Being in a close relationship or dating an addict can be very difficult, even if you’re unaware of what is going on which is common as the warning signs of drug addiction can be difficult to identify. You may also experience a rollercoaster of emotions, such as anger, frustration, sadness, and stress. Nonetheless, if you care for this person, you will definitely not want them to lose control and potentially lose their lives to this addiction. In fact, one of the biggest struggles of such relationships is supporting your loved one whilst protecting yourself, especially if their top priority is not, you but the substance use. Even if you think that you can manage such a relationship, the result might not always be satisfactory.
The Addict’s Loved Ones
Very often, people in relationships with addicts are invisible to the public eye but face their own issues with stigma and blame. This is especially true as one tends to believe that the drug addict is a person who lies, cheats, or takes every chance and excuse they get to satisfy their addiction. In fact, the desire to help their partner can be so great that, without them realizing, it takes up everything else in their life.
Moreover, not only the health of those battling drug abuse is comprised, but also the well-being of those closest to them, their romantic partner. As drug addicts often experience emotional extremes, situations that generally cause normal, everyday disagreements are very likely to blow up into intolerable conflict. Also, since drug addicts often have a high ability to manipulate people, those who tend to be vulnerable are also more likely to think that they are to blame for certain situations.
The more people around you tell you that they will never get off drugs without your love and support, the more likely you will be driven by guilt and empathy and stay in the relationship. However, this is a very toxic dynamic that doesn’t help those who are battling the addiction to be held accountable while increasing the probability of blackmailing their partner into staying. In turn, this eliminates the possibility of both partners interacting as equals as the addict becomes the child who must be controlled and protected from himself or herself. In contrast, the other party is only there to save the addict. Anyone dating a drug addict might also struggle to give up hope that their partner could eventually get clean.
Given all the above, anyone dating a drug addict needs to consider seeking support both for himself and for his loved one. In this case, support groups may be highly beneficial as they teach you how to manage life and provide the opportunity to share your stories and feelings whilst learning from others who are going through a similar experience. It is also advisable to set boundaries as drug addicts tend to cross boundaries of those who they love and care for. Therefore, you need to identify what are your personal boundaries, such as no late calls or using in your home and let them know what they are.
On a final note, do not be ashamed of loving someone who is struggling with an addiction. Therefore, reach out for help because it is not always possible to do it on your own.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Johanna Cutajar is a Master in Counselling graduate from the University of Malta. She works with children and adolescents as a counsellor within the education sector on a variety of issues including relationship issues, trauma, bereavement, transitions, and general mental health.
Ludwig, L. (2017). What It’s Like to Date a Drug Addict. Retrieved from https://www.vice.com/en/article/j5xpgy/the-daily-hell-of-dating-a-drug-addict