How many times have you asked yourself why you continue to stay in a co-addictive relationship with an addict? When you are in a relationship with someone where a substance comes first it is likely you have tried; ultimatums, interventions, rehab, AA, NA, therapy, family therapy, ignoring, begging, pleading, and crying to no avail. If sobriety IS attained, it is usually followed by relapse and broken promises. Ultimately things go back to the way they were—being last on the list of your loved ones priorities while drugs and alcohol is first.
So how can you become ready to address your own codependence and co-addiction? Tips from someone who’s been there here. And a section at the end for your questions or comments or experiences.
The Beginning Phase: Attraction and love
In the beginning of a relationship with an addict things are usually amazing. Stories of courtship are often described as an incredible experience. This honeymoon period is seen by the sober mate as a remarkable love story. This time is usually described as a period of charm, fascination, and attraction.
The new relationship is so intense that the addict is usually able to hide their demons. In order for an addict to function they must become very good at manipulation, lies and creating drama to deflect their substance abuse. Their behaviors may be so aloof, appealing and beguiling that the sober partner is intrigued by the mystery and thrill of the addict’s actions. Even if the sober partner feels that something may not be right, they ignore their instincts. The addict is able to make light of their substance abuse and convince their partner that they just like to party once in a while.
The person who is sober is so clouded by their desire to be with the addict they do not ask any questions.When the sober mate can no longer keep up with partying or accept the inconsistencies in an addict’s storiesthey may start to ask questions. At this point, it is typically too late. They are already in love.
The Middle Phase: Committment and concern
Loving an addict can bring up many mixed emotions. I started to notice that my boyfriend’s car was home when it was supposed to be at work. When I confronted him, he told me I was seeing things. Then I would drive by his work and notice his car was not there. I wanted to believe I was seeing things more than I wanted to face the fact that my gut was probably right. He called me one weekend and spoke to me in the strangest tone making some outrageous statements. He had disappeared for a couple of days and said he was with friends.
After my worry got the best of me, I went to his apartment. I found him sitting up on his couch, asphyxiating from a drug overdose. Because my feelings for him were so strong, I allowed him to let me believe that this was not a problem and things just got out of control. He swore it would never happen again. I was desperately afraid of this behavior but I loved him so much I felt it would hurt more to be without him.
The middle, or the “discovery period” of a relationship with an addict can be baffling. This is a time where the love is so strong and both parties have made commitments to one another but there is a clear realization that something is wrong. The discrepancies and contradictions in stories and unpredictable behaviors of the addict become more apparent. The addict is feeling more comfortable with the relationship and secure their loved one is not going to just up and leave.But it becomes more difficult for an addict to hide their addiction because they are spending more time with their partner.
Deep down, the sober party knows there is something inherently wrong. They will start to ask questions, dig deeper, and possibly confront the addict about their addictive tendencies. This discovery period can last weeks, months, or years, depending on if the addict is more functional or dysfunctional in their addiction. The sober partner may be questioning their own eyes, sanity, and reality just to try and believe an addict’s lies. Over time,the strange, unexplained behavior can no longer be chalked up to nothing.
It is at this time that the sober partner may become “hooked” or addicted to the addict. Their love becomes more desperate and they feel that it is their responsibility to help the addict see there is something wrong and fix it. The addict will use this love to manipulate their partner into staying.
When will this addiction end?
When it becomes clear that there is a problem things will start to deteriorate in the relationship. The decline can happen very fast. You see the addict as a different person from the one you fell in love. This new person is revealing themselves more and more of the time. The addict is no longer hiding their addiction but instead making excuses for it. Wanting to believe them, you entertain promises of sobriety and proposed behavior changes. These are typically empty promises.
The sober mate knows the addict’s life is at risk. The worry, fear, and obsession over their partner may become chronic. Nights are spent wondering if the addict will come home,and hours or sometimes days are spent waiting for a phone call. This becomes the norm. When they do show up, you watch your spacey-eyed partner make excuses as to why they were not available.The sober mate will make desperate attempts to plead for the addict to change because they hope there is still a viable future for their relationship.
There is a turning point that occurs sometimes without notice. This is when the sober partner becomes a co-addict. A co-addict is a person who puts the addict’s addiction over their own needs. A co-addict will enable and cover up for the addict in an attempt to help them. A co-addict will spend countless hours trying convince them that they need help.
A co-addict is torn. They want to leave but they cannot. They want to believe the addict will change and think their support and love will save them. They want to be there when the addict recovers. Actions speak louder than words and usually the addict’s actions are not consistent with their words and promises. The two will go back and forth with one another making and breaking promises. A co-addict’s life will be turned upside down and inside out dealing with the addict.
Holding out longer than you should
Even though a co-addict loves a person with a serious disease and knows deep down they should leave, it is not always easy to walk away. While we cognitively understand that zero tolerance for drug use and abuse is required, some will marry, have children with, move in with, become financially dependent on and/or financially support the addict over the course of the relationship despite the addiction. Most feel they are abandoning the addict if they leave. Regardless of the scenario, most co-addicts will wonder when this will end and the person they fell in love with will return. That person may only show themselves now in glimpses. These short episodes keep us holding on longer than we should.
The reasons co-addicts stay no longer matter. The situation becomes so convoluted even the co-addict does not understand why they continue to the relationship. They only know what they feel and how much they still love the addict but abhor the situation.
How do you leave?
How do you leave someone you love so much even though they hurt you when they have a serious problem? That is a very good question. If you find yourself in this situation, you are not alone. There is help, but the help is not for the addict, it is for you.