An important part of any healthy recovery is establishing a strong support network. This network may include your parents, spouse, trusted friends, church members, counselors and AA members, among others. It is these people who will bring support and guidance on good days and bad and make the recovery process more enjoyable.
At The River Source, we encourage patients to surround themselves with people who have a positive influence on their recovery, regardless of who the person is. Sometimes, it’s better for newly recovering addicts to be with friends or coworkers rather than their own family because of the dynamics involved. It’s unfortunate but not uncommon for addicts to be in relationships with people who can do more harm than good. Could you potentially be in a relationship like this?
What a Typical Relationship Looks Like Between Addicts
Though all relationships are unique, addicts and alcoholics tend to form similar relationships. This is because people tend to choose partners that are on the same maturity level as them. When someone is abusing drugs or alcohol, they aren’t going to attract a responsible, serious-minded person. They are going to attract someone who leads a similar lifestyle.
Since addicts generally carry a lot of weight with them (emotional issues, family conflict, personality disorders), all of this is brought into the relationship. The drugs and alcohol mask these problems, so they quietly exist but are never really brought to light. The substance abuse and underlying issues instead fuel negative behavior such as lying, cheating, stealing, fighting and abuse.
Usually, couples start off enjoying drugs and alcohol together, but neither partner can be truly invested in the relationship no matter how much they care for each other. The addiction will always come first, and this will either break the relationship apart or lead to an unhealthy cycle of breaking up and getting back together. But the real problems don’t start until one partner decides to seek treatment and the other doesn’t.
What Happens When Only One Partner Seeks Treatment?
Let’s take a look at a relationship between Taylor and her boyfriend Chris.
Taylor had dated Chris for about one year, and though they had their ups and downs, they did love each other. They regularly used prescription medication and alcohol, which fueled much of their erratic behavior. Finally, Taylor’s parents stage an intervention and give Taylor an ultimatum: go to rehab or be cut off financially and emotionally from the family. Taylor agrees to seek treatment.
Chris isn’t too happy about the situation. Though he cares for Taylor, his addiction keeps him in a selfish mindset. Who will he have fun with now? What will Taylor be like when she returns home? What if she doesn’t want him? What if he doesn’t want her?
When Taylor returns home, Chris isn’t the best influence on her. He doesn’t know how to have fun without drugs and alcohol, and the problems he brought into the relationship early on are still there. On the flip side, Taylor has had time to work through some of her problems. Though she is far from recovered, she has gotten sober, made friends and attended therapy. Chris is slightly angry and jealous.
Do you think Chris will be a benefit to Taylor’s recovery? Or do you think he may lead her to relapse?
Establishing Healthy Relationships
Newly recovering addicts need to choose their relationships carefully. As you rebuild your life, take a good look at your relationships and determine which ones are worth maintaining. It can be scary to let go of someone you’ve dated; that person may feel like the one familiar thing you have left in your new life. But you must be realistic, too. If the person is just going to slow down your recovery or cause you to relapse, they are better left out of your life, at least for now.
If you truly care about the other person and they care about you, they need to get help, too. They need to get sober and work on their emotional issues before they can be a good influence on your recovery.
Do keep in mind that even if you and your partner decide to get help together, it has to be each of you individually first and the relationship second. If you focus on your partner and the relationship, you’re not going to have time to work on your issues, and this won’t benefit your relationship in any way. This is a unique arrangement that requires a lot of maturity, but it can be done.
It’s also important that you don’t jump into a new relationship too soon after treatment. You have a lot to learn about yourself, and you can’t be a good partner until you sort through these issues. Unfortunately, some recovering addicts are afraid of being alone so they enter into new relationships too soon. Give yourself time. The only relationship that really matters right now is the one you have with yourself.