How Do You Love an Addict?
Relationships and marriages bear much of the brunt of an addiction. When someone has a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife who is an addict, the relationship can suffer greatly. A lot of damage is done to these relationships throughout the course of an addiction and many of them are subjected to irreparable harm. It’s very difficult to watch someone you love and care about completely destroy themselves with drugs and alcohol. They are no longer the same sweet, caring, selfless person they were years ago. Now they are stealing money, cheating, losing jobs, not paying the bills, sex is non-existent and they just seem “uninterested.”
Fights ensue over the person’s drug use:
“You’re still using, aren’t you?”
“Where did you go last night at 10:30 pm?”
“Where’s the money from your paycheck… you just got paid 2 days ago!”
One of the goals of an addict is to protect his addiction and keep himself from being “found out.” Questions, accusations or simple inquiries are all rejected by the addict with excuses, justifications and outright lies. This comes at the expense of the relationship, which, unfortunately, is not the addict’s priority. His priority in life is to use drugs to stave off withdrawals and medicate away life’s problems, and now, the relationship has become one of those problems to him. The fact of the matter is, an addict has such a poor relationship with himself, how could anyone expect that he has anything to offer in a romantic relationship?
The addict has a constant internal struggle… at some point, they were taught right from wrong and the concept of “doing the right thing.” Deep down, the addict knows he is not only harming himself but also another person. The sick part is he’s more in love with the drugs than he is with the person he says “I love you” to every day.
The other person in the relationship may embark on a tumultuous adventure of trying to “fix” the addict. This is basically impossible and never works. Hiding wallets, giving an “allowance” and putting a GPS on the person’s car, while good ideas in theory, rarely ever work to get the person clean. Maybe the couple picks up and moves out of town or out of state to get a fresh start. This may work for a short period of time, but the saying “where ever you go, there you are” certainly applies.
As a person’s addiction progresses, things go from bad to worse. Drug dealers are knocking at the door, bills that the addict said he paid are now in collections and the person is taking high-interest “payday loans” 2 days after wasting their whole paycheck. Fake crisis situations start popping up:
“I had to go to the Emergency Room because I threw my back out at work.”
“I popped 2 tires in my car…can you believe it?”
“My buddy needed to borrow some money but he’ll pay me back.”
“Can you believe our house got broken into again…man, they took everything! (meanwhile, your stuff is in a pawn shop)."
At this point, the addict feels nothing… no guilt, no shame, no remorse. He thinks he’s just doing what he needs to do to survive. What he’s failing to see or care about is the emotional hell the other person in the relationship is in.
And sex? Forget about it. Drugs and alcohol dull emotions and kill the sex drive. The addict is so removed from the relationship that sex becomes an empty, emotionless dance he feels he must do to continue the façade of “everything is still okay.”
The foundation for a successful relationship is based on equal parts communication and trust. If two people don’t trust each other, how can they communicate effectively? Once communication breaks down, the future is dismal for the relationship. The loved one or loved ones of an addict are unlikely to be able to “fix” him. First off, they are very emotionally involved and emotionally spent dealing with the lies, deceit and false/broken promises from the addict. One factual statement applies here:
You CANNOT forge a successful relationship with an addict.
Many relationships are sadly destroyed beyond repair by an addiction. The lying, the unfaithfulness and all the memories of the past bad experiences can be too much for a person to deal with. At that point, each person parts ways and the non-addicted person, emotionally scarred, tries to pick up the pieces and move on. The addict will usually dwindle further down the downward spiral towards either death or hits the bottom so hard, survives and realizes he needs help, all the while blaming their circumstances on the family members who “just don’t care” or “never loved me anyway”.
Relationships require mutual effort. When one person is completely “checked out” on drugs, the relationship, in reality, ceases to exist. It turns into one person pouring blood, sweat and tears into fixing something that, for them, is unfixable. The person needs to go to rehab, get to the bottom of their addiction and handle their issues. At that point, and only then, can the addict play an active role in an intimate relationship.
To best help them, find a rehabilitation program that takes care of their individual needs and gets their agreement to seek help. Find a program that will handle not only their cravings for drugs but also the factors that created the addiction in the first place.
That way, the addict has a better chance to recover and finally have the ability to live a normal, working life and the possibility of creating a healthy relationship.