When you love someone who has a problem with addiction, you start to realize it’s a lot more nuanced than what you hear in the news.
Addiction is a complicated public health issue, not necessarily a weakness of will or a flagrant disregard for laws.
But while addiction is something to sympathize with and help people work through, it also belongs to your partner, and not to you. You are free to exit a relationship at any time for any reason, and if your partner’s problem with addiction becomes too much to handle, you may need to make the right choice for yourself.
There are some things you may experience and learn when you leave someone who has issues with addiction. Here are 7 things you may find out.
1. You aren’t the problem
Addiction is a powerful thing, and it can make your partner act out in ways that seem so profoundly out of character and say things you never would have imagined they’d say. But it’s important to understand that you aren’t the problem. The addiction is the problem. While you’re together, the struggle may be shared, but what you do to try to help doesn’t make anything worse, even if that’s what they might tell you.
2. You aren’t the solution either
It’s easy to enter into a relationship with someone who has problems feeling as though, through your own tenacity and strong will, you can whip them into shape and have them living the good life in no time at all. But the truth is, the desire to change can be helped along by outside forces but ultimately has to come from within. In the same way you aren’t the problem, you also aren’t the solution. Your relationship with them won’t be what cures them.
A person in the grips of addiction will at times do things that they themselves would never imagine they’d do. They will at times ask things of the people they love that will empower and further their addiction. Knowing your boundaries is an important step to avoiding hurting yourself and your partner. Knowing your boundaries is required in order to avoid being an enabler.
There may have been times in your relationship that you did things and allowed things that you were definitely not comfortable with. It’s a tough lesson to learn, but it’s an important one nonetheless.
4. You need to prioritize yourself
When you love someone who has a major problem, it can be easy to feel like you should sacrifice aspects of yourself in order to help them succeed and thrive. But know when it’s time to put yourself first. This goes double if you have children. You, and your kids, should always come first. If you can help someone with a problem like addiction, that’s marvelous. But protect yourself.
5. You learn to stand by your words
In the same way you learn to know your boundaries and prioritize yourself, when you leave someone with an addiction problem, you also realize the power of your words. At times, your word is the only thing you have. It dictates everything about you, your expectations, and your needs. When your words are ignored, and when their words, their promises, are broken, the impact of that can run deep. What you say matters.
6. Love can’t conquer everything
‘Love conqueres all.’ It’s a saying that certainly sounds nice. You may enter into a relationship with an addict thinking that all they need is a little bit of love. Your love may be important to them, but love won’t help them conquer the beast that is addiction. Your love won’t be what fixes the problem. That change, that drive to beat their addiction, comes from within.
7. Sometimes people are not able to change
In a picture-perfect world, someone you love suffering from addiction can beat their addiction and carry on as though it never happened. But addiction isn’t that simple, and life isn’t always that nice.
Becoming not addicted sometimes just isn’t possible, and some people simply won’t be able to change. Each year, there were more than 70,000 overdose fatalities in the United States alone.
Perhaps the most difficult lesson to learn from leaving a person who suffers from addiction is that it isn’t always possible for a person to change.
Even though you love them and want to help, that change has to come from within, whether or not it pertains to addiction.