Living with an Addict
May 14th, 2019
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that there are over 24 million Americans that currently meet the criteria for Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Most of these people have a group of loved ones and family with whom their relationship has been destroyed or is in serious jeopardy due to their prolonged and untreated substance use. The behavioral and lifestyle fallout of addiction is usually felt strongest and most immediately in the user’s home life. Those who have experience living with an addict are acutely aware of the lack of stability, the emotional turmoil and the rampant dysfunction this disease brings.
Common Pitfalls of Living with an Addict
Addicts who are actively using drugs and alcohol expose their family and loved ones to a variety of physical, emotional and lifestyle issues, especially if they’re living in the same home.
The exact nature of these issues is often contingent upon the nature of the relationship; however, some of the more common include:
- Physical or Verbal Abuse
- Neglect or Abandonment
- Financial Instability
- And More
These issues can, and often do, have a long-term impact on loved ones of addicts’ emotional health and quality of life. This can include spouses or significant others, children, extended family members, and even close friends. Although an addict’s domestic relationships are generally confined to spouses or significant others and children, their addiction can, and usually does impact anyone they happen to live with.
Signs That You’re Living with an Addict
Once substance abuse turns to addiction, it often comes to light very quickly in a dramatic and dangerous fashion. It is also true, however, that addicts very often go to great lengths to hide their substance abuse before their addiction ultimately forces them to engage in obvious and transparent alcohol or drug-seeking behavior.
Some of the more common signs that you’re living with an addict include but are not limited to:
- Erratic Changes in Behavior
- Neglecting Household and Familial Responsibilities
- Deception Regarding their Substance Use
- Withdrawing Large Sums of Money from Savings
- Isolated or Withdrawn Behavior
- Irritability and Aggression
- Risky Behavior
- DUI or Other Legal Troubles
- Problems at Work
- Loss of Interest in Family, Friends and Former Hobbies
These signs and symptoms can quickly escalate into abusive or negligent behavior. If you’ve noticed any of these signs, talk to your loved one immediately.
Living with an Addicted Spouse or Significant Other
The impact that addiction can have on a marriage can destroy the union beyond reparation. Between issues of mistrust, lack of dependability, and downright fear, addiction can be one of the most destructive obstacles a marriage can face. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has found that addiction is a factor in as much as 40 to 60 percent of intimate partner violence incidents. If you’re living with an addicted spouse or significant other, the pathway to peace and resolution can be difficult.
There are, however, some measures you can take to maintain stability:
- Acknowledge the Problem Exists
- Put Your Safety and Family First
- Set Up Boundaries and Stop Enabling
- Educate Yourself about Addiction
- Explore Treatment Options
- Talk to Your Addicted Spouse
- Be Compassionate Yet Assertive
- Explore Treatment Options for Yourself
Navigating a marriage where addiction is present is a balancing act between assertiveness, compassion, support, and self-preservation. If your loved one is doing what they need to do to recover, then it’s very possible to work toward reconciliation; however, denial and hostility can easily get in the way of repairing the marriage and healing the union.
Living with an Addicted Parent or Guardian
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that nearly nine million children aged 17 or younger live in households in the United States with at least one parent with SUD. The dynamics of a parent-child relationship can make it very difficult for a child to feel empowered to intervene in their mother or father’s substance use. Even as they get older, many children feel it’s not their place to try and help. While physical and psychological self-preservation should be the top priority for children of addicts, there are multiple resources to help them take an active role in their parent or caretaker’s recovery, or at least stay safe and protected from the immediate fallout of their parent’s substance abuse.
The most important thing to remember is that your loved one’s addiction is not your fault. It can, however, quickly become your problem. You must put yourself and your family first as you endeavor to get your addicted family member the help they need.
You Have More Power than You Think.
As difficult as it may be living with an addicted loved one, and as hard as it may be to believe that things can get better, family members are often uniquely positioned and empowered to facilitate intervention and treatment. They can help their loved ones explore rehab options, set behavioral parameters, and act as a support system. Whether your addicted loved one can benefit from intensive outpatient (IOP) treatment or needs a more in-depth level of care at an inpatient facility, there are more and more treatment options out there.
It’s best to choose a treatment center that offers family therapy to help heal the family unit, educate loved ones about the disease of addiction, and help the patient’s family members better understand their role in the recovery process. One of the primary causes of relapse is the recovering person’s inability to successfully transition back into their everyday lives after treatment. Family therapy helps develop a framework for post-treatment family interaction. Help your addicted loved one get the help they need, now.