Addicts: Love Them or Leave Them?

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Disclaimer: This blog post isn’t going to answer the question posed in the title. There is no right or wrong answer to this complex, loaded dilemma. But there are some other questions you can ask yourself to get some clarity about how you should approach your relationship with one.

Addiction is a complicated illness that leaves a path of people who know & love someone with one feeling guilt, anger, frustration, resentment and confusion. It begs the question – ‘should I stay or should I go?’ and often results in conflicting answers. On one hand, this person that we love is hurting and needs our help. On another hand, we may worry that we’re setting aside our own needs in order to be there for them.

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. What am I getting from this relationship? It’s important to make sure our needs are being met and that we aren’t just taking on the role of caretaker. Is this person adding value to our life? Do they give us something special despite their addiction?
  2. Does this person want to change? If the answer is no, you need to follow that up by asking yourself if you’re okay with that. When people tell us what they want, we need to accept that instead of thinking we can change it for them.
  3. Is this person hurting me? All relationships have problems, but if you find that you are being emotionally, physically or verbally hurt or abused, it is important to protect yourself first and foremost. You can love someone while also choosing to prioritize your own safety and well-being.
  4. Are you willing to accept a life of this? Addiction is a long-term, life-long illness and sobriety is a day-to-day choice. When choosing to be with an addict, it’s important to understand that there will likely be ongoing challenges and that even after long periods of sobriety, the risk of relapse will always exist.
  5. What are your boundaries? If you chose to have a relationship with an addict, it’s important to set clearly-defined boundaries. Understanding that nobody is perfect, what missteps are you willing to tolerate? What behaviors would cause you to terminate the relationship should they occur? Don’t forget to share your boundaries and expectations for the relationship with your partner.

Addicts are people and they deserve love, but that doesn’t mean we should set aside our own needs, safety, and feelings because of that. If you want to help them more than they want to help themselves, if your needs have been consistently neglected, if you spend more time unhappy & in pain than you do feeling happy & fulfilled, and if the relationship has become abusive, it may be time to take some space and re-evaluate the relationship from a distance. Again, this is a complex issue with no right or wrong answer, but asking yourself the above questions may help you gain some clarity about where you and your relationship stand.

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