If you’re in a relationship with someone struggling with addiction, or if you suspect that your partner is abusing alcohol or drugs, it can be quite challenging. You probably have many feelings about the situation, as well as concerns. Unanswered questions like “What do I do?” or “How do I know if they’re using or not” may plague your mind. It can be an awful feeling in the pit of your stomach.
This article is meant to give you some information as you move forward navigating the relationship and your concerns. Be aware upfront that alcoholism or drug addiction is not YOUR problem. You didn’t cause it and you can’t fix it.
What you can do right away is begin shifting your focus away from possible reasons as to why this is happening to become more concerned about YOUR reactions and tendencies to enable, deny, or become codependent in the situation.
Yes, it is possible for relationships to work out if addiction is involved, but various factors play a role. The first factor is whether or not the person is actively working on getting sober or clean. If they’re not, the chances of a healthy relationship decrease.
However, regardless of whether they are in recovery or not, you can learn to be supportive and show up in healthy ways, set boundaries, and so on.
When your loved one is struggling with addiction, it’s easy to get wrapped up in their world and essentially, stop living in your own world. Instead of focusing on you, you start obsessing over questions like:
There are plenty of people who will admit to getting in the car and driving around all hours of the night looking for their partner/spouse, frantic and angry. Some would set up cameras in the home, head to the drug dealer’s house snooping around, and more. This type of behaviour serves no one, and it can make you feel genuinely crazy.
Codependency is a term used sometimes to describe an unhealthy relationship with another person. It is marked by unhealthy relational characteristics, such as caretaking, enabling, and people-pleasing. In the case of a loved one struggling with addiction, being codependent could mean that you have a tough time being able to separate yourself from their behaviour. You enable and essentially lose yourself in the situation.
You may have intense reactions to their behaviour. You may also put more focus on them, and lack when it comes to taking care of yourself.
You may lose sleep. You may give them money even when you know they should have their own money. You are constantly looking for clues as to whether they are using or not. You give them just one more chance and then another chance and so on.
You may feel as if you are going insane. You’re not happy. You’re confused, scared, and feel alone.
Many people wonder if they should throw in the towel in their relationship. It’s not a simple black and white situation though, as various factors come into play. Some should definitely throw in the towel, especially if there is abuse occurring in the home and their partner just isn’t willing to get help.
Others may be able to hang in there and work on the relationship as each partner works on themselves.
Here are some things you can consider moving forward:
Take some time to learn about addiction, so that you can understand better what is really going on with your partner. This will also help you learn what kinds of enabling behaviours you have been doing and how you can refrain from doing so in the future. Addiction is a disease, and just like if your child were diagnosed with the disease of diabetes, you would educate yourself on how to move forward with changes that would benefit their health. By you learning about addiction, you are more likely to be supportive to your partner, rather than enable and caretake.
You need some support if your partner is struggling with alcoholism or addiction. Consider attending Al-Anon or Nar-Anon 12 Step groups. You will be able to talk to others who have loved ones that are struggling with addiction. You can get a sponsor/mentor if you wish and work the 12 Steps of the program. This can help you focus on YOU and get out of the addictive environment for a while. Get around others who will help you empower yourself when it comes to setting and keeping boundaries, as well as caring for yourself.
It’s time to gather your inner strength and empower yourself, so you can do what is right FOR YOU. It’s time to journey toward self-love and connect with yourself in a deeper way.
What do you really want in your life? What are your needs and wants? What kind of partnership do you want? Are you willing to do what it takes or walk away if need be? It’s not easy to walk away and it’s not easy to stay, but no matter what you decide, you’ll benefit from growing and harnessing your inner strength.
It’s time to learn about boundaries and it’s time to set them for yourself and your partner. You don’t have to be a doormat. You don’t have to feel compelled to enable and take care of a grown person, addicted or not. You no longer have to be a willing or unwilling partner to your partner’s disease. You don’t have to continue feeling like you’re crazy and powerless.
When you can come up with some boundaries for yourself and your partner, it is then that you will experience some changes – in yourself. When you say, “No more! I’m not contending with this active addiction anymore!”, you can let go. You can let your partner contend with the disease and their option to get help. You can begin your journey to recovery of a sound mind and healthy boundaries.
Many people wonder if they should leave or stay in the relationship. It depends on various factors. It’s really up to you, and exploring that question in therapy and/or support groups is a good idea. There are things you can learn that can help you remain in the relationship, while not losing yourself in your partner or their addiction. Having the extra support can be of great value, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help.