While relationships are often the most evolutionary aspects of our lives, they can also be the
most complicated. They can tear up the past while recreating the future; they can rip us away
from a self-image we used to love and leave us picking up the pieces of a confusing new identity.
When your emotional health and life satisfaction interweave with your relational health,
self-reflection becomes indispensable. Hopefully, this article will be helpful to those looking
inwards and considering the impact of substance use disorder (SUD) on their relationship.
What do you do if your loved one undergoes a devastating experience such as addiction to drugs
and alcohol? What do you do when it starts to hurt you? It’s hard to understand what SUD is and
why it happens; it’s even harder to accept it’s there. While empathizing with your partner’s pain,
acknowledge that you need an equal-sized support system. Asking for help is a sign of strength.
The first step is to talk.
Talk to friends, talk to professionals, but most importantly: talk to your partner. When we care
about someone, the thought of risking the relationship by bringing up something as vulnerable as
addiction can be terrifying. However, there are ways to be well-prepared. Your best option is to
discuss with a trained professional, but when this isn’t possible, the second-best option is to
approach the conversation in a way that leaves ample room for peace and understanding. Let’s
dive into how you can do this.
Here are the topics we will cover:
- Check-in With Yourself
- The Conversation: Understanding Conflict
- The Conversation: Understanding Substance Use Disorder
- What Next?
Check-in With Yourself
- What are your expectations from this conversation?
Understanding your expectations, and acknowledging the likelihood of those expectations being
met, equips you for success. Try your best to go in neutrally with minimal commitments to
- What are your “big” reactions?
It is paramount to understand your feelings, judgments, and pressure points ahead of time — acknowledge them and create an intentional plan to best compartmentalize them when/if they come into play.
- Don’t look for “admittance.”
It is essential not to go into this conversation with hopes of their “admittance” to “the drinking/drug problem.” This initial conversation is for gaining information only, not manipulating the communication to achieve a specific outcome.
- Aggression has no place here.
This conversation is for gathering information about your partner, and presenting appropriate options. It’s not for angrily hashing out your relational grievances.
It’s vital to understand that SUD and the process of recovery is no different from any other
mental health problem, such as depression. Most often, the two co-occur. You would not initially
approach someone with depression about how their depression has affected you. If you are going
to express your feelings, do this thoughtfully and empathetically.
Next, there are two essential education-based concepts to understand:
- What is conflict?
- What is substance use disorder/addiction?
The Conversation: Understanding Conflict
First off, what exactly is conflict? You may think of yelling and disagreement under red lightning
bolts — a horrifying ordeal. Offhand, the phrase might indicate some tipping point of anger and
frustration. However, here is another way to understand conflict:
Conflict is a general, perceived disconnect in needs and expectations that offers an
opportunity for increased understanding and knowledge about the other party. – Dr. Elvis
Nshom, Professor of Peace and Conflict at CSUSM
You are not engaging in an argument. You’re engaging in discovery. What has my partner been
going through with drugs and alcohol? Why have they been going through it? Regardless of what
that information is, it’s in both of your best interests to not fight it — this is just a time for
The talk should happen when both parties are relaxed and have ample time on their hands. Keep
in mind, you don’t have to find a conclusion or answer in the first discussion, it can span over a
more extended period. But, there is a keyword: active participants. If your partner is sincerely not
ready to talk, there are very slim chances of a productive conversation. The best way to make
your partner feel more comfortable is by establishing that you are not looking to “win” or
conclude today. You’re just trying to understand.
Here is what you’re looking to find out from your partner:
- How have you been feeling lately in general? You have seemed like you might be
struggling emotionally, and I wanted to check-in.
- Do you feel you have been using drugs and alcohol to cope with those feelings? Without
assuming, I wanted to ask you your thoughts first.
- Is there anything I can do to better support you with your feelings in general? How do
you like to be supported when not feeling well?
- In your opinion, have these substances had any adverse effects on you? Have there been
positive effects and benefits?
- Do you feel concerned about continuing to use substances in any way? Or are you feeling
confident in the way you use drugs and alcohol to cope?
- Have you ever had experiences with therapists that you enjoyed? Was there anything that
made that a comfortable experience? If not, what would the ideal alternative scenario for
getting support be?
The Conversation: Understanding Substance Use Disorder/Addiction
“Substance use disorders occur when the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically
significant impairment, including health problems, disability, and failure to meet major
responsibilities at work, school, or home.” – Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders –
Myths, fears, and stigmas circulate like wildfire. A common stereotype of folks with SUD is that
they are resistant and manipulative, in need of tipping-point interventions, aggression, and
persuasion. These stereotypes are not the case; nobody should ever utilize those methods.
However, it is vital not to make assumptions about whether or not your partner has SUD. If you
believe they have SUD, but your partner does not believe it, neither of you is right until you
consult a trained professional.
If you’re brand new to SUD and are looking for more information, utilize accredited websites.
Reach out to local treatment centers in Jacksonville Florida willing to talk to you about what
SUD is and help facilitate your education free of charge. There is a wide range of choices —
from therapy to residential treatment. Ask about the “in-betweens” such as Partial
Hospitalization Programs (PHP) and Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP).
Don’t give them any identifying information if you don’t want to; if they require it just for a
general conversation, call a different center.
Once you assess the acquired information from the conversation with your partner, you can
- Consult healthcare providers and professionals in Jacksonville, Florida to find the best
options to support your partner with their mental health challenges or SUD. And/or,
consult relationship or family therapists.
- Respect your partner’s opinion that they do not need help or treatment. Handle challenges
as a team. Continue in your relationship and revisit the conversation in the future if
- Respect your partner’s wish to not engage in the treatment; if necessary, consult an
individual therapist or trusted confidant in Jacksonville, Florida to understand where you
would like to take the relationship next if this is a concern you have.
Last but not least: self-care. Being the third-party support system in someone’s addiction and/or
recovery is taxing. Recovery involves a village. If you still have questions and concerns about
your case — professionals and community volunteers in Jacksonville, Florida are here to help at
any point or stage in the process.
This article is not clinical advice.
Contact Sophros Recovery about Alcohol Addiction Today
We at Sophros understand that Jacksonville has an epidemic of alcohol abuse within the area. If your loved one is drinking excessively, it’s time to get help. Our team has a strong focus on the issue of alcohol abuse, and have a strong focus on getting people back to a happier and healthier life.
Contact us today at 904.760.4295.