People get into relationships with drug addicts and alcoholics, sometimes fully aware from the beginning that their chosen partner has problems with substance abuse. Often it is their intention, whether they realize it or not, to be giving addict help. This can be done intending to care for them, or it can be our intention to try and rescue them from their situation.
People look to substance abuse to find emotional security, feelings of comfort and self esteem – something that we normally get as a child and feel entitled to receive.
When, for whatever reason, a child has grown up with a sense of something ‘lacking’ at an emotional level – they will act in ways that they hope will provide them with the satisfaction that they crave. Once a person has found an answer to their need in drug or alcohol abuse, it creates a compulsion to keep using the substance of choice.
Few people realize the powerful attraction of addictive substances when they decide to become involved with an addict. It is jokingly said that when a woman wants to marry – it is always with the intention – “ I will alter him”. Of all the behaviors that people hope to change with caring, love and marriage, nothing is more likely to founder on the rocks of despair than an intention to give a drug addict help.
In personal relationships people with addictive and related emotional problems tend to be either highly dependent individuals or else they defend against feelings of inadequacy and fear by keeping themselves at an emotional distance from other people. The addict uses substances in preference to real intimacy because it makes them, in the early days, feel powerful and in control.
There is no doubt that whatever the depth of our emotional pain, we still try to find relationship with other people in the best way that we can. As a result, people will go out into the world looking for a partner who will meet their emotional need. When two such people meet up and their mutual needs correspond – it can often feel like true love – like a marriage made in heaven.
Need based relationships can provide a sense of satisfaction and security. Such relationships tend to be insular, each very dependent upon the other and neither looking far outside of the relationship for support or friendship.
When people prioritize their “need” for relationship -flaws are ignored or denied, important issues are not discussed. People desperate for relationship simply plunge in, and hope for the best.
When problems emerge, both partners can feel very isolated and alone. Feelings of depression anger and despair become intense when substance abuse is involved.
When the relationship does not meet expectations, there can be feelings of betrayal, humiliation, anger, anxiety and depression. Power struggles emerge when the idealized partner does not act exactly as expected. The relationship simply becomes a series of mutual demands as each tries to get what they need out of the relationship – at the expense of the other.
Addiction issues can lead to violent rows, passive and sullen resentment. People cling to the relationship in hope that things will improve, that in some way they can get back to the lost “ideal”
Dealing with substance abuse means abandoning the illusion and taking stock of what is really happening in the relationship. Often getting help to sort out relationship issues means that both parties need the intervention of a skilled outside observer who can provide both mediation and effective addict help.