A guilt-free, judgment-free guide to dealing with a partner that has a drug or alcohol addiction.
It hurts to see the person you love delve into the deep dangerous depths of drug or alcohol abuse. Each day you may feel like you are watching someone hold a loaded gun to his or her head and without them even realising they are on a self destructive path. Sadness mixed with confusion, anger infused with frustration overcome with love and the desire to fix things that may seem helpless and overwhelming, may entrap your emotions and thoughts. Do not lose hope or think you are alone in this plight.
People all over the world face this situation with their spouses, parents, children, friends and co-workers. I am here to break down some stereotypes and help anyone who desires a way to confront this problem in a loving and considerate manner. Firstly, you need to understand that although addiction starts with the choice of taking that first drink or hit, people don’t choose to become an addict, it is a compulsion disorder. It can happen with food or even a nonalcoholic drink.
Therefore, it can happen to anyone and can result from a combination of things from genetics to anxiety or trauma from childhood. Addiction is a disorder of the brain’s reward circuitry allowing cravings to be met by repeated reinforcement. Please do not take your partner’s addiction personally, I know hurtful things may be said by an addict, even lies and you may, in some instances, blame yourself for that individual’s substance abuse but that is not the right mindset to adapt. Instead, focus on your influence towards the individual’s healing and recovery. This journey is going to take patience, bravery, timing and honesty.
One way of getting the conversation started with your partner is bringing up good memories and good times – like when you were both supportive of each other and in a happier spot. By doing this, you remind them of their good qualities instead of badgering them about their shortcomings and present day demeanour. The less you put an addict on defensive mode, the more you can talk to him or her and the more he or she will listen. Remind the addict that he/she is not alone and can talk to you without judgment and critique. Tough love is not always the approach that works. Remind the person that he or she is loved and when ready to make a change, you are willing to stand by his or her side. If your loved one has become dangerous and it is no longer safe to be together in the same house, make a phone call and let your words be heard despite the distance.
Break the stigma of therapy and treatment programmes. Buy a book or go online and watch videos of stories on recovering addicts. At first your partner may not want to view them but if even one line impacts their thinking in some way it can be beneficial. The truth is some people want to get better but simply do not know what steps to take. Provide access and open those doors for them in any way you can.
If your partner wants to recover but relapses from time to time, it is essential that you keep the faith and understand that every journey to recovery is different and unique. Threats never fixed a person. Only people who want to be fixed will aim towards rebuilding themselves.
Another important point is stop being codependent. Do not help fund their addiction then lecture them on the results. Be strong and stand for what’s right even if they get angry and send you on a guilt trip. Explain to them in person or if you cannot do that, simply write a letter voicing how you feel. Be clear that you will support them financial if it concerns their recovery but not for the substance abuse. Start new hobbies (with them) and stay away from places that may trigger the addiction.
Love, faith and dedication are powerful tools in any relationship. Addiction can be defeated, it is possible and relationships, in some cases, have even grown stronger after dealing with such experiences. Support your loved one, the way you would want to be supported.