ADDICTION: 6 thoughts on how to manage when you love an addict in active addiction

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Addiction, insidious bastard that it is, does not only affect addicts. It can be like a nuclear bomb in a family, flinging destruction in all directions. Loving an addict is very hard work sometimes. Addicts are so much more than their addictions, but it can be hard to see the person you love behind the smokescreen of ridiculous behaviours and addict thinking when they are in active addiction.

The concept of a co-dependent relationship refers to one where two peoples’ lives are so entwined as to be enmeshed. Often it’s based on a rescuer/victim dichotomy, where one parter must constantly prop up the other. Co-dependent people struggle to imagine life without each other and may feel each others’ feelings as if they were their own. If you’re in a relationship with an addict it’s a good idea to check wether your relationship has healthy boundaries in it, or whether you feel that your own sense of self is being eroded.

The temptation to rescue the addict from the consequences of their addiction is strong. However, if you never allow that person to experience negativity, you can’t expect them to stop. Neurologically every cell in their body is telling them that using is helping them; unless there is some powerful information at odds with that, they will never see a need to stop. Sometimes, they need to fall hard before they can bounce back up. But drawing boundaries can be incredibly difficult. Here are some tips to help you with this:

  1. Have your own life.  Don’t hang around waiting for your husband to get back from the pub before you can go to gym/see friends/do the shopping. You may well wait forever. Go and do things that YOU enjoy. Constantly waiting for someone breeds nothing but resentment. Also, you are very easy to take for granted, sitting there on the couch in wounded optimism. Once you start taking your own life seriously and giving yourself permission to enjoy it, they may begin to value you more, too.
  2. Take care of your own mood.  Look at yourself: could you benefit from some support in the form of therapy, perhaps? Are you eating well, exercising, sleeping enough? Are you clear on your own boundaries? If you value yourself, take care of yourself. If you don’t value yourself, you can’t expect others to.
  3. Never argue with someone who is intoxicated. It’s pointless. You’re not having a conversation with them; you’re talking to the substance and there is no point at all in doing that. Wait until they are sober. And if the same situation has led to the same fight repeatedly, get some outside help.
  4. You can’t control someone else’s behaviour, but you don’t have to expose yourself to it. If you’re in a horrible situation where your partner is overindulging, let them know you’re going and leave. You have every right to protect yourself.
  5. Don’t feel bad for things other people do. If your wife has drunk herself into a stupor at a friend’s home, just know that it’s not your fault. You are not required to feel the embarrassment for her, or to make excuses for her.
  6. Know that substance use is often a response to emotional struggles, but don’t take ownership of your partner’s wellbeing. You can support them, but you cannot undertake the journey for them. remember that although they are ill, you are not responsible for their health. you can point out what you see, preferably in a kind and sober context, but whether they will defend against your input or whether they will hear it is beyond your control.

©Psych in a Box

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