Is it Possible to Demonstrate Unconditional Love to Someone with a Substance Use Disorder (SUD)?

By: Maggie Young 

Is it possible to demonstrate unconditional love to someone with a substance use disorder (SUD)?

Does love get clouded when addiction takes shape? Does an individual experiencing addiction not deserve love? Isn’t Love! Love!

Do we believe that Love transcends all barriers or are we only speaking that with our mouth but do not really believe that it applies to us personally?

Each individual living with a SUD represents only one ripple in the pond, although connected to others who love them, it may be; a family with a mother, father, siblings and pets or family may be a pet or a friend. Love remains consistent yet boundaries are blurred and confusion drops in causing love ones to question their love because a person is living with a SUD. With love comes judgement; individuals with SUD’s are not the only ones who are judged; so are loved ones and supporters. Stigma created by labels and linked to negative connotations oftentimes stifle, choke and shame those loving and supporting individuals with SUD. Addiction is a disease as are other chronic diseases comparable to cancer and heart disease. Those are not judged but respected as diseases and loved ones are praised for supporting and loving them. However, Individuals living with SUD’s and their loved ones are weighted down with cloaks of labels such as; dysfunctional, codependent and enablers. Labels that Identify love as a factor that prevents and prolongs healing and recovery. Supporters are told that they are hurtful instead of helpful, language, which is overrated and insensitive. Ask yourself, why would anyone limit or box in their love for someone because they are living with a SUD. Are individuals with chronic diseases other than SUD challenged to “suck it up and get over the disease”? The disease of addiction should be handled the same as other chronic diseases with love, understanding and support.

A Mother’s Love!

A friend of mine recently lost her daughter as a result of her SUD, Mom loved and supported her daughter throughout her 34 years of life. My friend ensured that her daughter had all she needed including access to treatment. In spite of Mom providing for and loving her, she still died. Would one call her love enabling or co-dependent because Mom provided her basic needs? Was she co-dependent because she continued to support her or was she simply a loving mother? My friend did the best she knew how and loved without bounds with her entire heart. It was an honest mother-daughter relationship. Does one believe mom should have allowed her daughter to hurt more and feel love less?
My mother loved me through full-blown addiction for two decades and into long-term recovery; loving a person with a substance use disorder (SUD) IS possible, so is recovery!

Loving unconditionally, without boundaries and restriction while also supporting and not delaying recovery is conceivable. I am a prime example; my mother Loved me through decades of active addiction into long-term Recovery. My surrender was grounded in love and my mother’s prayers, inpatient treatment, incarceration, engagement in sober support groups as well as willingness to put the alcohol and other drugs down and arrest my SUD.

Where my mother gained her strength and sustained her faith to pray for me all those years I will never know. What I do know is even while using alcohol and drugs I knew Mom loved me and no matter how long I was away, how far I had gone, nor how deep into my addiction I was I never felt unloved. Even in the thick of my addiction, my mother remained my rock and my foundation. When I called Mom picked up the phone, when I knocked, Mom opened the door and invited me in. I was shy, introverted and uninterested in the social side of life including parties, I was a late starter. The addiction was slow and steady and the progression was swift and intense. My first drink was at age 16, second drink at age 17 and I did not like it. By second semester in college, I was using cocaine and soon heroin. By year two, I was abusing alcohol and other drugs, and visits home stopped. Priorities flipped and my life took a 360, things took a turn for the worse and attending classes was an after-thought. For the next 15+ plus years, I spiraled out and down, sinking lower and lower in my drug use until I crashed in 1992.

February 6, 1992 was one of the coldest winters ever; I climbed two flights of steep red-carpeted stairs; where I made one of the most important decisions in my life. The following morning, my mother was at the door to deliver a gift basket with everything I needed, she met me, smiled and wrapped me in a huge bear hug and whispered in my ear “I Love You, God saved you by bringing you here.” That statement and hug, was dripped in enough love to carry me through. Those stairs led to Liberation House, which was then a co-ed treatment center. By the grace and mercy of GOD, I have not engaged in active addiction since that day. February 6, 2021, I celebrated 29 years in long-term recovery. My mother loved me through all the despair and darkness of my addiction, she never allowed my SUD to blur or block her love, she loved me in spite of it. With love all things are possible, including unconditionally love of those of us living with a SUD.

We do recover; MY MOTHER’S LOVE and prayers planted the seed that grew into my long-term recover of 29 years. That seed was watered and nurtured by treatment at Liberation Programs, Inc. Peer supports, consistent surrender, willingness and daily perseverance, and sober support groups and activities in spite of my SUD. I am GRATEFUL that I get to demonstrate Recovery One-Day-At-A-Time through my work at Liberation Programs, Inc.

Remember love endures ALL. Assist your loved one to access support and help whenever they need help, treatment is available so are sober support and sober coaches. If treatment has been tried and did not stick, try again, remember every treatment experience is valuable you never know which one it will be, you might save a life. Don’t Give Up!!!

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