If your partner is addicted to drugs or alcohol, you may feel exhausted, hopeless, and frustrated. As a chronic disease, addiction takes its toll on any relationship, especially the closest ones.
For many people, the best thing to do may be to leave the relationship, particularly if you are experiencing any kind of physical, verbal, or emotional abuse.
If you do want to stay with your partner, there are a few things you can do to look after yourself and avoid enabling behaviors.
How Does Addiction Affect Relationships?
When someone struggles with drug addiction, seeking and using drugs becomes the priority in their life. The addicted person may neglect home responsibilities, lie or hide their drug use from their partner, or act violently or aggressively while under the influence.
Research shows that drug abuse may lead to relationship instability, dissatisfaction, and verbal and physical aggression. In turn, relationship issues like stress and poor communication can exacerbate substance abuse. An addicted person may become caught in a destructive cycle where drug abuse and unhealthy relationships reinforce each other.
How Can I Support My Partner?
If you are wondering how best to support your partner, there are a few things to explore and think about. You could also contact a mental health professional for expert advice and support.
Avoid Enabling Your Partner
It’s normal to want to help your partner. However, if you find yourself buying them drugs, supporting them financially, or making excuses for bad behavior, you may be enabling their condition.
Enabling behaviors are things we do that (often unintentionally) enable a person to continue substance abuse and prevent them from seeking addiction treatment. While you may feel like you are fulfilling their needs in the short term, supporting them to keep taking drugs will be detrimental to both you and your partner in the long term.
Some enabling behaviors are obvious, but others are less easy to notice, even in yourself. For example, making excuses to an employer about why your partner missed work may feel like the right thing to do. However, in the long term, helping them maintain good relations at work may prevent them from realizing the seriousness of their condition.
What Is a Co-Dependent Relationship?
A co-dependent relationship is one person needs the other, who themselves needs to be needed. The codependent person feels that all their self-worth lies in meeting the needs of their partner, rather than their own needs. This dynamic creates a power imbalance that promotes the needs of the “taker” while the codependent person continues to sacrifice their needs.
When one partner lives with an addiction, their primary need is acquiring and using substances. A co-dependent partner will help them meet these needs, enabling their addiction.
What Are Some Signs of Co-Dependency?
Signs of a co-dependency may include some of the following:
- Feeling like you are walking on eggshells to avoid conflict with your partner
- Feeling the need to check in regularly with your partner or ask permission to do simple tasks
- Often apologizing even if you’ve done nothing wrong
- Feeling sorry for your partner when they’ve hurt you
- Helping your partner acquire drugs or alcohol, providing money, or making excuses for them
- Doing things for your partner even when they make you feel uncomfortable
- Needing other people to like you to feel good about yourself
- Struggling to find time for yourself
- Losing a sense of yourself in your relationship
How Can I Avoid Co-Dependency?
If you think you may struggle with co-dependency, the best thing you can do is seek professional support. You can also focus on self-awareness and try your best to:
- Practice positive self-talk and avoid internal criticism
- Say “no” when you don’t want to do something
- Spend time doing activities for yourself outside of your relationship – spend time with your own friends or find hobbies you enjoy
- Stand up to criticism or to someone trying to undermine you
- If you find yourself worrying about another person, turn your attention back to yourself and your own life
Set Healthy Boundaries
A boundary is an imaginary line marking where you end and another person begins. Boundaries help people to understand what is and isn’t acceptable to you and how you expect to be treated by others.
Setting boundaries is a simple way to avoid enabling behaviors. You can communicate boundaries through simple statements like “… isn’t acceptable to me” or “I won’t do…”. In a healthy relationship, your partner should listen and respect your boundaries.
Encourage Them To Seek Professional Addiction Treatment
Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by physical changes in the brain. Overcoming addiction isn’t easy, and long-term recovery requires dedication and support.
