Watching a loved one battle addiction can take a huge toll on someone’s mental and physical well-being. When you’re in a romantic relationship with an addict, you may find yourself no longer recognizing the person you once fell in love with. You want to be compassionate and supportive and help them through the struggle, but sometimes, leaving a drug addict is the only option. However, breaking up with an addict you love is more complicated than simply walking away.
Addiction Doesn’t Just Impact the Addict
Society tends to view addiction as a personal struggle affecting only the person who’s addicted to drugs or alcohol. In reality, people who are close to the addict experience trauma, and their lives are negatively altered by their loved one’s actions. The longer someone stays in active addiction, the harder it is for their family to cope.
Loving an addict can take an emotional toll. The more time that passes, the less you recognize your loved one and the more unpredictable they are.
People in active addiction can sometimes act erratically and be verbally abusive or physically violent. Maintaining a drug addiction is expensive, putting the family’s finances at risk. It’s not unheard of for addicts to lie, manipulate and even steal from family members so they can buy their next fix.
Children raised by addicts are often neglected and receive inconsistent levels of care and attention. This can affect their self-confidence, health and social development. In more extreme cases, when one or both parents are addicts, social services can get involved and may remove the children from the home.
Setting Boundaries With an Addicted Spouse
When your spouse is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of taking care of them and protecting them from the consequences of their own actions. Loving actions such as cleaning up the living room after they’ve been sick, giving them money when they ask or buying them more wine when they have the shakes can quickly turn into enabling behavior.
Letting your addicted loved one get away with these things stops them from having to take responsibility for themselves, which leads to them escalating their unhealthy behaviors because they see no reason to stop. Setting clear boundaries and sticking by them may encourage them to seek the help they need to overcome addiction. Some examples of boundaries to try are:
- Not allowing drugs or alcohol in the house
- Not bailing them out after being arrested
- Ask them to remain respectful when interacting with you or anyone else living in the house
- Not giving them money
When Is It Time to Consider Leaving a Drug Addict You Love?
Regardless of how much you share with one another, sometimes breaking up with an addict you love is the right option for your well-being. For many people in relationships with addicts, leaving is a difficult decision. You might feel the addict will fall deeper into their addiction cycle, or worse, that they might harm themselves after the breakup. While these feelings are valid, if you’re in a situation where your mental and emotional well-being is suffering because of the relationship, leaving might be the only option.
Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself:
- Is your partner abusive? Abuse isn’t just physical. An addict will often lose their temper and say mean or hurtful things while under the influence, only to apologize for their behavior the next day.
- Are they seeking help? While many people in recovery relapse while in treatment, if your spouse refuses to get help, it might be a sign they don’t want to or aren’t ready for change.
- Do you feel you can trust them? Sometimes people battling addiction can do things to break your trust, such as stealing from you or cheating while under the influence.
- Have they been unreliable and constantly making promises they never keep? These could include missing out on important family events or neglecting to care for the kids after they promised they would.
- Do you feel safe with them? It’s never acceptable to feel emotionally or physically unsafe when you’re around your partner.
Knowing when to leave an addict is emotionally difficult, and ending the relationship can turn into a long, complicated process.
Coping With Guilt
Leaving an addict is hard and can take an emotional toll on you. Addicts are ultimately responsible for seeking and engaging with their recovery treatment. You aren’t responsible for their choices, and the decision to leave them was to protect yourself. However, after walking away, you may feel plagued by guilt, or you might blame yourself and think you haven’t done enough to help them. It’s a difficult spot to be in, and you shouldn’t neglect your own mental health needs.
You might need to consider individual counseling so you can discuss your feelings in a safe space. A counselor might give you healthy coping mechanisms and reassure you that taking care of yourself and setting firm boundaries isn’t cruelty toward your addicted spouse. As painful as it sounds, leaving an addict you love may be the necessary boundary you need to set in place for your safety.
Speaking with a mental health professional can help you learn how to get over a drug-addicted boyfriend or girlfriend while showing you how to set up healthy boundaries and avoid getting involved in codependent dynamics in the future.
It might help to embrace new self-care practices such as mindfulness, exercising and reading. You could also find support and resources by attending meetings created for the loved ones of addicts, such as Al-Anon.
Is Reconciliation Possible?
Addiction is a treatable disease, and if your loved one commits themselves to treatment, you won’t have to completely exclude the possibility of getting back together — if that’s what you want, of course.
Love, children and having an otherwise happy relationship before addiction may contribute to your decision of whether to accept your partner back. Couples therapy and a firm commitment to sobriety from your loved one might help you see if the relationship is worth fighting for.
A loved one’s addiction can cause painful trauma and take a mental toll on the family. If you need to talk, we can help you find your way back to yourself. Contact FHE Health today to speak to one of our compassionate counselors.