There are very few things that can bring a solid, loving relationship down as efficiently as addiction. Dependence on drugs and/or alcohol bleeds into every facet of a relationship and breeds lies, animosity, resentment and even infidelity. From identifying the addiction, confronting your partner, getting help, and mending what’s broken, it is a struggle through and through. Here is how you can weather this storm with grace, kindness, honesty, and dignity.
Spotting the signs
If you think your partner may have a problem with addiction you may, at first, look for ways to explain it away. You need to know the telltale signs so that you can help get them the help they desperately need. Signs can be both acute and long-term and can be substance specific. For example, acute signs of opioid abuse include nausea, drowsiness, and constricted pupils. If your loved one shows sudden unexplained financial issues, you see extra pill bottles in the garbage, or catch them taking more than the prescribed dosage – you may have an addiction problem on your hands.
For most substance abuse, secrecy, loss of interest (sexually, job-related, family-related), risk-taking, and emotional swings all signal there may be an issue. Check here for more addiction signs to watch out for.
Getting them help
You cannot force someone to seek treatment for their addiction. You can suggest it. You can tell them you want it. You can even offer an ultimatum. But the decision to seek help must be theirs. If you’re having trouble getting your partner to take the plunge, you may consider hiring the help of a personal interventionist.
Every addiction is different, and your loved one may require any or all of the following types of treatment: detox, inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, drug therapy, and long-term counseling. You should consult a doctor and/or therapist for their professional opinion on your best course of action. It is your partner’s job to follow through with treatment. It is your job to be supportive.
Even if your loved one completes an addiction program and is sober for a while, your relationship can still be strained to the point of breaking. Addiction erodes trust, and that’s a hard thing to repair.
The number one rule is this: you cannot have, nor should you expect, to have the same relationship you had pre-addiction. It’s just not possible. What you can have, however, is a new relationship that is equal to or even better than the one before. This whole period is about fresh starts. Attend meetings with your spouse. Many of the “anonymous” groups out there welcome spousal participation. Seek couples therapy. But beyond that, you must build a foundation of new honesty. This means you too. You must not be too gentle with your partner – for fear you will upset them or drive them back to the comfort of substances. Your partner must be strong enough to accept your true feelings, even if they are brutally honest.
When healing means moving on
Not all relationships can bend without breaking. In the end, your own happiness is paramount. If you cannot mend your relationship, or you feel that your partner is not choosing you over their addiction, separation may be the healthiest option. Staying together at all costs is not always the best play. Knowing when a breakup is the best option is up to you, but if you feel abused, lied to, and generally unhappy then it’s time to consider it. You’ll need to detach completely – emotionally and physically. You can then begin to turn the focus on yourself and your own wellbeing.
There’s no guidebook for handling addiction in a relationship that works for all couples. Interpersonal dynamics are broad and varied. You can’t predict anything with an substance abuse. What you can do is offer your help and support – if they are willing to accept it – and then do everything you can to mend what’s broken, until the point in which you can’t. Only you know when that is.