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How Your Addiction Affects the People Around You

Addiction is all-consuming. Addiction deeply effects your relationships. You no longer feel like you are in the driver’s seat of your life. You don’t understand or like the person you’ve become, but using drugs or alcohol seems like it’s out of your control. The people who care about you are feeling another type of agony right now, and they are experiencing their own challenges as a result of your addiction—challenges that you may not even be aware of.

Addiction is a disease that’s packed with shame and self-hatred. You are likely feeling plenty of shame without thinking about how you’re affecting others. The thing is, understanding the way your addiction affects the people around you is not about shaming you into treatment or making you feel worse. Shame is not a helpful emotion. It keeps you trapped in self-disgust and inaction.

Guilt is another story.

Guilt and taking responsibility for your actions can be a route back to the part of yourself that’s vulnerable and authentic, and that often gets buried in addiction. It reopens your heart. Addiction and relationships are complicated. It’s okay and normal to feel bad about the ways your addiction has affected others. It’s also okay to forgive yourself. Unlike shame, which keeps you immersed in addiction, guilt often drives people to make amends with themselves and others—and has been found to be a key motivator in recovery.

Addiction & Relationships: 7 Ways Your Addiction Might Be Impacting the People Around You

1. Chronic Stress

Watching a loved one struggle with addiction can be terrifying and depleting. They are constantly worried about you. Every time the phone rings, they wonder if it will be the call they most fear. When you’re not around, there’s a constant stream of worries in the back of their mind about whether you’re in danger—or worse. They may feel bad that they can’t help you and blame themselves. They may have trouble setting boundaries with you.

Chronic stress can greatly increase people’s risk for all kinds of long-term health problems. Some of these include:

  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Arthritis
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Chronic pain

2. Loss of Relationship

Your friends and family are grieving the loss of the relationship they had with you. Addiction has changed your relationship and their ability to relate to you as they did in the past. Some people describe it as finding yourself in a relationship with an individual who looks like the one they love but feels like a stranger. Many loved ones feel like it’s inevitable that addiction will overtake them and are already in a state of mourning because of it.

3. Long-Term Emotional Issues

Substance abuse can be detrimental to your loved ones’ mental health. Chronic anxiety from worrying about you or depression from feeling helpless can lead to long-term mental health symptoms. Children especially feel the effects of addiction. A large body of research shows that having a parent who abuses substances can lead to challenges with:

  • Trust
  • Trauma
  • Relationships
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Emotional development
  • Social development
  • Intellectual development

Children with an alcoholic parent are four times more likely to develop a substance use disorder.

4. Changed Roles

Friends and family members often take on the role of caregiver when a loved one is addicted. For example, children of parents with alcohol or drug problems may begin making meals, taking care of the parent when they’re under the influence or sick from using, and taking on the parent role with younger siblings.

Spouses and children may long for the parent or partner you once were, and believe that if they do these things, you may get better. But in becoming a caregiver, they cease to be a friend or family member. Caregiving can be a great burden. It can take a toll on their own health as well. They become so focused on your needs, that they neglect themselves. Research shows that the loved ones of people with addictions are usually negatively impacted financially, physically, and emotionally.

5. Enabling Behaviors

Like changed roles, those close to you may feel they need to protect you by doing things they would not normally. The problem is that their intentions to help you are keeping you stuck in your addiction. They’re not allowing you to suffer the consequences of your actions. Enabling behaviors include things like:

  • Covering for you when you miss work, school, or social obligations
  • Lying to friends and family about your substance use or situation
  • Taking on your responsibilities such as caring for children
  • Bailing you out of jail or paying for legal expenses due to your substance use
  • Allowing you to live with them even though you continue to abuse drugs and alcohol and behave disrespectfully
  • Not providing consequences when you steal their money or items to sell

Enabling behaviors keep both you and your loved one trapped in the addiction cycle. These behaviors also wear on their:

  • Self-esteem
  • Emotional health
  • Physical health
  • Happiness
  • Finances

6. Mistreatment

Addiction and relationships can be a volatile combination. People in active addiction are often not concerned with those around them. Their focus is on getting and using more drugs or alcohol. This can lead to uncharacteristic behavior from mistreatment to full-fledged abuse.

You may steal from your loved ones or take advantage of them financially. Maybe you get into arguments and say hurtful things when you’re under the influence. In some circumstances, mistreatment escalates to:

  • Physical abuse (assault)
  • Verbal abuse (name-calling and threats)
  • Emotional abuse (attempts to emotionally degrade or manipulate people)

Friends may be negatively impacted as well. You may crash on their couch one too many times or take money from them. They may feel scared to say no to you and burdened by your constant outreached hand or need for rescue.

7. Legal & Financial Problems

Your substance abuse can be a financial and legal burden on your loved ones and employers. Loved ones may be paying for such things as your car, rent, phone, legal fees, and food. Your loved ones can also get tied up in their own legal problems related to your substance use.

Your employer and coworkers can be affected as well. Some estimates show employees with substance use disorders cost employers almost $9,000 every year. When you abuse drugs and alcohol, you’re more like to incur absences or suspensions, have poor job productivity, get into accidents on the job, and lose or quit your job. In the long run, this costs employers and coworkers in:

  • Recruiter fees
  • Training time
  • Temporary workers
  • Increased insurance premiums
  • Employee morale

Don’t Risk Mixing Addiction and Relationships: Get Help Now

These realities aren’t easy to face, but recovery helps you forgive yourself, make amends, and change your course going forward. Many people need more intensive treatment in early recovery than what Alcoholics Anonymous or outpatient treatment can provide. Inpatient rehab or a partial hospitalization program is often the place to start for people struggling with substance abuse so much that it’s significantly impacting their lives. A residential addiction treatment program provides space away from triggers so you can focus on yourself and getting better.

If you’re struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, call Vogue Recovery Center for a free, confidential consultation. We’ve helped thousands of people take back their lives. We can help you too.

Our addiction treatment programs are evidence-based and include outpatient drug rehab and inpatient drug rehab options:

You’ll take part in a blend of individual therapy and group therapy. Family therapy is also available as appropriate. Our staff is compassionate experts in the field. They use traditional therapies like:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Support groups (including Alcoholics Anonymous and SMART Recovery)
  • Relapse-prevention training
  • Individual, group, and family therapy
  • Mental health treatment for co-occurring disorders like trauma, depression, and anxiety that can fuel substance abuse
  • Medication management for co-occurring disorders

We also incorporate holistic approaches like:

  • Yoga
  • Mindfulness
  • Music therapy
  • Art therapy

Addiction recovery is possible and worth it. If you’re struggling with substance abuse, call to see what treatment programs best fit your needs. We can also help you determine if your insurance covers rehab.