Help! My partner is an addict.
When your partner is an addict, your life gets turned upside down and descends into utter chaos. The trust you have built over your entire relationship quickly disintegrates, resentment builds and builds until the person you once knew is completely gone, replaced with a lying and unreliable shell of the person you used to know. Having a partner with an addiction can be overwhelming and trying to fix the problem can seem impossible. Although simply walking away might seem to an outsider as the easiest and most logical step for you to take, its not always that simple; you love this person, you have built a life with this person and fully committed to them and what you have together, add children into the situation and its even more complicated. So, what can you do to help you and your partner?
Look out for yourself
Its important not to lose sight of your own needs. You can spend so much time worrying about your partner and covering for their addiction that you can forgot to look after yourself. Finding the right supports and education for yourself is paramount. If you’re not looking after you, its impossible to look after someone else.
- Attend Al-Anon (alcoholism support for loved ones) and Nar-Anon (drug addiction support for loved ones) support groups.
- Attend individual therapy
- Attend couples or family counselling with your partner
- Educate yourself about addiction as much as you can. This will help you get a better insight into what you can do as well as what is happening for your partner
- Detaching with love. In other words, care enough about your partner to let them learn from their mistakes. Stop rescuing them from the consequences of their choices.
- Stop blaming yourself for their addiction. They made these choices themselves and they need to get themselves out of it.
- Practice self-care, whatever that means to you; getting a massage, going to the gym, taking a walk, painting a picture etc.
How to treat your partner
- Be patient with your partner
- Don’t blame them for their addiction
- Don’t expect them to be logical – their addiction has distorted their reality and reasoning with them will be impossible
- Be clear with your boundaries so they know exactly where you stand
- Use ultimatums, but only if you plan on going through with them
- Stand your ground. They have been able to manipulate you to get what they want so often before, so when that changes, they may fly into a rage, make your feel guilty, become depressed, develop an illness or be cruel with their words. Don’t let this manipulate you into helping them keep their addiction alive
- Educate yourself and your partner about treatment options that are available to them. These can include residential programs lasting 30 days and longer, out-patient day programs such as Seahaven Private and programs that are completed from home such as Addiction Solutions Victoria
Addiction causes thousands of deaths in Australia every year according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. This alone is reason enough to start making changes to the way you treat yourself and your partner. All treatment options can be successful when your partner is ready and willing to seek help. Remember that they will most likely not want to seek help until the above steps for yourself and your partner have been taken. If living in active addiction is easy for them, there is no reason for them to change.
Jason Bowman is the CEO at Addiction Solutions Victoria, a registered not for profit incorporated association providing out reach addiction treatment and rehabilitation options across Melbourne and Victoria.