The time may come to face a loved one’s substance use disorder head-on, which can be challenging but leaves little room left for choices. Perhaps they put their lives in danger or the lives of loved ones, or maybe they struggled for years and finally made that one terrible choice that landed them into big trouble. Handling a partner’s substance use disorder is never easy. It means knowing when the loved one has finally crossed the line where it is too much, and the thing that needs to happen is in front of them. The signs may all be there, but their will to make something change has to be there too.
Coping with a loved one’s substance use disorder is harrowing. It may mean fights, arguments, tense situations, and even abusive behaviors from the loved one. It might mean long nights waiting for them to come home, trying to raise children with them, and also trying to manage a whole household when they disappear and cannot perform their duties. Sometimes, with functional addiction, the person may be drinking or doing drugs and keeping up with all their other responsibilities. Even when warning signs are there, it is still difficult to face a loved one’s addiction. Some of the things to watch for can include:
- Not being able to stop substance use
- Lying about substance use
- High tolerance for alcohol or substances
- Trying to quit previously and still not able to discontinue use
- Blacks out when drinking
- Using drugs or alcohol to self-medicate mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD
- Negligent with duties and responsibilities
Keep This in Mind
It is easy to kick oneself over, not seeing the signs sooner. The signs were there for a while, most likely, but it is hard to open up a person’s eyes to reality. What is important to remember is that a partner cannot stop their loved one from drinking or using substances. They must choose recovery for themselves and be willing to accept help to begin the journey of healing. The partner needs to set clear boundaries, be firm in the belief they need help, and offer unconditional love and support as they travel this new pathway.
Set Firm Boundaries
Stay strong with your boundaries, and remind your partner that when they don’t respect your boundaries, they are breaking trust. Even when they break promises in recovery, be sure to only accept their continued work in recovery. Also, be sure to practice self-care during this process as emotional exhaustion can lead to physical fatigue, brain fog, and general malaise.
Stay Away from Arguments
It is easy to argue with someone who is suffering from a substance use disorder. Dealing with substance use disorders and recovery can cause irritability, stress, and anger. They may experience some withdrawal symptoms, have mental health issues, or struggle with other things while they are dealing with substance use disorder. Try not to engage in arguments with them. They may get angry, but don’t get baited into it. Trust your gut, learn what makes a situation feel unmanageable, and get some fresh air when you hit your threshold.
There is No ‘Fix’
Unfortunately, there is no ‘fix’ for a partner that is struggling with a substance use disorder. It is best to stop blaming oneself and focus on the other person. It’s not anyone’s fault, but the person who uses and acts that way will have to be the one to make better choices to stop drinking or using substances. They need professional help to quit and seek recovery. It is not up to anyone else to control their behavior. They will be the ones to make decisions that will enable them to find hope and healing in recovery.
Be Mindful of Enabling Behavior
A part of the recovery process that is necessary for healing is refusing to enable behaviors. Don’t mistake enabling for caring. Driving them home and putting them to bed to avoid facing the consequences of heavy drinking is not helpful. It is not healing for them to keep getting bailed out of jail when their substance use disorder takes them down the wrong pathways. Enabling may not look like enabling, but it is keeping them locked in their sickness, as opposed to dealing with the consequences. Being in a relationship with someone who has a troublesome relationship with drugs or alcohol can leave the people around them mentally drained. Be reminded there is no obligation to stay and try to help them, and attempting to help them get professional care is the best anyone can do. Keep trying for their sake (and everyone else involved), but don’t put everything at risk for that person. It may just take that one time they realize they need help to get them on the right track. Don’t face it alone. Seek advice from supportive communities that help family members of loved ones with substance use disorders and know there is hope on the horizon.
Ashley Addiction Treatment is an innovative treatment program located on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. Ashley provides support for professionals seeking help with addiction. We can help people with co-occurring disorders and offer confidential treatment programs to meet your needs. Please reach out to us today at 800-799-4673.