Addiction can unapologetically take control and destroy everything in someone’s life, including the relationships they have with friends, loved ones, and simple everyday encounters with people. For some people dealing with addiction, specific relationships can be more dynamic, where people play cause-and-effect roles. This makes breaking the cycle of addiction exceptionally hard, as it changes everything around the person who is dealing with it, including the people who love them. When drugs take hold of the main pleasure-center of the brain, relationships can often fall by the wayside.
Deception and Lies
One of the most common frustrations people have with their loved one who is addicted to drugs is the level of secrecy involved in their daily lives. When a loved one begins to center their lives around drug use, they may not be fully aware of how much they are spiraling out of control. At a certain point, when and if they’ve realized how bad their drug misuse has gotten, they will immediately revert to feelings of shame and guilt. This causes people to become very secretive about their activities and overall state of being. Little white lies that seem harmless start turning into bigger deceptions, sometimes leading a person to live a double life to cover up their drug use. The biggest motivating factor of some of this behavior is fear of judgment. Some people will begin to isolate themselves from people who know them best in order to cover their lies and addiction that is spiraling out of control.
Common lies begin with simple things like lying who they are hanging out with, locations they are frequenting, where money is being spent, why stuff in the house are missing, and other questions about their odd behaviors. This usually occurs at the very point when someone’s drug misuse turns into an addiction that will quickly begin to erode away at their intrapersonal relationships the most.
Loss of Trust
A natural result of dealing with someone’s constant lies is a loss of trust. Deception, secrecy, and unexplainable distancing from someone who may be dealing with addiction can quickly rob the relationship of trust. These issues are mostly felt along with things like loss of respect, resentment, and disloyalty. When these feelings fester, they can begin to erode a relationship from the inside out. Romantic relationships can be most damaged by addiction for reasons of distrust, especially when issues of jealousy, possessiveness, and fear are not discussed productively. Often, people who are in the grips of addiction don’t have the energy or desire to spend on relationships or people who are not related to their drug use. Many spouses and significant others fall into second place to drugs, and the people their addicted loved one is spending time with while participating in their use. Trust is an essential part of any relationship, whether it is romantic or not. Once trust is lost, it’s challenging for someone with an addiction to maintain relationships without seeking treatment.
Violence and Abuse
An incredibly traumatic effect that addiction can have on relationships is domestic violence. Much displaced anger and growing resentment in a relationship where drugs are involved can bubble up and explode in violent ways, leading to potentially fatal consequences. If someone is using substances that can cause aggressive behavior; small fights can quickly ignite and turn into uncontrollable rage. Those living with people who are addicted to drugs that can lead to wildly volatile behavior are at severe risk for victimization, along with any other family members or children living in the home. In turn, the violence can also be exhibited by the person in the relationship who is not using drugs. They are angry at the person with addiction for their disease and are acting out their anger in abusive ways. Both situations are unfortunately common and are not always dealt with properly, causing many to suffer in silence due to shame and fear.
When someone loves or cares for a person with an addiction, their love can sometimes cloud their judgment. It’s not uncommon for loved ones to try to “help” the person with the addiction, but in ways that end up enabling the person to continue using drugs. Typical enabling behaviors include taking over responsibilities and feelings of the loved one with an addiction, working to minimize negative consequences for the person struggling with addiction, taking on blame for someone else’s addiction, and making excuses for poor behavior. Financial enabling is also a classic way some may feel they are helping, when they are in fact, hurting someone who is unable to control their drug misuse. A loved one may think that their money will go towards groceries, self-care, or other things like transportation, when in reality, someone who is in the depths of addiction will use cash for drugs before all else. The fine line between helping and hurting can be very difficult for all people involved.
Just like enablers, people who are in codependent relationships with people who suffer from addiction will usually not realize that they are not helping as much as they think they are. Codependent relationships are always one-sided. Someone who is codependent on a loved one with addiction may be suffering because of the effects of their drug misuse, but also enjoys being in charge of the role of “caretaker” for that person. They enjoy the feeling of being needed, or that the person with addiction comes to them for help. Often these behaviors are coupled with martyrdom, of the constant feeling of sacrifice for the good of someone else, even if that person is actually suffering from substance use disorder and doesn’t need the kind of help they are offering! These people are often fulfilling their own needs of attachment and closeness, but unfortunately, for all the wrong reasons. Coupled with enabling behaviors, these relationships are often the most toxic and exist in all kinds of relationships from familial to romantic and even close friendship.
Those who seek treatment will often be enrolled in counseling that can involve other people like family members, spouses, significant others, and close friends. The repairing of dysfunctional behaviors and habits that are results of addiction can be difficult, but with the tools that are provided and taught in treatment, the recovery process can be a great time of healing for all of those who have had their relationships impacted by addiction.