Addiction is a major issue in many relationships, but it is rarely discussed out of shame. As the partner of a person who is suffering from addiction, it is important to note that sometimes, no matter your efforts, your partner will refuse to seek out help or work towards bettering themselves. Often, people will stay in a relationship with a person suffering from an addiction despite the pain, in hopes that their partner will change. However, one must accept that unless your partner wants to change, they won’t; the drive must come from within themselves. Nevertheless, here are some suggestions that can help those suffering from addiction and their partners.
1. Avoid hiding or ignoring the problem
Addiction is difficult to face, however ignoring the issue is much worse. If you believe that your partner is suffering from an addiction, the first thing to do is accept that there is a problem rather than enable the behaviour. Once you have done that, you will be better suited to help them.
If you believe your partner suffers from an addiction, research the addiction. This will by no means make you an expert in the field, but the general research and information will provide you with some background knowledge that can help you empathize with your partner.
3. Find the root of the problem
Why or how did the addiction begin? Did they recently suffer a traumatic event that could have led them to use the addiction to cope with their emotions? The person suffering from the addiction must acknowledge the root of their problem. For the observer, knowing the root of the problem can help them to understand and better communicate with their partner and empathize with them. Once the root cause is unearthed, your partner must work on healing from the trauma that triggered the addiction to nip it in the bud. This can be done with the help of a counsellor, therapist, psychologist, and/or support group.
4. Join a support group for family and friends of a loved one suffering from addiction
Although it is important for your partner to seek help, it is equally important for you to seek help and support as well. To cope with shame, loneliness, embarrassment, discomfort and humiliation, it is liberating to discuss hardship with others who understand and can empathize with you.
5. Stop enabling
Enabling a person with an addiction may lead them to delay seeking help. It is important to distinguish between enabling and helping, as enabling means aiding a person with an addiction by doing something they could do themselves if they were sober, whereas helping is to do something they could not do even if they were sober. Enabling comes from a place of love, and despite your belief that you are aiding them, you are actually delaying their potential recovery. The problem needs to be addressed head on.
6. Prioritize yourself
As previously mentioned, sometimes your partner will not be willing to put in the work it takes to better themselves for the sake of their own well-being and that if your relationship. As much as you may love this person and want the best for them, you must put your health first and make necessary decisions that enable and promote your own well-being. If your partner has made it clear that they do not want to work on themselves, you must find a way to move on so you can be happy.
Addiction is an incredibly difficult reality to face and despite your best efforts, it is important to remember to take care of yourself. Do not feel ashamed to seek and associate yourself with people who understand what you are going through and who can help you manage this difficult time in your relationship.