Secrecy. Lies. Numbing. Evidence. Chaos. Broken Trust. Loneliness. Confusion. Hurt. Pain. Uncertainty.
If drugs (which, for the sake of this post will encompass any alcohol, prescription meds, narcotics, or substances that can be overused and abused) have found a presence in your relationship, these words may have a familiar ring to them.
Our world today has become more understanding of the process of addiction and the recognition of the effects of drugs on the brain, body, and mental state of those we love. Support groups surround the communities we live in, and treatment centers have many options on ways to help individuals and families get through the terrors of addiction and into a life of hope, recovery, and rekindled connection.
How do you act around your partner?
What do you say? What do you do?
Here are a few things to consider if you believe (or know) that drugs have entered your relationship and are being overused or abused by your partner:
Don’t stay quiet.
It is unfortunate that you are in this situation, but remaining silent about a problem will only prolong it. Express your concerns and fears to your partner and ask them if they would like to receive help. Stand up for the health of your partner, yourself, and your relationship. Try your best not to personalize any defensiveness or criticism you feel comes your way. Defense mechanisms are ways that individuals emotionally protect themselves. The main priority here is to find out where your partner can be professionally assessed and helped into treatment. If they refuse, then your priority becomes finding yourself support.
Set boundaries. Don’t enable.
Depending on the severity of the situation, boundaries are going to be a huge part of keeping yourself safe and helping your partner understand the seriousness of where you stand. As Brene Brown says, “boundaries are what is and what is not okay”. If something is happening that you have voiced is not acceptable to you, then it is not acceptable. You cannot control your partner’s actions, but you can remove yourself from a situation that you do not want to be a part of. This may look like walking into another room, leaving for the evening, or going to stay at a trusted friend’s house for the night. Sometimes this is the most loving thing you can do for a person.
Enabling is one of the most common behaviors that family members and partners find themselves doing with a partner who is engaging in substance abuse. This means you are inadvertently allowing the drug use to continue by not doing anything about it or by not allowing them to experience their own consequences (calling in sick to work for them, lying to family about why they haven’t been around lately, buying them alcohol or picking up more prescriptions when you know they will be overused).
Know that this is not about you, but also become aware of your part in the dynamic.
Certainly, there may have been things you have said or done that may have led your partner to drink or drug. But you did not cause the persistence of their substance abuse. You cannot make them do anything. There are many components to the progression of an addiction (genetic predispositions, past trauma, mental health issues/depression or anxiety, and shame).
What you can focus on right now is your part in the current dynamic. Are you engaging in arguments and conversations when your partner has used substances (or when you have)? Do you find yourself fighting with them to prove your point? Do you lose control of your own emotions and feel completely overrun by your feelings of frustration, anxiety, or anger? Become aware of how you may be contributing to negative interactions, and do your best to remove yourself from those interactions before they become heightened. You may feel like you are “losing a battle” in the moment, but long term you are really setting a healthy boundary that shows you will not be a part of this dynamic in the relationship anymore.
Find a trusted source.
You do not need to be alone right now. Floating around in your own head full of questions, pain, and anxieties will only become a part of the problem if you do not reach out. Find someone that you trust. In this case, if you are hoping to work through this with your partner, it may be best to reach out to a professional (even if you do so alone). I recommend finding someone who has experience with substance abuse (inpatient or IOP experience).
Reaching out to family members at this point may create an alliance or bias against your partner and, while this may seem like the right move to take in the moment, this could create longer term issues for you as a couple. Just as support becomes one of the main sources of recovery for the individual with the substance abuse issue, so is it necessary for your own healing and recovery.
The beginning of this experience in relationships often feels hopeless, frustrating, and scary. If you are the partner of someone engaging in substance abuse, I hope the message in this post is clear: reach out and find help. If not for your partner (if they refuse), for yourself so that you may acquire some tools, skills, and understanding on how to move forward in the best way possible. There is no easy way to deal with an addiction, but often times there are small changes that you can begin making now that may positively influence your relationship.
If you have questions or would like further resources in the Dallas area, contact me today!