When drug addiction is mentioned, most attention is usually paid to the addicts rather than people around them. The reality, however, is that addiction eventually penetrates every area of a person’s life, affecting their family, friends, children, and job as well as health. The struggles of loved ones and spouses of the addicted are frequently underrepresented.
Even without any added challenges, close relationships are hard to build and maintain. They require a significant effort to synchronize your life and habits with another person, and being influenced by your partner’s troubles is a natural outcome. Drug abuse frequently drives people to lie to their families about their whereabouts and spending, mask the developing health problems and conceal their addiction. Such secretive behavior and the shock when the truth is finally revealed sometimes damage relationships irreparably.
Although you might be baffled by the situation, it’s not entirely hopeless. Many rehabilitation centers recognize the paramount impact addiction has on relationships and offer couples rehab (read more here), where drug abuse treatment is combined with counseling and therapies for the addicted and their partners. It enables you to stay with your beloved during the rehab, support them and work through the issues that could otherwise ruin your relationship with the help of a trained professional.
Rehabilitation is only the first step
Rehab for couples tackles the initial problem but it’s not the end of the journey yet. Statistically, approximately 85% of people return to drug use after successfully completing a rehab program. It doesn’t necessarily indicate that the treatment wasn’t effective but rather points out the lack of control and support that are meant to get an ex-addict through the toughest first months of leaving rehab. Going through withdrawal and therapy can be truly nerve-racking, and learning how to cope with daily stress and resist triggers isn’t enough to ensure that the person will never return to drug use.
Relapsing can be extremely frustrating. The need to go through detox and withdrawal all over again is exhausting and can make your partner feel ashamed and discouraged. As tempting as it might be under the weight of your own disappointment, it’s important not to get judgmental or doubt your partner’s ability to fully recover. Learning how relapsing works and looking out for early signs are, on the other hand, beneficial steps that you can take.
Relapse can be divided into emotional, mental and physical stages. During emotional relapse, a person tends to seek isolation from their own problems by focusing on other people’s issues or skipping support group meetings. Self-neglect, refusal to discuss one’s feelings and denial of thinking about addiction or using are common during this stage.
Mental relapse is characterized by an internal conflict. If cravings for drugs weren’t present during emotional relapse, this is the time when they hit hard and force a person to constantly fight the intense desire to start using. You might notice that your partner is seeking opportunities to do drugs again or even planning the relapse. It’s also common for people to engage in internal bargaining, promising themselves they will only use occasionally and believing they are able to control it.
Finally, there is physical relapse. It typically happens when a person encounters a trigger and the probability of being caught is quite low. This stage is conditionally divided into a “lapse” and a “relapse”. During a lapse, the individual uses drugs for the first time after leaving rehab, while relapse is associated with a resumption of uncontrollable abuse. Open and loving communication between you and your addicted partner can help get medical help sooner and prevent them from going into a relapse.
Support is not the same as enabling
There is a fine line between taking care of your partner and unknowingly presenting them with opportunities to keep abusing drugs. Such behavior is called enabling, and this issue is particularly stressed at a drug rehab for families and rehab for couples on drugs, in cases when both partners are addicted. In your desire to help your partner, you might take on some of their responsibilities or justify unhealthy behaviors, which does nothing but destroy their motivation to recover and improve.
Enabling creates a comfortable environment for addiction to get stronger, and it can be just as detrimental as completely ignoring the issue. Moreover, it facilitates the development of co-dependent tendencies in your relationship, since taking care of your loved one makes you feel useful, and this pleasant feeling of contribution might also be addictive. For these reasons, specialists at couples drug rehab pay great attention to teaching family members and partners the correct ways to support the addicted through encouragement and positive reinforcement.
Unlike enabling, healthy support manifests in open communication and an ability to discuss your partner’s and your own feelings and fears. Being able to convey your concerns about visible signs of relapsing without judgment is especially important because drug abuse often makes it incredibly difficult for a person to accurately evaluate their own condition. Initiating honest conversations while being supportive can put your partner at ease and help both of you better understand the situation.
In the fight against addiction, deterioration of the emotional state can be incredibly hard to overcome. Therefore, it is important to avoid distancing yourself from your partner. Whether it’s going out for a movie or simply doing chores together, being close can help relieve anxiety, fear, and embarrassment that your partner may feel.
The importance of self-care
Regardless of the nature of your relationship, the obligation to deal with the effects of addiction on daily basis puts you under significant stress. Drug abuse is a source of many psychological problems in those who care for the addict. It’s completely normal to experience anxiety, fear, shame or anger because of your partner’s condition, but letting those feelings linger can cause lasting damage to your mental health. This, in turn, might lead to irritability, disturbed sleep, and snappiness. All of these only widen the gap between you.
Taking care of yourself is essential. Although you might feel guilty for needing some personal time, taking a break from your partner and focusing on your own needs is highly beneficial for both of you. In addition to improving your mental state, setting boundaries helps avoid the development of co-dependency, promotes self-sufficiency and inspires your partner to take better care of their physical and psychological state as well.
About the Author:
Thanush Poulsen is a Danish blogger who highlights the insights on addiction problem in the society: how people take addiction, how they feel it and deal with it, and how they strive to overcome it.