Can an addict change?
It’s important for you to answer this question because likely, you need this person to change for you to feel like you can go on in this relationship. Part of you even wonders, “should you stay? Should you go? What the hell am I doing here? Why am I putting up with this? Why am I tolerating this? I keep trying everything, nothing is working.” and on, and on and on.
So now you’re here and wondering, “is it even possible? Can they change?” I’m going to answer that question. This is designed for you to get insight into your situation. I’m giving you my perspective and opinion based upon decades worth of experience, education, and direct involvement with addiction treatment.
I worked inside a drug and alcohol treatment center for eight years.
I ran and created the family program there. I facilitated the co-dependency programming. I have worked with thousands of addicts and hundreds of family members and so what I share with you is not just an opinion that I have. It’s based on what I have seen, what I have experienced, and what I have learned. So that’s the perspective that I’m coming from today. Now again, I also don’t know your loved one. So, if you really want that discernment and you want to know for absolute sure, then go over to LoveCoachHeidi.com and you can schedule a complimentary consultation. Where we can talk about working together so that I can really get into your dynamic personally.
When we work together, you can give me all the facts. I can dissect and discern and tell you with absolute clarity exactly what I think about your situation.
Having said all that, let’s go ahead and dive in and answer the question. Can an addict change? What do you want to change? Change what? That’s the first question that you must come to terms with because it’s such a broad question. What are you trying to change? I’m going to break down the different things you might be trying to change and answer, “Can they change or not? ”
The first thing you might want to change is their Using.
Can they stop? Can they quit? Can they stop using and change their addiction and put that all behind them? The answer to that question is hallelujah, yes, they absolutely can. And the ticket to that is recovery.
If somebody is working on a solid recovery plan, absolutely they can stop using. They can get sober. They can put that behind them. Put it in the past. Move on from the compulsion and the obsession. Really heal and decide not to use drugs or alcohol ever again. We have lots of videos on the readiness for that and what recovery should look like. I have an entire program dedicated to answering every single question there is about recovery relapse, your part, their part. When you come into our program called LYFE School, which is Love Yourself First Empowerment School, you get access to that and everything else.
You might be thinking, “well, that’s common sense. I know they can change if they get into recovery. I want to know, can they change?” I think what you’re asking is can they change their personality. Can they change their behavior? Can they change the lying, the manipulating, and the gaslighting? Or whatever it is, the laziness, the self-obsession, the meanness, the numbness, can they change that? The flat effect. Is this ringing a bell? Am I singing your song? Likely, that’s the kind of thing that you’re wondering. Here’s the sad truth about that. Maybe, they can change that. What you’re asking yourself is, “Is this a question of nature or nurture?”
People are how they are. They’re born into the world how they are, and they have life experiences that compound or shift the trajectory of their lives based upon the experiences that they’ve had.
A lot of the behavior of an addict or an alcoholic looks like a narcissist. There’s an element of self-obsession. There’s an element of lack of empathy. They are inflicting pain. There’s gaslighting. There are all these things, personality-wise that you are left wondering when they get sober, is that shit going to go away?
Maybe. That’s the hard truth. Because I don’t know if this person before they started using substances had that personality that was, blaming, victim mentality, argumentative, condescending, mean, selfish, rude. I don’t know how their demeanor was before they started using, because alcohol or drugs just kind of exacerbates the underlying personality, depending upon what drugs they use. Now certainly, some other drugs can create a whole other personality and whole other psychological challenges on top of that and even take somebody more likely down a road to excavate or un-earth their mental illness.
There are lots of factors there, but here’s what my experience is. People are who they are. If they were a good person before they started using drugs or alcohol, they’re going to get back to that good person. If they always had an attitude issue, if they always were condescending, if they always had undesirable qualities, you take away the drugs or alcohol they’re there. In fact, when you take away the drugs or alcohol, sometimes those personalities that are mean or selfish or dictating or controlling will exacerbate. They will become more obvious and more evident because they were trying to medicate that anger that was underneath of that or whatever. The second question is, are they working on themselves?
You can’t just get sober. Recovery is not about, well I’m just going to stop using, and magically I’m going to become this amazing human being and trustworthy person. Just a straight shooter and just this warm, loving human. That’s not how this thing works. You get sober so that you can fix the things that led you to drink and use in the first place.
Nine times out of 10, after that pink cloud fades away and everybody’s so happy because we’re in recovery and thank God that’s over.
