Can You Have A Relationship With A Person In Active Addiction?
Addiction is still a taboo; people do not want to talk about it. Some people do not even know if their loved one or friend has an addiction or if it is just a “bad habit". If I have to describe addiction, I would say it is a substance, activity or person that you feel you need in your life to the point that it becomes excessively and you start to believe without it you will not be able to survive or cope. So people can be addicted to a substance like alcohol, drugs or even food or a person or an activity like sex or gambling.
Maybe you met a special someone or formed a friendship with someone who means a lot to you, and suddenly you find out that they might have a problem with addiction. The question is can you have a relationship with them? Can love heal them? I came across a lot of people who asked me that in my time as Recovery Coach for Addicts.
As an affected other it can be difficult to witness the addiction of someone you love. You might try to help with love, boundaries or ultimatums. But can you have a relationship with a person who is in active addiction?
Addictions and Love
An active addict is under a lot of stress; they have to keep their addiction up. Their addiction will always be Number 1. The thing is you experience this person with their addiction, so you do not know what part is the person and what part is the addiction.
True love only can be found if you strip them off the substance to see if they love you as a person or see you as a person who will help them to feed their addictions. Understand it has nothing to do with you. They are not bad people; they are addicts. I think that there is a misperception that addicts have to be nasty and horrible. Sometimes they can be charming to keep their addiction up. Understand that when you met someone who is already in active addiction that you might not be able to tell who this person is without it.
A lot of relationships have failed after they recovered because the recovered addict will learn how to survive without the substance. They will claim their power back. Some partners of addicts then do not feel needed anymore. They might have developed a co-dependency where they believed that taking responsibilities off their addicted partner means that they are needed and therefore loved.
Will Love heal them?
The question is what do you understand what love is? If you mean by love that you do everything for an addict and tell them how much you love them than definitely NO. Love also means healthy boundaries. Affected others get sometimes drawn into the responsibilities of an addict because they are scared if they do not support or help them that they will die. Yes, of course, they can die, but also understand that you are not responsible for their actions. You do not have to give up your life and fight for their lives. Sometimes not helping and being on the sideline as an observer helps an addict to see where they indeed are. You can give them contact numbers of addiction treatment centers so they can get help. You can offer an ear to listen to, but apart from that, it is vital that you keep your boundaries up.
Can you be in a relationship with them?
You can have them as a distant friend. But a fully committed relationship with a person who is in active addiction is not possible. Like I said the addiction will always be between you and the person. If the addict is surrendering to the addiction and wants to get help, I still would not advise getting into a fully committed relationship. Let them heal and offer to be a friend without the expectation that this will lead to a relationship.
How can you help?
Inform yourself about what addiction is. Understand your boundaries. Engage if you like in a self-help group of affected others. Al-Anon is one of these self-help groups for affected others. Do not take on the responsibilities of the person in active addiction; it very often prolongs their suffering. Encourage them to surrender to their addictions and get professional help.