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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 September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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