The National Institutes of Health (NIH) report that 10 percent of Americans will struggle with a drug use disorder at some point in their lifetime. This number reflects how pervasive the disease of addiction is throughout the United States. While you may not be addicted to drugs, you may know someone who is, such a friend, family member, or significant other.
When you are dating someone who is addicted to drugs, you can experience a constant rollercoaster of emotions. The ride never seems to stop, and you likely suffer from anger, frustration, sadness, and stress as a result.
But if you are dating someone who you care for, you do not want to see him or her spiral out of control and potentially lose their lives to drug addiction. You know that they need to stop, but you might not know how to help them do that. In fact, you might feel like it is nothing short of a pipe dream to even think of your significant other getting sober and staying in recovery. You can attempt to navigate a relationship with someone who is addicted to drugs, however, it is extremely difficult to do so if you are unaware of how to do it. And, even if you do know what to do, the end result might not always be what you hoped for. This is because addiction is an extremely powerful disease that crosses all boundaries and borders.
Your friends and family may be suggesting (or even bluntly telling you) that you should break up with your partner because of the presence of drug addiction. If you want to remain in your relationship, but find ways to cope and eventually get your partner the help he or she needs, you have a shot at accomplishing those goals, too.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO WHEN DATING A DRUG ADDICT?
Millions of people are in relationships with drug addicts — you are certainly not alone. But you need much more than just knowing that other people are in a similar situation than you when you are dating a drug addict. With the appropriate information, skills, and support, you can make everyday life with your significant other more manageable. Consider the following:
- Seek support — Communities across all states in the country offer several different types of support groups, including support groups for the loved ones of drug addicts. Make it part of your regular routine to attend support groups like those offered through Al-Anon. Al-Anon mirrors the 12 Steps and 12 traditions shared in Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Within these groups, you can learn how to manage life when it seems unmanageable, share your stories and feelings, and learn from others who are also going through what you are experiencing. Community support can keep you going in the right direction and help you to preserve your own wellbeing.
- Set boundaries — People who struggle with substance use disorders are constantly crossing boundaries of those who they love and care for. It is not because they are intentionally striving to do so, but rather the desire to keep using is far greater than anything else. Spend time identifying what your personal boundaries are (no late night calls, no using in your home, etc.) and let your partner know what they are. If he or she disregards those boundaries, you must be prepared to follow through with a consequence.
- Ask for help — There is absolutely no shame in having an addiction, and there is certainly no shame in loving someone who is struggling with one. But the truth of the matter is, you cannot do this alone. Reach out to anyone in the field of recovery, such as counselors, interventionists, or admissions departments to gather as much information as you can about how they can help both your partner and you during this time.
- Get educated – If you do not educate yourself on addiction as a disease, chances are you will struggle significantly more in your relationship than if you had spent the time learning about it. When able to understand how addiction works and why, you can set aside some of your negative feelings and reactions and develop a healthy sense of compassion for your partner’s struggles.
You are not obligated to stay in any relationship with anyone who is abusing drugs if you do not want to. It is always easier said than done to remain in a relationship where addiction is present, but it is possible — especially when your efforts help your partner get the treatment he or she needs.
HOW CAN YOU HELP YOUR DRUG ADDICT PARTNER IN SUCH A CASE?
There are many ways through which you can be of help to your partner if they are battling drug addiction. You do not need to give up hope, and you certainly should not think that you are powerless over getting your partner into treatment. While the decision to get help is ultimately that of your partner’s, your guidance and support can help him or her make the choice to say yes.
So, how can you help your significant other get help? Consider the following:
- Talk with them about your concerns for their wellbeing. It is best to try to have this conversation when he or she is not under the influence and when you are able to remain calm and clear in your communication. It is extremely common for a person addicted to drugs to get defensive and angry when their addiction is brought up. If you feed off of his or her reactions, everything you are attempting to talk to him or her about will fall on deaf ears. Share why you are concerned, what you are seeing from your standpoint, and how his or her drug use is impacting you.
- Do your research by learning more about addiction treatment programs both in and out of state. Find out what facilities have open beds, what types of programming they offer, and what their payment/financing options are. Share this information with your loved one in a kind, supportive manner. Even if he or she refuses help at the time, you will be well prepared to get him or her admitted to treatment if and when he or she asks for help.
- Seek therapy for yourself. If you do not take care of yourself, there is no way that you will be able to help your loved one get the help he or she needs. By seeing a therapist or other mental health professional, you will not only get the opportunity to work on yourself and the issues that are impacting you, but you will also be able to develop skills that help you coexist and function with your partner in a manner that can lead to recovery.
It might sound ironic to help yourself in order to help your partner, but it is imperative that you do. Since he or she is not of right mind to make decisions and take appropriate actions for his or her own wellbeing, it is important that you can step in and help in an effort to get him or her the help that will save his or her life.
