfectly normal life. So it isn’t something set in stone in either way. You are not condemned to repeat this pattern, not any more than any normal, secure person is guaranteed against falling in it.

I’d say you’re on the first steps of radical acceptance. This situation sucks, my husband has a severe drinking problem, he’s not doing anything about it and I am miserable. It sucks to say it but after a while it becomes liberating because you stop thinking the problem is you. You’re not being the enabler because he thinks chocolate is a good cover story. Your presence can be an excuse; your absence can be an excuse. If he’s looking for someone to enable him, he will find that person.

I took a long time to accept I was in a domestic violence situation so severe it did meet criteria for torture. It’s now two years I’m still coming to terms with this. I didn’t want to get out. I barely remember how that happened it took many, many times before that bond was finally entirely severed.

Don’t worry about your timeline; time is yours and you know when is right for you, but worry about your well being. Even inside of that kind of mental prison there are little moments of bliss unrelated to him; a particular sunbeam, your bed, a bird chirping. It can be very small things. I started to try to focus on these things that made me happy without the pressure of wondering if it was good for him or not that I started to build some strength and self care back and fight for the things I really loved (like myself lol, but more seriously, actually yes, in a profound way).

I’m sorry for the reasons that brought you here, but glad you found us 🌅

You really helped me view the situation with much greater clearity. It makes me feel much lighter to be reminded that perhaps I didn't enable anything, nor am I necessarily destined to repeat anything, and to focus on small moments of joy. I've been told that I have a tendency to blame myself when it's not appropriate, and it looks like I still need to work on that. I'm sorry to hear what you had to go through, but it's truly inspiring to hear that it is possible to sever those bonds and learning to love yourself again.

Thank you, kind stranger ❤️ I'm glad I found this forum, too.

i managed to avoid marrying a substance abuser, but i still ended up with many of the same relationship problems as my parents. i resisted the urge to dump the chump because i have also noted that divorcees tend to keep marrying the same person with different names. i am pretty convinced each of us needs to work through these issues, even if it means carrying them into the next life. i figured it was better to work things through with one chump rather than continually starting from scratch.

anyhoo. . .

alanon was/is my number source of ways to work it through.

gentle support while you sort your own case.

I've had the fear that if not him, it would just be someone else with similar problems. Maybe someone worse. But at this point, I'm happy just to be by myself for the rest of my life, if I have to. I'm just still clinging to the hope that everything will work out between us and not quite ready to let it go. I think that's the lesson I really need to learn: when to let go. That seems to be a theme in many other aspects of my life.

I've heard of al-anon. Perhaps it's time to try attending a meeting. Thank you for your reply - it's been invaluable to me to get some perspective on this.
 

Survivor3

MyPTSD Pro
Hi @Fuchsia I'm sorry that your going through that. My dad is an alcoholic and his violence and abuse was terrible. I'm an alcoholic but I haven't drunk or smoked for over 2 years. When your a substance abuser all of your decisions are based around when your going to get your next fix. It's so damaging to yourself and others.

My advice is to make plans to leave him. Be assertive. It's not a healthy relationship. Going to Al anon sounds like a good idea. Getting support and wisdom and experience from others in the same boat.
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
I'm just still clinging to the hope that everything will work out between us and not quite ready to let it go. I think that's the lesson I really need to learn: when to let go. That seems to be a theme in many other aspects of my life.

ditto here. that lesson is still in progress for me and, at present, i believe much of it is more than just a lesson. it is the essence of life. there's always another season to let go of in the process of embracing the next. i figure that, one way or another, it always works out. some endings are happier than others, but all stories have an ending.

hubs and i have lived apart for much of our 42 years together. we figure family is bigger than a shared address. the time apart gives both of us room to own what is mine and ply gentle acceptance to that which is the other's. learning how to live and let live isn't as easy as it sounds.
 
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