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The Heartbreak of Addiction: Coping When Your Significant Other Relapses

The Heartbreak of Addiction: Coping When Your Significant Other Relapses

If you live with someone with an addiction, you may feel like you’re not living at all. You love your partner, but dealing with the lies you so desperately want to believe and the deep denial that feeds their dependence have put the relationship under enormous strain. Life with an addicted partner can feel like a three-way struggle: you, your loved one, and an uninvited partner called substance abuse.

And all too often, the substance wins.

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Even when your significant other has sought help for their addiction, and through hard work and dedication has seemingly broken free from the overwhelming urge to use, the war is often not over. In fact, it rarely ends with the first battle. Relapse is common, and to watch the dependence resurface and the behaviours return is devastating. It’s like your world is imploding all over again.

What Does Addiction Feel Like?

When you can appreciate what your partner is going through, you’ll better understand the painful struggle they face when breaking an addiction. If you speak with those who have conquered their dependency on alcohol or other drugs, or have quit obsessive behaviours like gambling or overeating, they will tell you that their compulsion felt like an “insatiable hunger” or an “itch that couldn’t be scratched,” and that they would do anything for another fix. Changes in an addict’s brain chemistry can make it so that nothing feels manageable unless they are high. And along with the relentless cravings can come feelings of guilt, depression and self-loathing.

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The Journey Is Long, but Rewarding

Research shows the percentage of people who will relapse in their first year of sobriety can be as high as 90%. These may seem like pretty poor odds, but it shows the journey from addiction is a long one and there will almost surely be stumbles along the way. Do not take a relapse as a failure. It’s part of the recovery process and can actually give a loved one the opportunity to learn more about themselves and their triggers, strengthening their recovery in the long term.
When you discover your partner has relapsed, you will likely feel let down, cheated and hurt, but you must focus on taking steps to address the issue. Your significant other needs your love and support. Resist any temptation to judge; instead, stand firmly beside them as they restart their recovery. Remember, however, to take care of yourself. Consider individual therapy or join a support group such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon. Staying healthy is one of the most important things you can do to provide the support your partner needs.

It Is Not Your Battle, but You Are a Key Player

You cannot control or “fix” an addict. You can’t force someone to get sober. However, you are a vital part of their support network and there are things you can do to help them:

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  • Encourage and love them – Their addiction may leave them feeling shameful and hopeless, which is a recipe for escaping back to drugs.
  • Boost their willpower – Addiction can feel like an endless loop that the addict just can’t break out of. You can be part of their reason to quit. They have done it before. They can do it again.
  • Set a good example – Make sure you don’t have alcohol or other drugs in the house, and don’t drink alcohol in their presence.
  • Keep them healthy – Go to the gym together or just for a run. Exercising is a natural way to stimulate the production of endorphin’s — the brain’s natural “feel good” chemicals. Also, make sure they’re eating nutritious food. A proper diet is vital to the healing process.

Get Help

You and your partner do not have to fight this battle on your own. There are highly qualified doctors and therapists who have dedicated their lives to helping people recover from addiction.  And if relapse happens, get help again. Many people need more than one stay in alcohol or drug rehab to overcome the power of addiction.

Relapse Is Nobody’s Fault

Finally, do not blame yourself or your partner for a relapse. Addiction is a formidable foe and the journey to sustained sobriety can take years. You may feel as though you have let down your partner or they may say it’s your fault that they relapsed. Do not fall into the trap of blame and anger. If a confrontation begins to brew, walk away. Beneath the hostility and addiction is the person you love and they need you more than ever. Do not give up hope. People have recovered from the most entrenched addictions. Your loved one can recover, too.

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More Advice and Information

To learn more about supporting a loved one in recovery, check out these helpful articles from The Right Step.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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