Addiction is a complicated problem that produces many different effects. It can cause various health problems for the drug addicted person, both short term and long term. They may also suffer from psychological problems and behavioral changes, because addiction is closely connected to compulsive behavior.
But beyond these physical and mental effects, addiction can cause other forms of harm—not just for the person going through it, but also for the people around him or her.
Addiction is linked to various social problems. It causes relationships to crumble; it ruins a person’s career. It even changes society’s perception of the victim. This is why it is important to know that when someone you love is struggling with addiction, their interpersonal relationships are going to be affected.
It is good to know what you can expect from a drug addicted individual in terms of maintaining their relationships.
On this article, we are going to discuss the effects of addiction on relationships. Here, we are going to focus on relationships beyond the family setting. There is a different discussion for family members of drug addicted individuals and what they can do to help. But we are going to focus on how relationships are affected by addiction, and how these connections may survive the struggle.
Addiction and Relationships
Addiction causes a person to prioritize obtaining and using the drug over everything else. This makes them act compulsively, ignoring their responsibilities, and neglecting the people that care about them the most. So while their physical and mental health is affected, their social health also takes a blow.
Social health refers to their ability to maintain relationships. An addicted person will naturally shut off their own support system, just to be able to keep abusing a substance.
In the long run, when they find themselves unable to quit, they realize how distant they’ve grown from the important people in their lives—this leads to lower self-esteem, and damaged sense of self-worth.
All types of relationships can be strained when someone gets addicted: family, friendships, and romantic relationships will all be put to the test.
Healthy relationships, particularly friendships and romantic relationships, take a lot of work to maintain. It should be fun and rewarding for both sides, and must be upheld with trust, compromise, and understanding.
Communication must be open, and both parties must respect one another. Honesty is an important foundation of any healthy relationship.
Neither partner would abuse the other physically or emotionally. There must be no violence or aggression at all times.
On top of it all, there must be love and compassion.
Unfortunately, these values tend to be forgotten (by either partner) when an addiction comes between the relationship.
How it Damages Relationships
All of the things that make relationships stronger are compromised when addiction enters the mix. This makes it much more difficult to maintain. It is particularly difficult when the addicted individual refuses to seek treatment, refuses help, or simply does not understand the seriousness of the problem.
Relationships cannot compete with the euphoric experience of substance abuse, as many couples and friends have come to discover.
There are many ways addiction can ruin a solid partnership.
For example, an addicted person may try to conceal their substance abuse by lying or covering it up. This secrecy can lead to mistrust and breaks down the communicative barriers between friends and/or romantic partners. They believe that others won’t understand their situation, and so they become secretive even with those they love.
They may start lying about where they are, who they are with, and what they are doing. And since financial problems are common when a person is abusing a drug, they may try to cover up why they are broke.
In some cases, secrecy turns into isolation. This lack of proper communication distances the parties and strains the relationship.
Addiction can also cause a person to act irrationally or even violently. They become prone to outbursts as they get frustrated over little things. Substance abuse is known to cause aggression. This makes the relationship dangerous, even for the addicted person, as they may harm themselves or get into an accident during these violent outbursts.
Cocaine, alcohol, crystal meth, and Ritalin are known to induce anger, irritability, and violence in individuals abusing them.
Remember that the addicted individual isn’t the only one that puts a strain on the relationship. Certain friends and romantic partners tend to get angry or frustrated at the other for not trying to get better. Others can do the exact opposite: completely enabling a person to continue their addiction. Remember to let the person be accountable for their actions, but also do not get violent if they fail to comply.
Do not make excuses for their actions—it will only make the addicted individual believe that what they are doing is okay. Define and enforce the line between helping and enabling, if you wish to preserve the relationship.
Repairing a Damaged Relationship
An addicted person may recover from their condition, but the relationships must still be fixed afterwards. That’s an entirely different battle.
If you wish to support the person through rehabilitation, you can do so. Help and support them if they present the desire to get better. Keep them on the right track. You can even help them find the right treatment facility for their needs.
It is important to acknowledge that damage has been done, and that the relationship must be fixed. If both parties are willing to resume their connection, they may do so even while rehabilitation is taking place. In fact, the support of loved ones is an important aspect in the recovery process. If you can fix both problems at once, then that’s a good sign.
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Now, it is also entirely possible that the relationship is irreparable. It is a reality that addiction can end romantic relationships and break friendships apart. It is acceptable to leave it behind and invest your time in building new and meaningful relationships. Some addicted individuals present no interest in trying to get better, and you must not blame yourself for it.
If you think the relationship can be saved, then do so. Help them through the detoxification process and keep them on the right track. But a person cannot be made sober unless they want to.
At the end of the day, any relationship worth having is worth fighting for.