When you have a drug addict in your life, you may be suffering deeply as a result. After all, you love your child, parent, spouse, significant other, or friend, but drug or alcohol addiction can be deeply corrosive to the relationship. People often act like “another person” when under the influence or when seeking out their substances of choice. This comes as no surprise because drug addiction changes the brain and the way that it functions.
People may find themselves searching online for answers, finding consolation and the constant drumbeat of advice in online forums. When people have children with their addicted partners, suffering can be even more intense. A parent may work hard to hide his or her partner’s addiction from the children.
Some of the symptoms associated with addiction can include different forms of violence, troubling medical symptoms like shaking or trembling, or psychiatric symptoms like hallucinations or delusions. Family and friends want to help their loved ones, but they may not know what they can do. After all, when they confront the drug addicts in their lives about getting help, the addicts often say that none is needed or that they are not interested.
You may remember all of the good times before the addiction, from raising a child in his or her younger years to falling in love with a spouse. You may feel an increasing sense of desperation and confusion because you want to help your loved one, but you also don’t want to enable him or her to sink even more deeply into addictive behavior.
You Deserve Happiness and Peace
A person involved in a long-term relationship with a drug addict often forgets the sense of happiness and peace that can exist without the pressure of severe symptoms. You may worry all the time about what will happen to the drug addict if you are not there, such as if that person would face homelessness, bankruptcy, or even suicidal thoughts. Other people may feel so damaged by the relationship that they give up hope to love or to trust another person in the future.
Leaving Can Be the Right Choice
Loved ones of drug addicts hear it all the time that they should leave the addicts. However, it can be difficult to change your thinking to make getting away a reality. It can be painful to consider leaving the addict in your life whether it involves giving up on the child you birthed or breaking up a marriage and moving on. Addiction can sever once-close parent-child relationships. In the meantime, the loved ones of drug addicts may find themselves constantly smoothing over problems or apologizing for social issues caused by the addicted person.
Parents, spouses, and children of addicts may feel that it is their responsibility to clean up after the addicts, both physically and socially. However, these well-meaning family members may end up enabling the addiction and allowing the users to escape normal consequences for their behavior, such as financial difficulties to ostracism from friends. This means that in some cases, leaving is not abandoning your addicted loved one. In fact, your leaving may be a necessary step that prompts the user to finally look into getting help and taking responsibility for the damage done by their addiction.
After an addict gets help and goes through recovery, there may be an opportunity to rebuild the relationship. This is definitely true for parents and children, but it can be more complex in the case of a romantic relationship. The former spouse of an addict may gain a stronger sense of contentment and pride in himself or herself after leaving the addict. As a result, the potential to rekindle love may no longer be present. However, people can remain co-parents or even friends after recovery, and they can often develop mutually supportive relationships.
Considerations When Thinking of Leaving an Addict
When you think about ending a relationship with an addict, it can be a difficult thing to contemplate. In most cases, people love their addicted family members deeply, and it can be difficult to imagine not calling, not texting, and not coming home together. However, it can also be one of the most important steps and inspire someone to move toward getting help.
It may be difficult to leave, and you may want to connect with the addicted person or resume your relationship. You may also benefit from therapy and professional counseling to help you deal with the repercussions of sharing your life with an addict over a long period.
If you are planning to end a relationship, some important considerations include:
Think about your decision
It’s important not to just threaten to leave all the time without following up. Rather than demanding that the drug addict seek treatment, these threats may cause the user to dismiss the idea of ending the relationship. Talk about leaving when you are truly ready to leave and when you have reached the breaking point. Of course, you should also consider finding support from others around you before confronting the addict in your life.
Make a plan
Leaving a drug addict can be challenging. You may need to think of a place to go or consider how to get the addicted person out of your home. You may even need to evict the drug addict, which can be a painful and sometimes lengthy process. By making a plan, you can prepare for the fallout that can accompany the end of a relationship.
Consider legal and practical questions
In addition to issues like tenants’ rights, you may also have to consider issues like a current lease or resolving child custody. If you are married, you may need to file for divorce. You may also need to deal with the family courts, especially if the addict is not responsible or safe enough to care for the children. It can be important to consult with a family law attorney about your next steps.
