Addiction and relationships don’t mix. Addictive behaviour often has the unintended side effect of driving loved ones away, and by the same token, some relationships can enable addiction or encourage relapse. We explore the link between addiction and relationships.
Addiction is a corrosive force. It takes a physical toll on your body, has the potential to devastate your finances and – perhaps most distressingly – can ruin your most important relationships. Here we take a look at the ways that the relationships you cherish can suffer from and even contribute to your addiction, if you don’t seek help for your addiction.
1. Your Relationship to Your Drug of Choice Trumps All Others
Addiction follows a predictable path, regardless of whether you’re addicted to a substance or process. Over time, you form a relationship with your addiction, and this relationship eventually trumps all others.
As cravings develop and intensify, addicts begin to reorder their lives around opportunities to use. You may start missing work or school and find yourself spending more time with fellow users. And as you continue to engage in more intense addictive behaviour, your loved ones find themselves progressively alienated.
In addition, drugs move in and take over – almost always at the expense of friendships and family bonds. Placing a priority on buying and using the drug (or gambling, or paying for sex, etc.) means your relationships are bound to suffer. It’s simply impossible to maintain strong and healthy bonds with the people you care about when your addiction becomes your number one priority.
2. Addiction Destroys Romantic Partnerships
Addiction progressively destroys most relationships in your life – but it has a particularly profound effect on romantic partnerships. Much of this can be reduced to the nature of an intimate relationship and how it clashes with the all-or-nothing nature of addiction.
Romantic partners share much more of themselves with each other than those involved in non-romantic relationships. Both parties generally have extensive knowledge of one another, and each sees their partner at their best and worst moments. And they also share more tangible things, including housing, finances and even children.
The problem is that your priorities steadily change as your addiction develops. Whereas before you might have a responsible budgeter, contributing housemate and loving parent, the situation is likely to change in the face of addiction. It’s easy for a brain locked in the clutches of addiction to justify missing a bill payment in order to score more drugs, or to miss out on a child’s important school event in order to catch up on much-needed sleep.
Finally, there’s a strong link between addiction and infidelity. Addiction often leads to promiscuous behaviour and even cheating on your partner. Nothing destroys a committed relationship faster than the realisation that one of the partners simply can’t be trusted. The relationship quickly breaks down, leaving your partner in a state of betrayal, and leaving you in an even more profound state of loneliness and isolation.
3. Addiction Breeds Co-dependency
Even when addiction doesn’t destroy relationships outright, it still contributes to unhealthy scenarios. Foremost among these is co-dependency, which contributes to serious problems and home and often goes unseen by those on the outside.
Co-dependency is an unhealthy relationship pattern that develops when someone starts putting another’s needs ahead of their own. It often occurs when addiction is in the mix. As you continue to prioritise your addiction through drug-seeking behaviour and other forms of acting out, your life steadily begins to come apart. In some cases, a loved one may step in as a so-called caretaker.
Problems occur when the caretaker begins sacrificing their own health and livelihood for the sake of the addict. They may find themselves constantly cleaning up after them, covering them in public, loaning them money or otherwise funding their lifestyle. They do all of this out of genuine love and compassion, but this behaviour isn’t helpful.
The caretaker unwittingly becomes an enabler, making it easier for the addicted person to continue with a self-destructive lifestyle. Eventually, resentment builds up on behalf of the caretaker. Severe anxiety and depression can also result.
Anyone close to an addicted person can be an enabler. It’s often a family member, significant other or close friend. However, it could also be a roommate or even a work friend – albeit in a more limited capacity. But in any event, co-dependent relationships are destructive in their own right, and they end up harming both the addict and caretaker.
4. Old Friends Can Encourage Old Habits, Especially in Early Recovery
When you decide to get clean and sober, you often have to take inventory of your current relationships and potentially make some difficult decisions. In recovery, we retrain our brains and develop new, healthy habits to replace our old, destructive ones. This is difficult to do when our friends are still using.
In early recovery, it’s particularly important to surround yourself with people who are supportive and eager to see you succeed. This means staying away from the people you use to use with, as well as from social situations in which you’ll be tempted to relapse. As you progress to a stronger state of recovery, it may be possible to reintroduce yourself to some of these situations, but it takes time.
If you’re ready to get clean and sober and build a new life in recovery, The Cabin Dhaka can help. Our addiction counsellors are discreet, conscientious and culturally sensitive. Contact us through our website to get help now, or call us on +88 0177 152 8086 to arrange a free and confidential assessment.