Living with addiction? You need support too.....
For those who have an addiction, the addiction is an escape.
Those who live with someone who has an addiction there is no escape. They are not the ones who get a pat on the back. They often don't get recognition. Living with a partner who has an addiction means a lot of new starts. A lot of emotional ups and downs. Those not 'knowing where you are' feelings.
Addictions often start small. Then they begin to encroach on relationships within the household. There is often a change of behaviour. Walls are put up out of fear or anger. The nearest and dearest are shut out. The family tends to turn on itself. A wall is mounted against all outsiders.
Sadly we often don't spot the worrying signs until we look back and see the pattern which has, in many cases, been well established. Sometimes for many years. Passed on from generation to generation. Often we find ourselves attracted to those with addictions if we have come from a similar addictive background ourselves. It can feel familiar, it can feel safe. It's what we know.
As partners become aware of what is going on they often become detectives - looking for signs, for the hidden substance, for the secret hoard. For the bank statements. For the text messages.
When I ask clients why they think they have continued to stay with someone who has an addiction their answers vary. Sometimes they stay for the sake of the 'children'; others are fearful that if they leave 'something awful will happen'. By the time they come for therapy the partner has issued so many ultimatums that they seem to have become empty threats.
We can be unwitting enablers to the person with the addiction. Co-dependency is present when we keep the family together and make sure everything and everyone is okay - when it clearly is not. This can prevent change as this risks exposure to what is really going on.
What to do?
- Talk to others in a similar situation.
- Encourage the person with the addiction to seek professional help.
As I often point out to clients, trying to change others, especially those with an addiction, is nigh on impossible. In my view, we can change ourselves and when we do, if often happens that the person with the addiction comes to realise they need to change too.