Think about the options for future contact
When going through a divorce, some contact with a former partner is inevitable, even if it is through an attorney. When children are involved, supervised visitation can require some level of communication. Parents and children may have fewer legal ties, but they may want to think about what options make it possible to have an addicted person in their lives again. In many cases, the necessary conditions for future contact are getting help, remaining clean, and staying in recovery.
Plan your leaving announcement
It’s important for you to be safe when ending a relationship with an addicted person. Sometimes you might break it off over the phone, through a text, or even in person. If there are signs of potential violence, you may want to be in a safe public place, with friends and relatives nearby, or on call. Your safety is paramount.
Leaving May Be an Act of Love
When you decide to end the relationship with someone struggling with a substance use disorder, it may feel like you are being unloved or uncaring. On the contrary, leaving can be an act of love, even if it has unpleasant short-term repercussions. Coming face to face with reality is an important step towards gaining a new perspective on addiction.
People may realize that they are constantly worrying about their addicted loved ones. They may feel guilty denying access to money or other supplies, even if they know that those resources may be misused. As a result, some people tell themselves stories that downplay the effects of their loved ones’ addictions.
By facing the seriousness of the reality of the situation, people can continue to love the drug addicts in their lives without enabling them. This can mean getting away from an addicted person and introducing space, not out of a lack of love, but out of a sense of hope that your loved one can reawaken his or her desire to connect with those previously held dear.
Warning Signs in a Relationship With an Addict
It may not always feel like the right time to end the relationship; in fact, it may never feel like the right time. Still, there are some important warning signs that may point to truly dangerous possibilities for the addicted person and his or her loved ones. These types of red flags should spark a serious thought process about leaving.
Some of these warning signs include:
- Physical, verbal, sexual or emotional abuse of you, the children, or other loved ones
- Open drug use in front of you or, especially, in front of the children
- Signs of intoxication when caring for or solely responsible for the children, including getting high or drunk in the presence of the children
- Refusal to seek help at an addiction treatment center, rehab, or other therapeutic option
- Stealing from you, other loved ones, or stores and workplaces. Theft is common among addicts, but it can be financially and personally devastating
- Threats of suicide if you leave the relationship or references to suicide as a form of revenge
- Serious, even disastrous, financial consequences as a result of the addiction such as being evicted, declaring bankruptcy, defaulting on student loans
- Infidelity with other addicts or as part of the drug-seeking process
- Lost relationships with your own family, friends, or other loved ones as a result of defending the addicted person
Every relationship is different, and there may be other warning signs that apply to your situation. These are some of the most common issues that arise in relationships that have been deeply damaged by addiction.
How to Actually Let Go
Even when you’re convinced that ending the relationship is the right way forward for everyone’s mental and physical health, it can still be difficult to let go. When you love someone, it is not easy to exclude him or her from your life, even if you know that it is necessary.
Seeking therapy and getting help on your own can be important parts of this process. You may benefit from one-on-one professional counseling. In addition, many family and friends of addicts find support and camaraderie from their involvement with group programs for the loved ones of people with a substance use disorder. People can share stories and experiences in a safe space while learning that they are not alone.
You may also benefit from redirecting your time. When you want to think about or reach out to an addict, you may benefit from starting a creative hobby, joining a gym, or establishing a running routine. Developing friendships and healthy habits can help to develop your sense of self and can make you more resilient during a difficult period.
At the same time, you should also know that it’s healthy and normal if you cry, journal about your relationship, or feel sharp regrets. You’re moving forward, but that can be one of the most difficult projects you take on even though the rewards are substantial.
Having a drug addict in your life can feel shameful, especially if you are often covering for negative behaviors or hiding the addiction. Ending the relationship can be a great time to reach out to friends and family, including those who may have walked away due to the addicted person. Many people will be happy to provide emotional support on your journey.
Help is Available
When you are thinking of how to end a relationship your addicted loved one, you may not know where to turn. However, professionals like rehabilitation centers, addiction counselors, and even family lawyers can provide important advice and guidance for your next stop. You can learn more about treatment options as well that could help the addict in your life if he or she does move toward getting help.
You can find help for yourself and for those you love. In many cases, improving your life starts with your next step forward.