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Dating Someone Struggling with Addiction: What’s It Like?

There are many potential pitfalls of dating someone struggling with addiction. Whether you’re considering entering into a relationship with an addict or leaving it, or you’re wondering how best to support your partner, there are a few things to keep in mind. Remember that you may not always be the top priority to your partner if he or she is currently battling substance abuse. With addiction, the substance comes first. It doesn’t mean, however, that this person doesn’t still love and care about you. Read on to find out how to make a relationship with an addict work.

How Do I Know If My Partner Is Addicted to Substances?

Dating someone addicted to drugs is very different from dating someone who’s sober. Here are a few telltale signs of substance abuse:

  • Poor work performance — Someone who is addicted makes work less of a priority. They will be late, receive poor performance reviews, and generally show a lack of interest in their responsibilities.
  • Changed physical appearance — They may look tired and drained. Bloodshot eyes, lack of proper hygiene or grooming, and poor skin tone are visible signs of addiction.
  • Changes in money habits — Fueling a drug and alcohol addiction is expensive. Someone struggling with addiction may have trouble paying bills or change their spending habits.
  • Isolation — People with addictions tend to isolate themselves from family, friends, and romantic partners. They may be exhausted and need to sleep or seek privacy to use. They probably won’t open up about the reason for their isolation and may continuously make excuses.
  • Changes in relationships — Is your partner distancing themselves from close family? What about close, sober friends? If so, they may be prioritizing their substance use over the people closest to them.

If you suspect your partner is abusing substances, don’t jump to conclusions. Showing one or even several of these behaviors doesn’t confirm abuse. Instead, gently bring up what you are noticing to him or her. Express genuine interest and concern and give them a chance to explain.

How Do I Support an Addicted Partner?

If you learn that your significant other is, in fact, addicted to drugs or alcohol, you have difficult decisions to make. If you’re going to continue your relationship, either as a partner or otherwise, you need to know how best to support them. Keep the following tips in mind to make your relationship work as effectively as possible.

Be Wary of Emotional Manipulation

This is perhaps the most toxic element of dating someone with an addiction. They may take their anger, guilt, and shame out on you. Emotional manipulation can look like:

  • Guilt trips
  • Lying
  • Accusations and blaming behavior

These things take a heavy toll on the partner of an addict. It’s important to remember that the addict isn’t necessarily choosing to manipulate you. It’s an inevitable byproduct of the disease of addiction.

Encourage Them to Get Help

Research substance abuse treatment centers in your area, counselors who specialize in drug abuse, and support groups. Offer to attend groups with them or arrange supportive resources. Remember that there will come a time when it’s the addict’s responsibility to take over.

Don’t Enable Them

Enabling usually feels like helping, rather than feeding their addiction. It can mean things like giving your partner money that will likely be used for drugs or giving them a ride to pick up drugs. Enabling can also mean letting your addicted partner cross your boundaries. This might look like allowing them to use in front of you when you aren’t okay with it or calling into work sick for them. Know what your boundaries are and stay true to them, even if it means making painful choices.

What Effect Will This Have on Me?

More than anything, it’s important to take care of yourself while in a relationship with an addict. There are going to be times you feel drained, defeated, and hopeless. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so make sure you’re practicing good self-care at all times. Self-care should involve the following:

  • Don’t take your partner’s actions personally. When addiction takes hold, the user becomes powerless to the addiction. No matter how they may act toward you, it isn’t your fault. It doesn’t mean you allow them to cross your boundaries, and it certainly doesn’t mean you allow them to mistreat you.
  • Attend a support group. Al-Anon and Learn to Cope are support groups for the loved ones of people with addictions. Meet people who are going through similar difficulties and who can empathize with you. These groups will also teach you how to support your partner and take care of yourself in the process.
  • Know that it isn’t your responsibility to change your partner. You might feel like if you love and support him or her enough, they will stop their behavior. However, your partner isn’t thinking like him/herself. The best you can do is encourage your partner to seek support from professionals, like licensed therapists and doctors specializing in addiction.

In order to recover from substance abuse, support from loved ones is crucial. After your partner has received addiction treatment, your presence can make all the difference. It’s important to not lose hope in your partner, even if you do need to create healthy boundaries. Washburn House is an addiction treatment facility offering a comprehensive residential rehab program that offers programs to suit different levels of need. Our highly qualified mental health therapists and medical staff help those with addictions sort through their emotional and behavioral difficulties in a highly structured, supportive setting. To learn about how we can help you or your loved one, contact us today.

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