Why Having Expectations on Your Addict is Dangerous for Everyone

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Life can be extremely unpredictable at times. We can never know for certain what the future holds in store for anybody. Generally speaking, most people like to plan ahead of time and have an idea of what’s in store for them. That’s right there is just the thing though. Rarely does life follow the schematics we’ve created for this well-oiled machine to function. Often times even the most solidified and concrete of procedures can fall through at the last minute. One moment everything is working as scheduled and there’s not a worry in the world. Then without the slightest of warning, something occurs and throws everything off track. For some, when it rains it pours too. Even the most insignificant hic-up can throw somebody off of their routine and the general groove they have going. We all know it, we’ve all experienced it.

The Reality of the Situation  

Putting certain expectations on an addict or an alcoholic is never a great idea. For starters, it’s not entirely fair for them when a lot of the time in early sobriety they are only hanging on by a thread. It is common in a lot of Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous meetings to read a chapter by the name of “How it Works”. In this chapter, there is a sentence that expresses, “we need maintain spiritual progress rather than perfection”.  This has always been a favorite quote of mine. If you are to remove the “spiritual” part of the phrase, it is a much more relatable extract.

The idea behind this line is that we are all human beings. Our bodies are built to make mistakes and survive from them. The main problem with messing up on certain things is that a lot of individuals don’t learn when they do something wrong. If one is to make a mistake, look at the problem created, come up with a solution, and actually learn about it- then there is no harm or no foul most of the time. We are the creators of our own destiny and when there is struggle or strife, it’s up to us to figure it out and fix the antagonizing issue at hand. Producing expectations on an addict or alcoholic and that they will strive for this idea of seeming perfection is just uncanny.

One thing to keep in mind is that chemical dependency is a mental disease of sorts. It is not something that can just be forgotten about, or to pull a Nancy Reagan and “just say no.” This is a mental blockage that haunts the affected person for all of their life. It never goes away and is cured, but it can be dealt with in a healthy enough manner to where it is put on the back burner and not obsessed about. This takes time for addicts and alcoholics though. Most of us are dealing with other psychological issues revolving around or simply involving our abuse. For the record, this applies to any form of addiction whether it be body dimorphic issues, using substances, self-mutilation, gambling, all of the above or anywhere in between. There is a root problem inside our skulls that subconsciously and consciously causes us to have the ailment of addiction or alcoholism. Doing introspective work on ourselves and discovering how we tick is the solution to treating our destructive ways. The point being dragged out here is that it takes years and years to do that kind of work on an individual, and so to have expectations that there will be no road bumps in that time period is a set up for failure.

dissapointed mother

We get so excited upon seeing changes in the addict and alcoholic. We start thinking about how things are changing and how the future is looking much more optimistic. Then there’s that cloud in the distance that looks like it could ruin everything good accumulating over the hill. In some cases, we start treating the addict or alcoholic differently as if the whole relationship is contingent upon their sobriety. Sometimes it is, but I mean this in a relatively different manner. I mean this in the sense that we begin treating the person like there isn’t any reset button. We’ve been hurt so many times that we can’t even bare the thought of things returning back to normal, and normal for the longest time meant menacing chaos and spinning circles.

The thing is- we addicts and alcoholics are aware of everything sitting on our shoulders. Once we have admitted defeat per say and accepted our dependency, this is when we come to the broad realization. There’s the realization that everything in our lives is based upon whether we engage in our usage or not. Whether we buy those first couple poker chips or take that first sip, we have come to the understanding that once we start we can’t stop. This is quite a burden to live with for your whole life. Imagine knowing you could be sucked into a tornado of misery in no time what so ever if you were to just go to the bar once. Just once. It’s a weight that sits on our shoulders but is extremely manageable if the right steps and acts of justice are performed.

At the end of the day, when we place expectations on the addicted, we’re also setting ourselves up for disappointment. Hope is a wonderful thing to hold onto, but stretch it thin and clutch onto it in the most treacherous of situations. It may sound absurd or even cynical, but in some cases, it’s easier to expect negatively. When you expect it to rain, but the sun comes out, it’s a pleasant surprise. Yet when we plan for sun and vice versa occurs, we are greatly disappointed. Sometimes making sense of that kind of logic can help one understand their addict that much better.

Can’t Expect Anything?

A vast majority of the time, some addicts and alcoholics are just so far wrapped up in their diseases that they can’t even meet their basic needs. Lives become completely unmanageable and powerless, all the while the dependent person can’t even meet their own expectations anymore.  If you or a loved one is struggling with dependency and are ready for help, please call 1-844-489-0836 or visit www.firststepsrecovery.com. We are ready to give you any suggestions possible and set you or your loved one on a path that we can all be proud of. New life does exist.

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