Recovery just begins. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you need to know what you’re in for in recovery. So many families would come into my family program when I did it at the treatment center where their loves ones were clients and they would say, “Heidi, thank you for fixing my loved one. I am just so grateful.”
And I would say, “We’re not fixing your loved one. We’re giving your loved one, an opportunity to get sober so they can see and recognize their issues which led them to use in the first place.”
And that’s one of the myths is we think, if they get sober it’s going to fix everything. Nine times out of 10, it doesn’t. I had a father in the family program that said, “thank God my son’s going to stop smoking the weed because now he’s going to be responsible. He’s going to get to work. He has so much potential.”
The truth was that kid was just lazy. He got sober and still wanted daddy to pay for halfway. Didn’t want to get a job and all those things. So, the father he had to learn how to hold boundaries and set the bottom line, to inspire his grown-ass child to take some responsibility and start to work on his life.
Sobriety isn’t not using; sobriety is creating a life you want to be awake for.
People start using drugs and alcohol to medicate a life that’s not worth living to them, there’s something missing. So, when you take away the drugs or alcohol, there’s still a hole. You could take away drugs and alcohol. That’s easy, right? Somebody comes into detox, it’s simple. Getting off drugs and alcohol is the easy part. The hard part is detoxing from the behaviors. That can take up to one year of somebody in recovery to stop manipulating, stop lying and that’s if they’re actively working on a program of recovery.
Just because they’re not using anymore, those behaviors are not going to change overnight. It’s going to take consistent time, consistent effort. Getting ministered to or therapized by somebody outside of your family that can sponsor or come alongside that person and help them see the personality traits that they want to work on, and they want to fix in their relationship challenges. That’s the answer to the second question.
But the third question is the most important question about what you’re trying to change.
This is the reason that I get to do the work that I do and really help people Many times what we’re really asking is, can I change the past? I know that we know intellectually, we cannot change the past, but we expect somebody to get sober and then undo all the damages that they have done.
Like they are magically going to be this great person and make up for all the hurt they caused. All the pain they inflicted, all the anxiety, confusion, and rage that has built up in you. We think sobriety will fix all that and change it.
Here’s what I’ve seen in all the years I’ve been doing this. Alcoholic, addicted husband goes into treatment. Feels brand new, feels great. Comes out of treatment. Tail wagging, feeling proud of himself. Feeling good and believing all the hurt in the past is undone because now he’s sober. And you’re thinking, “It’s not all better. I don’t know what planet you’re on, but you did a lot of damage here.”
You’re thinking, “Do you see the tornado that has come through this house emotionally and ripped our souls from our bodies? Do you see the damage that this has caused?”
And he’s thinking, “but I’m sober now and I really don’t want to talk about that. When you talk about the past”, the addict or alcoholic will say, “when you talk about that past, it really makes me want to use and so that was in the past. You got to be in the present moment. I’m sober now. Everything is better.”
And you’re going, but wait, there’s more. There’s more pain still there, there’s more hurt still there, there’s still more resentment and all those feelings. Now you want them to fix it and they’re the wrong person because you can’t go to the source of the pain to fix the pain.
Hear that? You cannot go to the source of your pain to fix your pain.
That’s why you need outside support. So, if they go to treatment and start to get on the recovery train and they start to work on their behaviors in recovery, you’re still left with that world of hurt, the resentment, rebuilding trust again. How do you know if somebody’s relapsing? You’re always on guard. Always waiting for the other shoe to drop or maybe you’re feeling hopeful that the whole thing’s going to change radically. And you’re reading this and you’re thinking, oh shit, that’s not the way this thing works. Well, that’s exactly why I’ve created the programs that I have. The support, the coaching that I have.
The program is there so that I can come alongside you and help you heal. So, if you want that support and are tired of struggling in anonymity and silence because you can’t tell your friends what’s going on. Or the friends you do tell would just give you the advice to go, and that’s not what you want to do. If you want the support and you want to be able to voice what’s really going on. If you want to resolve the relationship issues addiction has created and you want to make a permanent change in your own life of what you settle for, what you accept, or what you tolerate. Then, schedule a time to connect with me and let’s get going.
It’s time to stop walking on eggshells, constantly worrying about everybody else while you’re last on the list. You just want a true partner. Somebody you can rely on and count on. I want you to consider letting me come alongside you. Go over to LoveCoachHeidi.com to schedule your consultation.