It’s commonly assumed that battling addiction is a personal problem. This is false. Addiction and substance use can be devastating to relationships with family, friends, and other loved ones. The strain put upon the family of an addict can give rise to feelings of fear, suspicion, and mistrust. This can lead to broken marriages, shattered families, legal disputes, financial burdens, medical complications, and many other things.
Addiction can take either a physical or behavioral form, though they are often conjoined. When someone thinks ‘addiction’, alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs are what pop into mind, however, there are hundreds of scientifically and medically recognized addictions. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of addiction within yourself or others can give you a jump start on seeking professional help.
The root issue causing compulsive behavior, or addiction, is more important than the type of addiction itself. Locating the root issue enables professionals to tailor-make a unique recovery plan for each individual.
Our highly experienced team of professionals at Crestview Recovery is well-versed in the many forms of addictions and the various treatments that can help each case.
How Does Substance Use Affect Relationships?
Living with an individual who’s struggling with addiction can pose significant challenges, especially when they refuse professional assistance for substance use. Behaviors characterized by addiction and dependency have adverse effects on healthy relationships, and the harm they inflict spreads like a toxic substance, tainting everything it comes into contact with.
Addiction and Family Members
Families with a member who is suffering from addiction are at risk of suffering financial strain and developing negative relations with each other. Inversely, financial disputes and disrupted family relationships can trigger substance dependency and addiction between one or more members.
This can lead to the development of mental health disorders and other health-related issues, which may place more stress on family members. Such cases may call for a dual diagnosis involving substance use treatment programs as well as addressing mental health issues.
Here is a brief look at how alcohol and/ or substance use can affect the family dynamic.
Addiction and Relationships With Parents
Love, trust, and respect are the foundations for a relationship between parents and their children. Alcohol and drugs can find their way into their child’s life and erode this relationship.
Parents’ love for their children gives rise to feelings of worry and guilt and can lead to them developing enabling traits which can escalate their drug and alcohol use even further. An example would be giving their child money or bailing them out of jail or trouble.
Cases like this can lead to children becoming dependent on their parents and loved ones to support them as they continue their journey down the hole of substance use. This then creates a codependent relationship, which makes the cycle even harder to break.
Addiction and Relationships With Siblings
The sibling(s) of an addict is not immune to the goings-on in the home. With most of their parent’s efforts turned toward the child with an addiction, these siblings are often ignored and overlooked, which in some cases can lead them to try drastic measures to get noticed or receive attention from their parents. Observing the family dynamic shows these siblings that there is a guaranteed way to get attention from your parents, and that is to partake in alcohol, drugs, or substance use yourself.
While some possess the strength to abstain from destructive behaviors, it’s possible for siblings to copy addiction behaviors. Younger siblings who look up to their older siblings are at a greater risk of heading down the same path.
Addiction and Relationships With Children
A child could end up living with one, two, or more addicts, depending on the family situation. This child’s emotional, mental, and physical needs wouldn’t be met, which could lead to stunted mental health development. This type of upbringing could lead to insecurities and fear of abandonment in the child, which can directly lead to toxic relationships in the future.
Addiction and Romantic Relationships
Having a partner who is an addict can be more straining for a romantic partner than for an immediate family member. Wanting to help the addicted person and keep them away from their vices, their partner can develop unhealthy controlling and domineering traits. The partner struggling with addiction may, in turn, develop means of coercion and manipulation to get their way. This directly leads to codependent relationships, which are very hard to break out of.
Addiction profoundly impacts romantic relationships, whether it involves a lover or a spouse. The trauma bond emerges when a partner clings to memories of their addict loved one’s past, enduring manipulation and abuse. Rationalizing their partner’s behavior, victims find it difficult to leave unhealthy relationships. Substance use between spouses often leads to domestic violence, financial troubles, legal issues, and infidelity. Supporting an addicted spouse without enabling them is a delicate balance, requiring setting boundaries and recognizing that only the addict can truly help themselves. Preserving and rebuilding fractured relationships hinges on these crucial steps. In these cases, the gender-specific treatment for women and the rehab programs for men at Crestview Recovery can be very beneficial in the healing process.
Addiction and Relationships at Work
Spotting an addict in the workplace can be easier than recognizing one within your own family. Since you are not in constant contact with your colleagues, changing behavior patterns in a person may seem less subtle.
Substance use can make an individual lash out and push away former friends in the workplace, bring down their performance, thus straining their relationship with the management, and possibly lead to workplace hazards and misuse of resources.
How Can I Tell if Someone Is an Addict?
Addiction shows itself differently in every person, and not all signs of addiction are physical or easily detectable.
