Is your partner addicted to alcohol or drugs? Living with an addict can be tough and can put a big strain on your relationship. It’s important to know when to take action – whether you choose to help your partner overcome their addiction or leave them. This post explains more. 

The signs of an addiction

First, it’s important to understand the signs of addiction. When does alcohol consumption or drug use turn into substance abuse? Any of the following signs could be an indicator that your partner has developed an addiction:

  • Your partner drinks or takes drugs on a daily basis
  • Your partner relies on alcohol or drugs to unwind. If they don’t drink or take drugs, they become irritable or perhaps even aggressive.
  • Your partner has already experienced ongoing negative effects from drinking or drugs (such as health problems, neglecting important responsibilities, outbursts of violence or getting into legal trouble) and yet they continue to drink/take drugs.
  • Your partner tried to hide the fact that they drink or take drugs excessively

Should you leave or help your partner?

You shouldn’t have to put up with a partner’s addictive behavior. This gives you two choices: support them in helping them to break their addiction, or leave them.

Leaving a partner is likely only to be an option if there is no love in the relationship or if you/your kids are in danger. It is generally a good idea to leave a relationship with someone who is addicted if they are regularly behaving violently, sleeping with other people or openly taking drugs in front of your kids. Until they have rectified their behaviour, it may not be safe for you or your kids to continue living with them – and they need to understand the gravity of their actions. 

If you still have a lot of love for your partner and they are not causing danger to you or your kids, then helping them is of course the best option. Overcoming an addiction often requires support from other people. In most cases, you cannot sit back and expect them to change their ways on their own – most people need to be continuously pushed by loved ones to remind them what is at stake. But of course this has to be done in the right way.

How to help your partner

There are a few things you can do to help your partner overcome their addiction. Below are just some of the steps to consider.

Express your concern

The first step to helping someone beat an addiction is to get them to accept that they are addicted. To do this, you will need to express your concern repeatedly. Make them understand that taking drugs everyday or getting drunk on a weekday is not okay and explain why you are not happy with it. 

Do not express your concern in an aggressive way. It is better to come across sad or even frightened as they are less likely to get defensive.

Research into the addiction

By understanding the addiction better, you can be more constructive when it comes to helping them recover. This could include understanding exactly what addiction does to the body and brain, as well as the types of treatment that are recommended.

This could include looking at informational sites online or talking to professionals that work with people who are addicted. 

Give up together

If you drink or also take drugs, consider whether you’re up for the challenge of also giving up or cutting down. Seeing you make efforts to change your life could help motivate them to do the same. It will make overcoming addiction a less lonely process and you can both steer each other away from temptation.

Of course, if you find yourself becoming easily tempted back into drug use or alcohol use, this won’t work (and could be a sign that you too are addicted). 

Help them find new passions and goals

You can also encourage your partner to find new passions and goals to help replace their addiction. This could help distract them from their addiction and give them a new focus.

You could even consider finding new passions and goals to take up together such as exercising together, taking on DIY projects together or developing new joint hobbies.

Know when to plan an intervention

An intervention may be necessary if your partner is refusing to accept their addictive behavior, if they are making no attempts to change or if they are trying to change but constantly relapsing. Just what is an intervention? In most cases, it is a last resort attempt to get through to someone by rallying multiple people together – such as family members and close friends – to express their concern.

Having multiple people rally together could help your partner realize the seriousness of the situation and could help them appreciate the support that they have around them. However, it could also backfire and make your partner feel as if they have been ganged up upon. This is why it’s worth working with an interventionist to organize the event properly so that it doesn’t do more harm than good. 

Know when to use tough love

Sometimes you need to use tough love to protect you and your partner. This may be the only way to make them realise the seriousness of their addiction and the effect it is having.

A few examples of tough love include:

  • Throwing away any drugs or alcohol that you find stashed away – no matter how much money was spent on them.
  • Threatening to ring the police if they continue their behavior, and following through when necessary.
  • Refusing to cover up for them or tell lies to an employer and making them aware of this from the onset – even if it means they could lose their job or get into legal trouble. 
  • Not letting them in the house if they come back intoxicated late without a key and are acting aggressively. 

Look after yourself

While trying to help your partner, you could end up neglecting your own health if you are not careful. If you are getting frustrated by setbacks or feel that the responsibility is too great, make sure to talk to people around you. If you have no friends or family members that you feel comfortable opening up to, consider talking to a counsellor. You don’t want to spiral into depression and end up being the one who needs looking after.

Similarly, be aware of your own addictive behaviors. The worst thing you can do when living with an addict is to try to keep up with their addictive behavior. Notice when you are becoming as bad as them and take measures to cut down or quit yourself – you cannot convince someone to beat an addiction if you are also an addict.