Breaking up with an addict

The Guide to Breaking Up with an Addict

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If you’re in a position where you’re considering breaking up with an addict, it can be challenging. Being in a relationship with someone with an active addiction can be difficult or even impossible. 

While you may want the best for the person, that can’t come at the cost of your own mental or even physical well-being.

People with substance use disorders can and do recover, but if the person you’re in a relationship with isn’t ready or willing for that, you may have no other choice aside from leaving the situation.

The Dynamic of Being in a Relationship with An Addict

There are plenty of reasons you might stay in a relationship with someone who’s struggling with addiction. You may be in love with them. You could also worry that ending the relationship will worsen the person’s problems.

You might have a fear that if you leave, the addicted person will go deeper into addiction or do something drastic.

It’s also common for people to stay in these relationships because they feel like they take care of the person, or somehow, they can “fix them.”

You could even stay because you are afraid of being alone.

Nearly every reason you could have for staying with someone in active drug or alcohol addiction comes from fear.

If someone is willing to get help for their addiction and actively taking steps to do that, the relationship could be salvageable. If that’s not the case, you need to ask yourself some questions, including, “am I in an abusive relationship.”

Reasons to Consider Breaking Up with An Addict

Maybe you’re on the fence about breaking up with an addict, and you’re not sure whether or not it’s the right thing to do.

If abuse is going on, you should leave. 

  • When someone uses mind-altering substances, it changes their behavior. 
  • A person who maybe was calm and rational when you met could become volatile and irritable because of substance use. 
  • When they’re on drugs or drinking, they could become abusive. 
  • There are many types of domestic abuse, including physical abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse, and sexual abuse. 
  • You can’t stay in a relationship with abuse. If you remain in an abusive relationship, it can put you at a greater risk of developing a drug or alcohol problem yourself. 

When someone abuses drugs or alcohol, their brain chemicals compel them to seek out that substance, no matter the consequences. The results can be violent, controlling, or irrational behavior, including in relationships.

  • Domestic violence and addiction have several shared features, including a loss of control and continuing the behavior despite adverse consequences. 
  • Both addiction and abuse tend to worsen over time, and both conditions involve elements of shame and denial.
  • Abusive behavior can occur as the addict tries to get what they want. 
  • People with substance use disorders will often become aggressive and defensive if you try to show concern or talk to them about their addiction.
  • When addiction is involved, codependency can also occur. Codependency leads to enabling and controlling behavior. This creates toxic relationships that are very one-sided.

Even outside of them being an overtly  abusive partner, reasons to consider breaking up with an addict include:

  • People with substance use disorders often display dangerous, reckless, and selfish behaviors. They might spend nights away from home, partying. They could blackout or experience hangovers, so they can’t take care of their responsibilities. Driving while under the influence can be an issue as well.
  • Addiction is a disease with connections to other co-occurring mental health disorders. For example, someone with an addiction might also have untreated depression or anxiety. To be in a positive relationship, they first need mental health treatment
  • Deception underlies addiction. Initially, someone with a substance use disorder will try to hide it. Then, eventually, you may notice they spend a lot of money, lie, and are deceptive about a lot of what they’re doing. A relationship without trust is never going to flourish.
  • Addicts can become distant, and you may not even recognize the person you’re in a relationship with anymore. Addiction is the priority over everything, meaning a healthy relationship isn’t possible. 

What Should Keep in Mind Before Breaking Up with An Addict?

Someone having an addiction isn’t always in and of itself a reason to leave a relationship, especially one that’s long-term or a marriage.

Every situation is different, and there are things you have to ask yourself, including:

  • Am I in an abusive relationship? We touched on this above, but your safety is the top priority above everything else. If there is physical violence or an abusive situation, you have to create a safety plan and get out of the relationship. 
  • Is my partner willing to change? If your partner is signaling a desire or willingness to change and progress toward recovery, you may be able to work on repairing the relationship eventually. If the person seems completely unwilling to talk about addiction treatment or recovery, leaving may be your only option.
  • Could I be enabling my partner? Enabling is harmful to you and also the addict in an intimate relationship. When you enable someone with an addiction, they’re never held accountable for their behaviors and actions. If you see enabling patterns in yourself, you may have to leave your relationship.
  • What do I see happening if I stay with the person? You have to think long-term about what life might look like if you stay with someone who has a drug or alcohol addiction. The condition will inevitably get worse without treatment. Do you think things could change for the better?
  • Are my children being affected? If you have children, you may need to take them out of the environment with the addict so they’re safe and away from substance abuse.

How to Actually Break Up with an Addict

Figuring out how to leave an abusive relationship is tough to navigate, especially when addiction is involved. You likely worry about your children and yourself. You might also be worried about the person you’re in a relationship with.

Things to remember include:

  • Have a plan for your safety. You should have a place to go before you break up with someone. Break up with them in a public place like a restaurant or coffee shop so that others are around you. You may also want to bring a friend or family member with you. If the person threatens you, take it seriously.
  • If you can set aside an emergency fund and other resources before you end the relationship, do so. 
  • Try to find an opportunity where the person is sober. If they’re under the influence of drugs, they’re more likely to lash out, creating a more dangerous situation. 
  • Be firm in your decision, and don’t let your partner try to bargain with you or talk you out of your decision.
  • Keep your own emotions in check.
  • Consider getting therapy for what you’ve experienced in the relationship, and always practice self-care.

If you love someone who has a problem with alcohol or drugs and is willing to get help, this is a good sign. We can help you navigate treatment in the San Francisco area, so please reach out to the Silicon Valley Recovery team by calling 408-547-4089 to learn more.