Unexpected Ways Addiction Affects Relationships

Healing Relationships Affected by Addiction: A Dual Perspective

When you’re in a relationship with someone struggling with addiction, it’s easy to believe that if the addiction gets under control, everything will be okay. However, addiction impacts relationships in profound and unexpected ways, and repairing that damage is a complex process.

The Dual Impact of Addiction

Addiction doesn't just hurt the person using substances; it affects everyone close to them. To understand the full scope of its impact, we need to look at it from both perspectives: the person with the addiction and their loved ones.

The Loved One’s Perspective

For the loved one, the journey through a partner's addiction is often marked by a rollercoaster of emotions. There’s the initial hope that the situation will improve, followed by disappointment when it doesn’t, creating a cycle of trust and betrayal. Over time, this repeated cycle can lead to deep-seated resentment and a profound distrust, not only towards the addicted person but also towards oneself for repeatedly believing things would change.

Many loved ones experience a form of trauma known as betrayal trauma. This trauma goes beyond the typical trust issues, encompassing the cumulative impact of lies, broken promises, and the emotional upheaval of living with someone battling addiction. Loved ones often end up feeling like their trust meter is shattered, with a persistent internal voice accusing them of being foolish for having hope again and again.

Adding to this internal struggle are the voices of friends and family members who often express doubt and skepticism, further undermining the loved one's confidence and contributing to a sense of isolation.

The Addicted Person’s Perspective

The person with the addiction is often seen as the "bad guy" in the story. While it's true they have caused much of the chaos, it's crucial to understand that they, too, have been hurt. Their privacy has been invaded, their autonomy stripped, and they’ve been constantly monitored and judged. This situation breeds its own form of resentment.

Even though they might acknowledge they brought some of this upon themselves, the feeling of being constantly watched and judged can be incredibly demoralizing. They often resent being treated like a child and having every aspect of their life controlled and scrutinized.

Rebuilding Trust and Realigning Roles

Healing a relationship strained by addiction involves more than just stopping the substance use. It requires a shift in the dynamics and roles within the relationship.

For the Loved One

The loved one needs to step back from the overly parental role. This doesn’t mean abandoning support but allowing the person in recovery to reclaim some independence. Trust needs to be rebuilt gradually, and this can be facilitated by setting up a systematic accountability system.

For the Person in Recovery

The person in recovery needs to step up and take responsibility for their actions and their recovery process. They need to demonstrate their commitment to sobriety and rebuild trust through consistent, trustworthy behavior.

Implementing an Accountability System

A structured accountability system can help both parties in this healing process. Such systems provide regular check-ins and monitoring without the need for constant oversight from the loved one. This reduces the tension and the power struggle that often occur when the loved one feels compelled to act as a watchdog.

Tools for Accountability

  • Soberlink: A high-tech breathalyzer that allows for regular, scheduled alcohol testing. It’s beneficial because it automates the monitoring process, enabling the person in recovery to demonstrate their commitment without constant personal intervention from the loved one.

  • Drug Testing Systems: For substances other than alcohol, systems like Clearly, which test for multiple drugs, can be used. These systems also provide regular monitoring and accountability.

By using such tools, the loved one can feel reassured that recovery is being monitored, and the person in recovery can regain a sense of autonomy and trustworthiness.

Moving Forward Together

Healing a relationship after addiction is challenging but with the right tools and approaches, it’s possible. By implementing systematic accountability and realigning relationship roles, both parties can work towards rebuilding trust and moving forward together.

Amber Hollingsworth


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For further insights on rebuilding trust in the early recovery days, check out our next video:

How To Win Over Your Addict Significant Other


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