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How Addiction Affects Relationships

Sujata Iyer Apr 23, 2019
An addict may not realize it, but his addiction affects almost every relationship he is involved in. Personally or professionally, there's always a bit of tension when dealing with an addict. The result of the addiction can be different in different situations, depending on the decisions made by both parties in the relationship...
"Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism." - Carl Jung
Addiction brings with it only detriment. What begins as a sniff, a puff, a drag, a swig, a morsel, a splurge, or a fling can spiral into something beyond the control of a person, and before he realizes it, he's addicted. The thing about addiction and relationships is that both sides can be equally tormented, confused, and helpless.
Some may try to understand the addiction, some give up after a while, and some hang on till the end, willing their way through the ordeal of helping an addict get his life back. Whatever the situation, the bottom line is that deterioration of relationships is collateral to any kind of addiction.
It affects every person: the spouse/partner, family, friends, colleagues, superiors, and even random people they meet everyday. The ways in which these effects manifest themselves can turn out to be disastrous because of the extremely sensitive nature of the problem.

Addiction and Relationships

A lot of problems accompany an addiction. They grow slowly, but culminate into something that can uproot relationships and leave one stranded.

Financial Burden

In the case of a partner or spouse being an addict, the burden of managing the finances falls on the shoulders of the sober partner. An addict may not be able to hold a job for long, he may use his money on his addiction, he may get fired, or all the above.
Addictions aren't cheap. The lengths an addict will go to keep himself and his addiction strong can be from simple and sneaky to devious. It becomes the sober partner's duty to fend for them both and any family. S/he may have to take up extra work, plan different strategies, lie and hide the addict's financial loss in an effort to make them get through it.

Emotional Upheaval

The very fact that one suffers from an addiction is proof that he or she is not emotionally stable. While many may think that addiction is a matter of willpower, it may not always be possible for the person to realize that he indeed has a problem.
Denial, combined with a narcotic can only spell trouble in the psychological aspect of one's life. The brain does not function how it is supposed to, and the addict is prone to mood swings, erratic behavior, withdrawal, relapses, anger, frustration, and all such negative emotions, which can take a toll on any relationship that he is in.

Fear of Volatility

An addict's behavior, as stated earlier, can be extremely unpredictable. He might be ecstatic one day and extremely aggravated the next. This temperamental behavior can make it very difficult for people to be around him.
Friends and colleagues may begin to avoid them, but the family has to bear the brunt of possibly violent outbursts of an addict. Children in such homes can be severely affected, as addiction is a very bad influence. They live in constant fear as they can't predict what will tick the person off and may go along with whatever s/he says just to avoid conflict.


The family may or may not let the outside world know about the addiction, but the addict, since he may not be able to think straight for himself, does it.
Missing work, forgoing family events, evading responsibilities, creating scenes in public, breaking the law, shrugging off duties, etc., are some of the levels he may stoop to. It is only a natural consequence for the family to face the embarrassment that these acts cause.
They resort to covering up and making excuses wherever and whenever possible to save face. What they may not realize is that it is this subterfuge that further fuels the addict to carry on with his ways, because he knows that he can get away with it.

Communication Problems

Due to the highly volatile nature that an addict assumes in the throes of his addiction, the people around him tend to go into a recluse. They close themselves up, and the relationship begins to crack.
The addict will refuse to accept that he has a problem, and the sober one will constantly be trying to make him realize that he does. Emotional conflicts ensue, egos clash, harsh words are spoken, and misunderstandings and arguments become a daily affair.
It soon becomes close to impossible to communicate with the addict. This situation gets worse if the addict resorts to lying and cheating to support his addiction. Betrayal can never be taken easily by anyone in any relationship. When this very foundation of a relationship develops cracks, it becomes very difficult to make it survive.

Frustration and Resentment

Slowly but surely, frustration begins to build up within the people who deal with an addict. Whether it is a spouse who has to shoulder all the responsibilities of a co-dependent addict, a parent who sees his child wasting his life on narcotics, or a child watching his parent's extremely volatile temperament; annoyance and disappointment fester within them.
A sense of resentment soon combines with this vexation, and the addict is seen as an irritant. No relationship can remain healthy after these two feelings creep into it.

Eventual Demise

Feeling constantly irritated, betrayed, disappointed, and rejected by someone you love because they have become slaves to an addiction is a feeling that not many can deal with.
While everyone may try at first to put up with it for the sake of the relationship, when it becomes apparent that the addict is beyond intervention, and the relationship beyond repair, many opt to free themselves of the emotional, psychological, financial and physical burdens addicts bring with them. An addict will get deserted by one person after another.

How to Make Good the Damage

When an addict finds himself alone and at a point in his life that his narcotic cannot get him out of, he may have a reality check and decide to make up for the emotional trauma he has put everyone through. He must:
  • Accept the Problem: The first step is to accept that he has a problem. If he does not, he will be unwilling to undergo the recovery process.
  • Introspect and Take Responsibility: When he has decided to face the problem, he must take a long hard look at himself, and be willing to take responsibility for all the harm that he has caused to people around him. He has to have the courage to face the effects of all his deeds and strive to make up for them.
  • Seek Help: Getting rid of an addiction is something that cannot be done alone. Constant support (moral and physical) is required
    to help the addict in his healing process. Help from family, friends and rehabilitation organizations is what he has to rely on to get some semblance of normalcy to his life.
  • Plan the Recovery and Stick to It: Because an addiction is so easy to acquire and difficult to give up, the rehabilitation process becomes that much more difficult. Hence, the addict needs to devise a strategy to plan his recovery and then adhere to it.
  • Be Prepared for Setbacks: The process of rehabilitation will involve a lot of unfavorable, undesirable, and trying tests of physical, psychological and mental endurance. The addict needs to be prepared to face these tests. He also needs to face the people he has hurt in his journey as an addict, and be prepared to be rebuked and/or rejected by them.
Dealing with an addict can be the most arduous experience a person can go through. A relationship can handle only so much strain, but if you've decide to see it through to the end, no matter what, you need to have immense faith - in yourself, in your relationship, and also in the addict. Faith, when coupled with patience can only yield positive results.
You love the addict for the person he was, and you've decided to bring that person back. So, your relationship should have no room for judgment.
At the same time, remember that you're going to have to make a lot of adjustments and sacrifices in your life in order to accommodate the efforts of the addict to attempt an addiction-free life. It's not going to be easy, and you need to prepare yourself for possible relapses from the addict.
Keep all this in mind, and focus on the ultimate goal that you wish him to achieve. Encourage and applaud his efforts. He needs you as much as you need him, maybe even more. Don't give up.