Drug addiction does not only affect the addict. The disease also affects everyone in a relationship with the addict, including family members, friends and colleagues.
Our lives are affected by a variety of relationships, and our relationships can be affected by our addictions. When considering the effects of addiction on our personal interactions, most people first think about their most intimate relationships, but addiction impacts the full gamut of relationships including:
- Spouse or partner
- Extended family members
- Colleagues and co-workers
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the effects of drug and alcohol addiction are often passed down through generations. In this way, children of drug addicts are at risk of being impacted by their parent(s) addictions. Addiction and domestic abuse is higher among spouses and children of an addict.
How Addiction Affects Relationships
The non-user member in a relationship invests a great deal of time trying to help and guide the addict. This is physically and emotionally exhausting. Their endurance and ability to stick with it or not, can make or break the relationship.
Drug addiction alienates friends and family. This can work in two ways: it can push the addict closer to getting help or they become more deeply addicted.
Trust is important in every relationship and it is tested in an addictive relationship. Without trust, the basis of a true relationship is broken.
Addiction affects the intimacy portion of a relationship because the drug user becomes obsessed with the illicit substance, leaving no room in their life for a relationship. Drugs and a healthy and intimate relationship do not coexist.
Lack of intimacy can create loneliness for an addict. Loneliness can lead to depression and a feeling that life is meaningless. Loneliness can act as a trigger for addiction relapse.
Active Addiction Relationships
Addicts are compulsive people. They crave quick physical and emotional relationships. Starting a new relationship while actively addicted to an illicit substance will most likely not develop a solid foundation for healthy interaction. These new-found connections often devolve from an acquaintance to a shallow, physical relationship, because addicts cannot typically sustain a deeply committed relationship. Previously established relationships are stressed, at best, when an addict is active.
Dealing with the Effects
It is important for the addict to know that not all people in their life whom they have affected are willing or able to forgive and forget their drug-related antics. Relationships can sometimes benefit from counseling to help deal with underlying issues.
Recovery Relationships: Relationships are different when an addict is using and when an addict is clean and sober. The recovering addict is a different person with different needs. This can make a relationship strained and even broken. Relationships and marriages often end as a result of addiction. Trust must be rebuilt for each and every relationship to survive addiction in the recovery phase.
It is up to the loved one, whether family or friend, to determine where or how a relationship will go. Are they able to forgive the addict and move forward? Sometimes, they cannot forgive.
New Relationships: Recovering addicts are advised to avoid starting a new relationship during the first year of their recovery. It is important for a person in recovery to concentrate on their recovery.
Established Relationships: Like a marriage, established relationships must allow a period of adjustment during the recovery phase. There is no doubt that relationships are directly affected by drug addiction. Some relationships can survive the stress and strain while others cannot. Each relationship is unique and deserves an effort on the part of the user and their significant other, whomever that might be in each pairing, to survive.