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Toxic Relationships and Addiction

The disease of drug or alcohol addiction can damage healthy and loving relationships, creating trauma and dysfunction. Addiction and toxic relationships are often linked, with substance abuse co-occuring with intimate partner abuse in 40 to 60% of cases, although it can extend to other relationships as well.

Toxic relationships and addiction go hand in hand, creating a vicious cycle. Change comes when the addict or their family and friends put a stop to the toxic influence that addiction has on relationships.

What Is a Toxic Relationship?

Whether with a romantic partner, family member or friend, toxic relationships involve negative behavior and patterns of control, selfishness, manipulation and abuse. Toxic relationships can come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, from your spouse or significant other to members of your family or the friends that make up your social circle. Around 84% of women have at least one toxic friend that contributes to destructive and self-destructive behaviors. A toxic relationship causes harm to one or both people involved.

Toxic relationships can form as a result of addiction. You might turn to drugs or alcohol to numb painful emotions as a result of your unhealthy relationship with someone, or they might encourage you to try illicit substances as a way to exercise control over you or your relationship.

In either case, drugs and alcohol can poison the bonds between you and your loved ones, leading to codependency, enabling and other unhealthy behaviors. Simply put, drugs and relationships don’t mix.

What Is Codependency?

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, you may be wondering — what is codependency?

Psychiatric professionals define the term as an excessive emotional or psychological reliance on someone else in your life, typically a partner or spouse. This could be because one half of the relationship has an injury or illness that requires constant care or, as is more common, it could cause or be the result of drug or alcohol addiction.

Codependent relationships are dysfunctional and one-sided, where one partner will meet all the emotional needs of the other but will not have their own needs met or even considered.

The term codependency was originally used to describe the spouses of those with alcohol addictions, but it has expanded over the years to include instances of this type of dysfunction where other addictions are involved, as well as in the general population. Substance abuse and relationships go hand in hand when codependency is involved.

How Do You Know if You’re in a Toxic Relationship?

If a relationship makes you feel bad most of the time or you’re continually belittled, manipulated or unable to have a life apart from that person, chances are it’s toxic.

If you’re not sure if your relationship is toxic, here are some red flags of typical behavior to look for:

  • Jealousy: Jealousy is a common experience, but there’s a line that’s crossed in unhealthy relationships. You may find your partner lashing out or feeling threatened by your relationships with others.
  • Volatility: The other person may have extreme reactions or over-the-top behaviors that seem overwhelming. You may feel like you have to walk on eggshells to keep them from acting unpredictably.
  • Isolation: Are you kept away from friends, family and other people? Does your partner make you choose between them and others?
  • Manipulation: If you feel like your partner tries to control your decisions, emotions and actions, manipulation may be at the root of your interactions. Your partner may even try to convince you to do things you’re not comfortable with.
  • Belittling: Whether it’s rude remarks played off as a joke or abusive name-calling, belittling is anything that makes you feel bad about yourself.
  • Guilting: Everyone is responsible for their own actions and feelings. If your partner tries to make you feel like everything is your fault, they are guilting you. They may even threaten to hurt themselves if you don’t do what they say.
  • Betrayal: Two-faced behavior, lying and cheating are all examples of betrayal.

How Does Substance and Drug Abuse Play a Role in Relationships?

There are two main relationship styles related to the cycle of addiction:

  • Enabling: Enabling is a dysfunctional behavior exhibited by an addict’s close friends or family members. In an attempt to help, they end up tolerating and assisting with the harmful behavior. This could be through giving money, housing and emotional support, and even providing their addicted loved one with drugs or alcohol.
  • Secure or insecure attachment style: Your attachment style forms in infancy and defines your relationships with others. When you are raised in an emotionally healthy home, you trust others and form healthy relationships later in life. In contrast, insecure attachment happens when your caregiver is unresponsive to your physical and emotional needs. Those with an insecure attachment style are more prone to addiction and toxic relationships.

When you recognize enabling behavior or insecure attachment, it’s possible to change. The most important thing is to understand how your relationships with others contribute to the addiction cycle.

Help Is Available at Gateway

If you feel that your relationships are an obstacle to your recovery, it’s time to break free. Start by taking a step back and evaluating your relationships, using the list of red flags that we mentioned above. Figure out whether they’re healthy or not. Once you learn how to identify toxic relationships, it becomes easier to address the toxic person in your life — even if that means saying goodbye to them.

Once you’ve removed the toxic influence from your life, you have the freedom to decide on the kind of future that you want. During recovery, as many as 60% of people will experience at least one relapse. Toxic relationships in recovery can carry you in the wrong direction, making it more challenging to recover from drug or alcohol addiction.

At Gateway, our holistic recovery program helps address the physical, emotional and relationship issues that are contributing to your substance abuse. Our evidence-based, individualized treatments are tailored to your needs and work to support your long-term recovery.

If you would like to learn more, we invite you to contact us today.

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