Addiction and Relationships
Addiction and Relationships: How Well Do I Engage in Relationships?
by Tom Horvath, PhD, ABPP
If I live just for myself I can do what I want when I want. If I do not mistreat others they probably will not mistreat me. However, if I have no connections with others no one is likely to help me or care for me. If I live just for myself I can do what I want but be alone. If I am connected with others, then I also live for them and for us, as well as for me. Now others will help me and care for me. However, at times I will need to act for them and for our relationship, even at my own expense. At times I will need to address relationship concerns, to keep the relationship growing, even if raising these concerns is uncomfortable.
Addiction and Relationships: Questions to Consider
Have I engaged in problematic addictive behavior in a way that causes my relationships discomfort or suffering? I could reduce or eliminate that problematic behavior because I want to maintain and enhance my relationships, because I do not want to be alone. Is my engagement in (one or more) relationships strong enough that the relationship would persuade me to stop engaging in dysfunctional addictive behavior?
Do I have relationships that I might be better off without? Do I have relationships that need to change, so that they serve me and us better? Will I engage in the relationship work that is called for? If my relationships were better, would I be more motivated to address addictive problems?
The next time I have an urge to engage in a problematic addictive behavior, would thinking about the discomfort or suffering that would occur for someone I care about be strong enough to persuade me not to act on the urge? Would I be able to let my concern for another person and our relationship overrule my desire?
As I set out to answer the above questions, I could begin by considering: Who helps me, cares for me, loves me, now? What specifically upsets this person(s) about my addictive behavior?
How tempted am I to keep my addictive problems secret from this person(s)? When is a time I felt deeply and fully alone? How did I cope with it? How did it end (if it did)? Am I ready to live like this (alone)? Have I ever been upset with a loved one, and had an addictive urge and wanted to act on it, but managed to keep a long-term view of the relationship in mind and overrule the urge?
Relationships are often considered the greatest satisfaction in life. They may also require our biggest efforts, and lead to our most significant personal growth. There are many questions one might ask about engaging in them. I hope the above questions will point you in helpful directions.
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and relationships, our outpatient services may help. Please reach out – you don’t have to do this alone.