“There is constant disappointment in family members’ relationships with the addict, as they do not come first. The family becomes emotionally and psychologically affected with the addiction disease, feeling powerless over it, as they truly are. But part of the family disease is that they learn to enable it by deluding themselves into believing the addict will surely see the problem, and stop using.”
~ Anne Salter, LCSW, Family Stew: Our Relationship Legacy
Addiction has a profoundly traumatic impact on even the closest of relationships. It doesn’t matter who the addict is – your spouse/partner, child, sibling, parent, or friend – the dysfunction and chaos caused by active substance abuse takes its toll.
What Kind of Relationship Issues Can Addiction Cause?
Addiction is a paradox. It is a lonely disease that rapidly isolates you from your family and friends. Yet, at the same time, a drug addict or alcoholic does not suffer alone – everyone around them suffers as well.
Active addiction is characterized by denial, deflection, dishonesty, deception, and dysfunction. All of these negative factors can impact close relationships in a number of ways.
- Loss of Trust – As an addiction develops, lies become the norm:
- The frequency and amount of alcohol/drug use
- Their whereabouts and who they are with
- Where “missing” money really goes
- Broken promises
- Ignored commitments
- Neglected obligations
- Increased Conflict – not surprisingly, the loss of expected trust leads to arguments. But a chaotic, addiction-driven lifestyle also breeds insecurity and fear, due to:
- Money problems
- Emotional neglect
- Low self-esteem
- Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
- Warped Dynamics—Over time, in an often-desperate effort to maintain the relationship, family members and friends will engage in unhealthy behaviors that instead enable the addiction to continue:
- Controlling behaviors
- Micro-managing of money
- Obsessing over their whereabouts and actions
- Buying their drugs and alcohol for them
- Allowing substance abuse at home
- Supporting them financially
- Making excuses for them at work, school, or with family
- Bailing them out/Paying their fines
Here’s the thing—over time, the enabling loved one becomes codependent when their identity starts to become defined by their reactions to the other person’s addiction.
They also begin suffering mental disorders of their own—PTSD, depression, anxiety—becoming just as sick as the addict.
The best way to break free of the cycle of addiction, dysfunction, and codependency is with specialized treatment and support, both for the substance abuser and their affected loved ones. If you live in Southern California, Lasting Recovery outpatient rehab in San Diego can help.