Mending Relationships Destroyed by Substance Addiction
“Just stop drinking or just stop using drugs.” This is not helpful advice to those battling an addiction. According to the Director of News in Health’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Dr. George Koob, the “common misperception is that addiction is a choice or moral problem…” The fact is that having a substance addiction actually modifies the brain and it takes continued effort in order for it to return to its normal state. Consequently, the more alcohol or drugs consumed, the more impact this behavior has on the brain itself.
At American Addiction Centers, the nationwide leader in addiction treatment, we offer medical detox, both inpatient and outpatient care, as well as aftercare planning in order to help individuals reach long-term sobriety. If you’re struggling with alcohol or drug misuse, please reach out for help.
Substance Addiction and the Brain
Substance use disorder (SUD) or alcohol use disorder (AUD) are serious medical conditions. When an individual gets addicted to a substance, the “hardwiring” in the brain that helps with brain processes works against them. On the other hand, a healthy brain rewards healthy behaviors. For example, when connecting with a loved one or when working out. Brain circuits switch on that make you feel good, which inevitably drives you to do these behaviors over again.
Likewise, a healthy brain protects the individual from harm by causing them to react in such a way that protects themselves when faced with a dangerous situation. However, a brain addicted to a substance may cause the individual to get stressed and/or anxious when confronted with dangerous circumstances when they aren’t intoxicated with drugs or alcohol at the moment. This happens when an individual is at a point where they are using substances to avoid negative feelings as opposed to consuming substances in order to feel good.
Addiction is a complex brain disease in which individuals can’t control their own actions, but there is hope within the treatments that can control it.
Relationships and Substance Use
Genuine relationships and friendships carry with them their own weights of responsibility, trust, and effort. However, when one or both parties have used drugs or alcohol in the past in connection with the relationship, this presents an obstacle that both must face honestly.
How to mend a relationship that has been broken due to substance addiction?
As with all relationships, whether it involves drugs or alcohol misuse or not, there are general guidelines to follow in order to have a healthy connection with one another.
Boundary-setting guidelines for healthy relationships:
- Learn to say “no” in order to set boundaries. Being honest with an individual when they ask for something you aren’t comfortable with doing is a way to set a boundary. This also avoids feelings of resentment and anger, which are more than likely to evolve due to doing something that you really don’t want to do.
- Balance the relationship in order to minimize conflict. If one individual is putting more effort into the relationship/friendship than the other, this can create conflict within that relationship. Conflict is a natural part of relationships, but when it’s associated with lack of boundaries, it can feel like an ongoing unresolved issue.
- Just because you set boundaries, doesn’t mean that you can’t seek or have closeness in your relationship. You can. The goal is for the both of you to have boundaries that are healthy for you both. This can be achieved by open communication. Listening to what the other person is saying. Sharing how you feel. And finally arriving at some sort of consensus that works for the both of you.
And remember, if there is an additional level of trauma like emotional, physical, or mental abuse, please be sure to reach out to a licensed therapist and/or physician immediately for the professional help that you need. Additionally, if you or a loved one is in imminent danger, please dial 9-1-1 immediately.
The content here is meant to show you options that you may want to consider, but at the end of the day, please consult a licensed professional to get the help that you need for your specific situation.
If you or a loved one is battling an SUD, an AUD, or have relapsed, you’re not alone. We’re here to help. Please reach out to get the help that you need today!