There are as many reasons behind substance abuse addiction as there are different types of people who are addicts. Some addicts trace the beginning of their addiction to adolescent insecurities and succumbing to peer pressure. Others developed dependence from poor pain management following illness or injury. Many professionals find substance abuse blooms slowly while holding the pressures of their careers at bay. Whether the addict in your life is a partner, a parent, a sibling or a friend, maintaining a relationship with a person with a substance abuse issue will present challenges for you. If you love someone who abuses drugs or alcohol, their dependence becomes an unavoidable part of your life.
You will be forced to define and defend your own boundaries regarding the addict’s behavior. If the person with a substance abuse issue is your partner this may mean severing joint bank accounts or restricting your partner’s time around your children while drinking or high. Many people who love someone with a substance abuse problem find themselves practicing “tough love”; which means you will not allow yourself to be the fallback person in the addict’s life when they lose a job, can’t make rent or end up arrested in connection with their substance abuse. Offering assistance in the form of money only facilitates the addiction to continue. Instead, you can emphasis offers of support that will aid recovery, such as watching the kids while the addict attends AA or NA meetings, offering a ride to work if a new job is secured and removing any alcohol from your home. Expect your boundaries to be tested and understand that your adherence to them means you care about the addict’s life improving.
Addicts lie to cover their addiction. They live in a world of shame and guilt. There will be lies about missing money or your missing possessions sold to feed their addiction. There will be lies about time spent away from you or missing important occasions because the addict was drunk or high. Lies will come about the addict’s recovery process and setbacks in those efforts. These lies will hurt. You will feel betrayed and you will feel like the addict doesn’t care about you, but that isn’t true. Addiction is a vice holding the addict tightly. It takes enormous strength and determination to break free. The lies you are told are not meant to hurt you, but forgiving them may be a difficult process for you. Allow yourself that process. The addict isn’t the only one who needs your understanding and kindness- you need to give yourself permission to be angry and space to heal too.
One of the biggest tolls loving someone with a substance abuse issue takes is the financial one. The partner supporting a household alone because the addict is incapable of contributing, the parent bailing out the addicted adult child again and again, the friend who borrows money that is never returned or even the adult child of an addicted parent can feel the financial strain. The sooner you set money restrictions with the addict in your life, the better. Stepping in to take care of someone with a substance abuse issue will break the bank as well as your heart.
Heartache and Hope
We all have a tendency to look at someone else’s life and form opinions about what we think they could do to make their lives better. Whether we’re talking about addiction or not, you cannot control someone else’s life. When you love someone who abuses drugs or alcohol, you inevitably find the addiction a factor in your own life. Witnessing someone you love on the brink of destroying themselves is devastating. There will be moments when even trying to stay hopeful of recovery will seem to only set you up for more heartache. Seek therapy for yourself, promote the addict’s recovery and stick to your boundaries.
Remember to take care of yourself in this process.
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