The good news is that there are many evidence-based treatment approaches available to help people overcome addiction and live full, productive lives. Addiction treatment programs can be inpatient or outpatient and are at least partially covered by most insurance providers.
Effective addiction treatment programs usually offer a combination of treatment approaches tailored to each individual’s needs. Treatment options may include:
- Talk therapy
- Group programming
- Family therapy
- Couples therapy
- Support groups
- Complementary therapies
- Experiential therapies
- Life-skills development
Recognizing that there is a problem is the first stage in getting help. You may want to start an open conversation with your partner about their drinking or drug habits. Avoid being judgmental and give them the space to speak. If they are willing to seek treatment, you could support them in exploring their treatment program options. You could also accompany them to a drug rehab center.
If your partner is unwilling to seek treatment, you may want to stage an intervention with the help of a professional. Interventions are important events that help a family member or friend realize the extent of their problem. They can be an important first step to accessing professional help and beginning the recovery journey.
Attend Family Therapy or Couples Therapy
In family therapy, the substance user and their family work with a professional therapist in a series of sessions. Family therapy sessions can help spouses and other family members such as children gain a better understanding of drug and alcohol abuse and learn how best to support their partner or parent.
Family therapy can also help resolve conflicts between family members in a safe and controlled environment. A family therapist can ensure that everyone’s voices are heard and prevent discussions from escalating. They can also help family members develop the interpersonal skills they need to resolve future conflicts and overcome challenges together.
Couples therapy works in a similar way to family therapy, but only involves you and your partner. Your couples therapist may ask you to draw up a “recovery contract” that sets out obligations and duties for each partner that support addiction recovery. Research shows that couples therapy both reduces substance abuse and improves relationship satisfaction.
Look After Yourself
Living with a substance abuser can be exhausting – it’s important to look after yourself too.
Practicing self-care can help you maintain good physical and mental health and pay attention to yourself. Self-care practices include:
- Eating regular, balanced meals
- Sleeping well
- Taking regular exercise
- Relaxation techniques like mindfulness and yoga
- Spending time with friends
You could also attend self-organized support group meetings specifically for the families of people living with addiction. Through support groups like Al-Anon, you can meet other people who are in a similar situation to you and provide collective support to one another. You can learn from one another and find comfort and strength in your shared experiences.
Living with a substance user can be draining, and you may want to seek additional emotional support. You could speak to a professional therapist to help you manage emotional pain, support your partner, and take care of yourself. Don’t be shy to ask for help – dealing with someone else’s addiction is a huge feat, and it’s normal to need extra support and care.
Know When To Leave
Unhealthy relationships can be emotionally and physically draining. While you may love your partner, if you find yourself constantly unhappy in your relationship, it may be time to leave.
Remember, you should never have to tolerate any form of physical, verbal, or emotional abuse. Everyone deserves relationships free from domestic violence. If you think you may be experiencing abuse, you can access free and confidential support by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233).
Contact Us Today
Addiction can be a destructive force that affects more than just the individual. At Alina Lodge, we are here to help individuals and families heal from the effects of addiction and live life to the full.
Alina Lodge is a renowned addiction recovery center, offering some of the highest quality substance abuse treatment services in the United States. Our individualized programs combine a diverse range of counseling modules founded on the forefront of addiction research. Our professional treatment team delivers our services with compassion, care, and humanity.
Our holistic approach supports long-lasting, meaningful recovery for the entire person. Overcoming addiction is not just about ending substance abuse – it’s about building a sober life worth living for. Our programs support clients in rediscovering their love of life, resolving interpersonal conflicts, and embracing life without addiction.
For us, one of the saddest aspects of addiction is the damage it can cause to families. We’re here to help them heal. Our family therapy program helps each family member understand how they have been affected by addiction and provides strategies to deal with crises when they arrive.
If your loved one is struggling with addiction, contact us today. One of our compassionate team members can answer any questions you may have and talk through the addiction treatment programs available. All calls are fully confidential.