RELATIONSHIP: How to Survive a Relationship With an Addict
How to Survive a Relationship With an Addict
When one member of a couple is an addict, it can take a real toll on the relationship. Still, divorce or separation isn’t the inevitable result of loving someone who struggles with addiction. If you love that person, it’s important that he or she gets help.
But you also need to know how to cope with a loved one’s addiction, to protect your own mental health, and avoid making mistakes that could worsen the whole situation. You need to know how to avoid enabling your partner’s addiction, while being realistic about the situation, standing firm against manipulation, and taking steps to make sure your own physical, emotional, and psychological needs are met.
Don’t Be an Enabler
If you’re taking steps to protect the addict in your life from the consequences of his or her behavior, then you’re being an enabler. Enablers generally mean well when they start taking on the responsibilities of an addicted loved one or doing other things to protect him or her from the consequences of his or her drug or alcohol use. A partner who enables may fix things the addict broke while under the influence, clean up the addict’s vomit, help the intoxicated addict into bed, make excuses to the addict’s boss, take on the addict’s commitments, or bail the addict out of jail. Protecting an addict from the consequences of his or her behavior in this way only allows the addict to continue living in denial, without seeing the true effect substance abuse is having on his or her life.
When you stop enabling, the addict is forced to face the real consequences of his or her actions. It can be scary to stop enabling someone important in your life; you don’t know if the person will end up checking into a rehab center or elsewhere, or if the worst will happen instead. But it’s a risk you have to take, because an addict needs to face his or her own behavior in order to change.
Accept That You Can’t Fix the Addict or the Addiction
Neither you nor your loved one has any control over the addiction. You cannot single-handedly fix the other person. You cannot love, nag, or coddle a person out of addiction. You cannot control your addicted partner’s behaviors. You can only control yourself, and the sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll stop trying to control an addict who cannot be controlled.
Addiction is a chronic disease with a high relapse rate. If your loved one does not get help, you may need to leave the relationship. Even if your loved one does get help, the road to recovery can be a long one, and relapse is always a possibility.
Remember to set boundaries with your partner and support him or her in a life of sobriety. Even one instance of substance abuse can send an addict spiraling back into a full-relapse, so you’ll need to remain vigilant even after your loved one is sober.
Don’t Let Yourself Be Manipulated
Addicts are expert manipulators, and your partner will try to use his or her skills at manipulation to get you to give in to all of his or her demands. Your significant other may resort to lying, cheating, guilt-tripping, raging, or blaming when you refuse to acquiesce to his or her demands, but that’s just because he or she is panicking at the prospect of having to stop addictive behaviors.
Giving in to the addict will only make the manipulation worse. Stand your ground, and your addicted partner will soon realize that he or she is not going to get his or her way and will give up trying to manipulate you.
Put Yourself First
Putting yourself first doesn’t mean being selfish. You can’t help anyone if you’re emotionally, psychologically, and physically depleted. While wanting to be there for your addicted partner is noble, you should make sure your own needs are met before you turn your attention to meeting your partner’s needs. Get plenty of sleep, eat right, and exercise regularly. Make time for your friends and other loved ones, as well as for hobbies and activities you enjoy. You are the only person responsible for meeting your needs, so if you don’t do it, no one else will.
It’s never easy to be in a relationship with an addict. Even after the addicted person gets help, it can take a long time and a lot of work to heal your relationship with the person. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. As long as you’re realistic and approach the relationship with a healthy sense of boundaries, you can repair the damage addiction has done to your partnership.