Sometimes, the people around you don’t support you on your road to recovery. They may pressure you to use, not respect your boundaries, or become too overwhelmed to help you. When loved ones don’t help you with your addiction, you may feel betrayed, sad and helpless. These feelings can be more intense if your loved one is a significant other who does not want you to get better.
No matter the reasons, making the decision to quit while not having the support from your partner can be challenging and overwhelming. But to move forward, it’s important to think about how you can prioritize your health and well-being over unhealthy attachments.
Reflecting on the relationship
Sometimes, being in love can mimic addiction: you can become extremely dependent on your partner, experience a range of emotions, and even go through withdrawal-like symptoms in a breakup. Having a partner that doesn’t seem to support you on the road to recovery makes the process that much more difficult. You may even be scared at the idea of navigating life on your own without drugs, alcohol or a partner. In order to start the conversation, think about why your relationship with drugs and alcohol and your relationship with your partner are connected.
Drugs and alcohol are commonly used to help people deal with stressful situations, such as grief. They may also be used to help people relax in social situations and encourage risky behaviors. No matter the situation, using can alter how you think and feel and provide a sense of thrill in a relationship. Because of this, your partner may associate good memories in their lives or relationships with using. Drugs and alcohol can also be used as a means of controlling a partner due to fear of losing them. This can make it harder for your partner to accept or understand your decision to become sober.
Some relationships are hard to leave if you or your partner are codependent. Codependency happens when one partner decides to enable and take responsibility for another partner’s extreme emotional, behavioral, and physical needs. This can look like:
- Doing anything to save a relationship
- Fear of being abandoned
- Feeling responsible for a partner’s actions
- Feeling guilty when asserting oneself
- Constantly needing approval and recognition
A co-dependent’s self esteem and self-worth is directly tied to the sense of responsibility they feel for their partner. Your partner may feel a sense of purpose when caring for you and even enable you to use. When you decide to stop using, your partner may feel a loss of control and self-esteem. They may also be scared about how their role in the relationship will change once you’re sober.
Once you’re able to reflect, you may realize how much of your relationship is based solely on your addiction. Ask yourself:
- What is the relationship giving you?
- If you removed drugs and alcohol from the relationship, would you feel safe and supported?
- Do you feel that your partner will love you even if you didn’t use?
- Do you feel indebted to your partner?
- Are you afraid of starting over or being alone?
It’s important to evaluate why you may feel attached to a person to determine whether that attachment is healthy and start a conversation with your partner.
Taking care of yourself
You may spend a lot of time giving energy to drugs or alcohol and catering to the needs of your partner. Because of this, you may start to lose your sense of self and individuality. Being able to define who you are is the first step to healing from addictions and failed relationships. One common cliché is to “love yourself”, but how do you even start to pick up the pieces after tough endings?
No self-care plan is one size fits all. Finding the plan that works for you is a trial and error process. You can try
- Positive self-affirmations ( Tell yourself “I am worthy”)
- Hanging out with people who support you on your journey
- Asking for space from a partner
- Spending time with yourself (taking a walk, going to the spa)
- Grounding exercises (meditation, journaling, etc.)
Whatever you decide to do, l know that healing and rediscovering self-love is an ongoing process. You don’t have to force yourself to try to heal quickly for the sake of a relationship.
Finding safe spaces and support
A romantic partner can be a safe space for many. But when a partner doesn’t want you to stop using, you may realize that you need additional support. It may be hard to know where to start, especially if your partner or your addiction have isolated you from others. But you have the power to create the best support system that works for you.
First, you’ll need to figure out if your partner is providing or has the capability to provide the support you need on your journey. Ask yourself:
- Do they react negatively anytime you mention sobriety?
- Are they anxious?
- Is there abuse or control involved?
- Are they hesitant but open minded to the process?
If you feel that your partner may be able to change their attitude about your sobriety, there’s hope they can be a safe space in the future. Whether you believe your partner will be supportive or not, it’s never a bad idea to have a growing network of people to be a safe space and hold you accountable. You can start by:
- Reaching out to people that advised you to step away from your relationship
- Finding peer support groups for addiction (i.e. Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous)
- Seeking groups that address relationship issues (i.e. CoDa.org)
- Engaging in therapy
When to walk away
There are many reasons why your partner may not want you to recover. For situations involving abuse and control, severing ties with your partner completely when it’s safe to do so may be what’s best for your health. In other situations, the end of a romantic relationship may not be the end of a relationship. Your partner may be able to support you as a friend while you work on sobriety. Sometimes, individuals need to take brief breaks in a relationship to work on themselves and their healing. Being hopeful that a relationship can come back stronger than ever can make it even easier to let go.
Walking away from a relationship where you have invested so much time and energy can be painful for both you and your partner. But sometimes, the best thing to do is the hardest thing. You deserve a support system who respects your decision to conquer addiction. You know what’s best for you, and you do not have to convince someone into believing your worth.