ARE YOU DATING A DRUG ADDICT AN ADDICT IN DENIAL?
Some drug addicts have strong, nonconforming personalities that clash with the expectations of societal norms. To them, conformity does not allow for individuality, and it might lead to dissatisfaction with being forced to accept responsibilities. Consequently, they may use their own distorted views of how “life and people treat them” to justify using heroin and behaving irresponsibly. Denying responsibility is also a form of manipulation, a psychological tool that most addicts are experts at using to get the kind of sympathetic attention they want from others.
Heroin addicts refuse to think about how their addiction is affecting those who care about them because the depth of their addiction disrupts normal thinking patterns. Failing to acknowledge the consequences of their addiction helps them avoid the guilt and sorrow they feel deep within themselves. Although your significant other may appear apathetic to the heartache they are causing you and other loved ones, they are unconsciously relying on a psychological defense mechanism they truly have no idea they are using.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU ARE DATING A DRUG ADDICT?
Addiction is so powerful and overwhelming that even the most educated of individuals find themselves denying that their loved one is addicted to drugs. The thought that someone you care for is struggling with a disease that can kill them is almost too much to bear. Plus, by the time your loved one is addicted to drugs, you have probably developed a lifestyle around that addiction. Even though that lifestyle is probably not healthy, it is one that you feel you can mostly predict. Stepping outside of your comfort zone and shaking everything up by shedding light on your partner’s drug addiction can be highly uncomfortable and even frightening.
Do not feel ashamed if you know that you are dating a drug addict but are struggling to accept it or spent a great deal of time denying it. More people than not find themselves in denial of the severity of their partner’s addiction, as it is normal to do so. But you may not be one of those people. Instead, you might be someone who is not sure if their partner is a drug addict or not, and there is no shame in that either. The most important thing you can do, however, is to learn the signs and symptoms of drug addiction so that you can be fully aware of what you are dealing with in your relationship.
Each type of drug can produce its own defining set of symptoms, however, drug addiction on the whole often displays itself through many common symptoms, such as:
- Being dishonest about whereabouts
- Being deceitful with money (e.g. asking for money for gas but using it to buy drugs instead)
- Experiencing frequent mood swings
- Increased irritability
- Increasing the amount of drugs he or she uses in order to achieve the desired high (also known as tolerance)
- Using other drugs to help counteract the effects of the primary drug of use (e.g. snorting cocaine to boost one’s energy after abusing a depressant like heroin)
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when unable to use (e.g. shakiness, nausea, diarrhea, sweating, stomach cramps, etc.)
- Continuing to use drugs despite suffering consequences of doing so (e.g. continuing to use prescription pills while driving after receiving an OUI)
- Neglecting other responsibilities in order to keep using
- Decline in personal hygiene
You might notice that your partner is experiencing trouble at work, such as being written up or no longer being assigned the same workload. It is also possible that your partner may begin isolating him or herself from friends or family. These are just some of the many signs of drug addiction.
CAN DRUG ADDICTS BE FORCED INTO A RECOVERY PROGRAM?
Sometimes, you can do everything in the book to help your loved one but he or she still will not get help. Your partner’s drug addiction might get to a point where you start wondering if you can force him or her to get treatment. Throughout most of the United States, you cannot make someone get professional addiction treatment. However, in the state of Florida, admitting your partner into treatment against his or her will is possible, however, it is contingent on meeting specific criteria.
The Marchman Act is a law that allows a person to involuntarily admit another individual into treatment. You must be a spouse, blood relative, or among three people with knowledge of your partner’s substance abuse in order to Marchman Act your partner. This should only be used as a last-ditch effort, as attempting to do this can result in legal battles and headaches.
According to the Marchman Act, in order for someone to enact it, the drug addict must be a person who “meets the criteria for involuntary admission if there is good faith reason to believe the person is substance abuse impaired and, because of such impairment:”
Has lost the power of self-control with respect to substance use; and either:
Has inflicted, or threatened or attempted to inflict, or unless admitted is likely to inflict, physical harm on himself or herself or another or:
Is in need of substance abuse services and, by reason of substance abuse impairment, his or her judgment has been so impaired that the person is incapable of appreciating his or her need for such services and of making a rational decision in regard thereto
If your partner is Marchman acted, he or she will not be held for more than five days for stabilization and assessment. If the courts feel it imperative for the individual to get further treatment, they will order him or her to do so.
DOES YOUR PARTNER NEED HELP?
If your partner is in need of help for a drug addiction, do not hesitate to reach out and ask for that help. It can be extremely lonely and depressing to attempt to live with active addiction in your life, but you do not have to go it alone. With the right support, you can get the skills and information needed to encourage your partner to get sober and stay that way.
So, do not wait any longer. Call us right now. We can help.