Drug use targets the brain and changes the body, which leads to a higher chance of showing physical side effects. For example, the well-known ‘meth mouth’ wherein a person’s mouth shows severe signs of damage and decay after prolonged smoking of methamphetamines.
Physical Signs of Addiction
Recognizing the physical signs of addiction can help you answer the question, “Am I A Drug Addict”, or recognize addiction in another.
- Disappearing finances or frequent and erratic spending patterns
- Withdrawal symptoms or hangover in the mornings
- Erratic sleeping patterns
- Dietary changes
- Developing eating disorders
- Unexplained absences, or excuses like ‘errands’ or ‘meeting a friend
- Track marks (needle marks) on various parts of the body
- Paraphernalia (small bags, tinfoil, needles) frequently in the garbage
- Sudden behavior changes around certain friends
Behavioral Signs of Addiction
Symptoms of addiction are not always physical with drug and alcohol abuse. Non-physical signs of addiction can include:
- Abandoning previously enjoyed activities and hobbies
- Increasing tolerance to drugs and alcohol
- Developing problems socially and within relationships
- Ignoring obligations at home, work, and school
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when stopping substance use
- Being unable to stop the behavior
- Engaging in addictive behaviors or using the substance frequently
- Feeling shame/embarrassment after using substances
- Using the activity as a coping method for dealing with trauma or poor mental health rather than seeking professional help.
Not all changes in behavior are an indication of developing an addiction. It’s important to take the correct approach if you suspect a loved one of suffering from physical or behavioral addictions. Reach out to one of our experts if you are unsure or would like more information about signs of addiction and drug or alcohol treatment.
How Does Dependency Differ from Addiction?
Dependency is the state wherein a person is reliant on a substance or behavior to function normally, and often sufferers withdrawal symptoms when the substance is taken away or the behavior is curtailed. A dependency is almost always not an addiction, however, dependencies are gateways into addictions. If you or a loved one is dependent on substances it is important to seek immediate help from a professional before the dependency develops into a full-scale addiction.
Dependency and addiction are related but distinct concepts. Addiction involves a compulsive and harmful relationship with a substance or behavior. Prolonged engagement in addictive behaviors or substance use alters the brain, impairing decision-making, memory, and judgment. It can also lead to mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
Both addiction and dependency can have significant impacts on a person’s life, including organ damage, fatigue, and increased vulnerability to diseases. These consequences contribute to medical and financial challenges within relationships.
Can Relationships Cause Addiction?
While a relationship itself may not directly cause addiction, it can contribute to the development or exacerbation of addictive behaviors. A toxic or severely co-dependent relationship may create an environment for developing a substance use disorder.
If a partner engages in substance use or addictive behaviors, the other person may be more likely to adopt similar behaviors to fit in or bond with their partner. Some partners may use addiction as a means to escape from relationship issues, stress, or emotional pain. Just having a shared environment can increase the likelihood of developing an addiction.
What is a Toxic Relationship?
A relationship governed by abusive behavior, manipulation, enablement, violence, selfishness, and patterns of control can be classified as a toxic relationship. Toxic relationships are not limited to spouses: they can be between siblings, parents, friends, extended family, and co-workers. Toxic relationships harm all parties involved.
What is Codependency?
Psychiatric professionals define codependency as an inordinate psychological or emotional reliance on someone in your life. Codependency could result from one half of the relationship suffering from a serious medical injury, chronic illness, or alcohol/ drug addiction.
The cycle of addiction is fueled by two styles of relationships:
- Enabling: Are you an enabler? When friends and family attempt to help an individual with an addiction, they sometimes end up encouraging and creating a tolerant environment for the harmful behavior to thrive.
- Insecure or secure attachment: Your style of attachment is birthed in infancy and forms the foundation for all of your relationships. You naturally form trusting and healthy relationships with others in life when your upbringing is founded within a loving and nurturing environment. People who are raised by caregivers who neglect and ignore their needs tend to become insecure, needy, and easily manipulated later in life. These insecurities make one prone to toxic relationships and addictions.
How Do Addicts Behave in Relationships?
Being in a relationship with an addict can be both physically and mentally exhausting. A common sign of addiction is secretive behavior, and individuals get very good at hiding their substance use from friends and family. Eventually, the signs of addiction will surpass an their ability to hide drug or alcohol use.
Below are a few behavioral indications that your loved one may be suffering from dependency or addiction.
Feeding their addiction is the main focus for an addict, regardless of any negative consequences. The addiction driving the person from within hampers their impulse control, projecting this behavior outward as selfishness.
Initially, the pleasure derived from alcohol and drug use is the driving force behind the use. With time, pleasure takes the back seat and alcohol and drug use becomes a coping mechanism for relieving pain or discomfort. The addiction has now turned compulsive.
