Addiction is a nasty creature. Not only does it affect the life and health of the addicted individual, it affects every person in their life, especially their significant other. If you are the spouse or partner of someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it's important to understand their addiction and why you are susceptible to codependency in your relationship.
By understanding the dynamics of addiction and codependency, you and your significant other may have a better chance of having a happy relationship. Here's some things to understand and how to get help.
Understand the drug or alcohol addiction
It's important to understand the addiction your loved one has. Many drugs are central nervous stimulants that alter the reward/punishment system in the brain by releasing dopamine, which makes the individual feel high.
When the addict comes off of the high, they feel punished. Their brain reacts to the immediate lack of dopamine, which can cause them to have anxiety, become depressed, experience hallucinations, and be aggressive and irritable. At that point, they would do anything to feel the rewards of being high again, including lying, cheating, and stealing.
Understanding your codependency to the addiction
Many people who are in your situation do not realize it, but they can be codependent to the behaviors of the addiction. Codependency is when your behavior is directly attributed to your loved one's addiction. It's when you find yourself constantly worrying about whether or not your loved one is off somewhere getting high.
Codependency is also why you may find yourself making excuses for your loved one and apologizing to others when they are irrational. It's also when you adjust your schedule and negate your own personal needs to compensate for the needs of your addicted loved one. You may take on a parental role and protect your loved one.
Your codependency is enabling your addict
By being codependent to the addiction your loved one has, you become an enabler of the addiction. For example, you may think you are helping your loved one by keeping their addiction a secret and covering for them if they fail to show up for work, but this is actually enabling their addiction.
The addict will not have to take responsibility for their behavior, because you'll do it for them. You'll need to learn new ways to cope with your addict so you can stop destroying your own life by being codependent. The best way to do this is through rehabilitation.
You both need rehabilitation & counseling
Most addicts require intensive rehabilitation drug treatment in an inpatient facility to recover from their addictions. However, codependents need treatment as well, and rightly so. It's challenging to overcome the constant worrying and parenting a loved one does when in a relationship with an addict.
For the addict, the true test of recovery is when they are placed back out into society and go back to the environment they were in when controlled by their addiction. For the codependent, the test comes from letting their partner go somewhere alone without becoming frantic that they'll get a hold of drugs.
Most drug treatment centers offer couples counseling, family meetings, and educational classes for the family members of their patients so they can learn to stop enabling through codependency. While your loved one is in rehab, it is crucial that you attend as many sessions and classes as possible to help you overcome your codependency. After rehab, it's important to continue to get counseling with your partner to work through the various situations that will likely come up when you both begin a new life together.
After a thorough evaluation, your therapist will determine a game plan based on the severity of the drug addiction and your codependency. The therapist will also take your personalities and communication skills into account when determining what type of therapy would work best for your relationship and how long you may need it. Generally, there is no predetermined time frame for counseling because it's determined on a case-by-case basis. When it comes to rehab and counseling, one size does not fit all.