Part 3: How to be a Partner Through Addiction

Struggling with an addiction challenges even the most empathic and resolute friend or family member. Being a partner of someone struggling with an addiction can sometimes push one to the edge. As a partner of someone with an addiction, you cannot help but question what is making your partner addicted – is it merely habit or were there conscious choices involved? Whichever accurately reflects the truth, feelings are bound to get hurt.

Addiction can be a touchy subject to discuss due to its negative social stigma attached. Your partner must first admit to themselves that they are, in fact, addicted to something before your offers for help are accepted.

There cannot be silence or secrecy between the addict and his/her partner. If you feel your partner is ready to change, ready to embrace a new life style, and you are ready to be his support partner through this process, compassion is your key to success.

Drawing on your compassion for the addict isn’t always easy. It may be easier to find compassion and seek help for some addictions more than others. For example, many currently struggle with a partner with a history of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and who drinks to cope out of a perceived need to maintain some semblance of normalcy. In this case, there are many resources in place to help a family through this type of addiction. When a partner develops a prescription addiction, on the other hand, it might be more difficult to discover where to start to seek help or how to justify their behavior.

Beverly Engel has been a psychotherapist for over 30 years and has authored 20 books, including Emotionally Abusive Relationships and The Right to Innocence. She states that compassion is what ultimately creates healing. No one should wait until the one they love “hits rock bottom” – this outdated viewpoint can be far more hurtful than helpful. Engels explains, “If you can’t help an alcoholic until he wants help, what will get him to want help? You see, now I’m thinking differently. Now that opens up the door to possibility. Now I can start looking for solutions and answers.”

Just because your loved one is addicted does not mean that you automatically are an enabler or co-dependent and the relationship must end if you two are to ever get better. Instead, become involved in the recovery process. Having compassion does not mean you condone or support the negative behavior in any way. You are merely guiding the addict through steps to getting better. As a partner you must see them, hear them, validate them, let them know you care. More often than not, addiction serves to cover a great deal of shame and pain that is nearly impossible to face alone.

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