An addict begins to neglect responsibilities and exhibits increasingly irresponsible behavior, putting all of their efforts and focus towards consuming more drugs and alcohol.
Substance use and mental health are linked closely together. There is a cycle where depression can lead to substance use, which can lead to depression, and on and on.
It is important to seek professional help for your loved one if you notice them exhibiting signs of extreme sadness or neglecting their self-care. Ignoring the symptoms could cause the cycle to continue turning and end up leaving your partner with both severe substance addiction as well as mental health issues.
Lashing Out/ Being Abusive
Addiction can enable abusive behavior in some people. Some substances work to inhibit impulse and self-control, and others enhance traits that are dormant within. This can lead to an addict becoming increasingly violent and abusive toward their loved ones.
Many times the person (or people) that try and stop the abuse are the ones who end up taking the brunt of it. This causes addicts to lash out even more when they sense they won’t get their way. In turn, they also turn to manipulation, blame games, and coercion to get what they want.
This is where codependency in relationships has the biggest impact, by allowing the cycle of abuse to continue.
Secrecy and subterfuge grow together with substance use within an addict. This leads to an addict becoming deceitful. Missing funds, random comings and goings at odd hours, and evasiveness when being questioned could be signs of a burgeoning addiction.
Deceitfulness cannot allow a relationship to maintain its health and integrity. Trust will be lost automatically, and suspicions will rule the day. Recognizing this as a sign of addiction within your loved one will help you not take it personally.
Personality changes are brought about by drugs and alcohol causing shifts in the brain. Slowly you see the person you know and love disappear and a seeming stranger takes their place. Prolonged addiction leads addicts to seek like company or become withdrawn and spend time by themself. They develop an emotional distance from their family and loved ones.
Your loved one’s dependence on substances may make it seem as if you are no longer important to them. Motivation and willpower will only take them a short step. They need professional counseling and addiction treatment at Crestview Recovery.
Resources for the Family of an Addict
Resources for the Family of an Addict
Many side effects can affect an addict’s family. Some examples are homelessness, domestic disputes, psychological abuse, shame, financial struggles, insecurity, stress, anxiety, and depression.
Advocacy resources are available through many mediums such as hospitals, community outreach programs, schools, doctors, employers, local health centers, support groups, and church programs. While a family is focused on helping a loved one who is an addict, they still have their own problems and goals. These problems will not disappear or resolve themselves.
Taking advantage of advocacy resources within your community will imbue you with strength and provide you with coping skills, as well as protect the members of your family.
Nonprofessional groups, also known as mutual aid groups, are organizations that offer emotional, spiritual, and social support and information for people struggling with addiction and their family. Many of these groups incorporate the tried-and-tested 12-Step recovery process from AA (Alcoholics Anonymous).
Uncertainty and mistrust are usually the feelings that pop up when counseling is suggested to someone. One wonders whether counseling is really necessary, or whether they could sit down and expose their deepest fears and problems to a complete stranger.
History shows that individual, couple, group, and family therapy sessions can go a long way to aiding the recovery and healing process of an addict.
Some of the therapy programs Crestview Recovery offers are as follows:
How Receiving Treatment Can Help Repair Relationships
It’s important to remember that the road to recovery is not a sprint: it is a marathon. Many times an individual may fall off the wagon and relapse along their journey. These relapses are not complete failures and should not make you quit or give up on your loved one. Having a stable and supportive partner or friend is the foundation stone of an addict’s recovery process.
Many treatments are effective at helping your loved one manage their addictions. Not all instances lead to complete abstinence from physical or behavioral addictions, but they can help reduce their impact on your life.
Speaking with a trained professional can help you and your loved one determine which treatment is best. Some modalities follow an individual therapy method, while others employ group sessions for treatment.
There are support groups for families and loved ones of a person suffering from addiction, which can help you adjust and learn to cope during the difficult time of their recovery. Just the knowledge that you are not alone goes a long way to give you strength and stability.
Contact Crestview Recovery for Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment
Crestview Recovery offers both residential and outpatient drug rehabilitation services. Our center located in Portland, Oregon, is open and ready to accept you or your loved one and give you the help you need. Contact us today for any consultation services, admission, or for any questions or concerns you make have.
Since 2016, Dr. Merle Williamson, a graduate of Oregon Health Sciences University, has been the Medical Director at Crestview Recovery, bringing a rich background in addiction medicine from his time at Hazelden Treatment Center. He oversees outpatient drug and alcohol treatments, providing medical care, setting policies, detox protocols, and quality assurance measures. Before specializing in addiction medicine, he spent 25 years in anesthesiology, serving as Chair of Hospital Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee and Chief of Anesthesia at Kaiser Permanente. This experience gives him a unique perspective on treating prescription drug addiction.