How to Live With a Recovering Addict

Written by Veronica Rae

There are many things that can harm a relationship with a loved one. Loving a recovering addict is probably one of the most difficult things for a relationship to survive. The addict goes through so many hard times. Withdrawals physically drain their body and they are in pain for days. The mental strain is the absolute worst to endure. One day the addict feels as if everything is fine and they next day they feel anger and emptiness.

The one thing others don’t stop to consider is the pain the people closest to the addict endure. The mental pain of being in love with an addict is unbearable. When you have given a person everything you have to offer and you have went above and beyond to help them you place the blame on yourself when things don’t go right.

First you have all of the times that they try to stop the addiction on their own. You are beside the person you love with all of your being watching them go through all kinds of pain, and you are completely helpless. When the pain is at its best they become withdrawn and have no desire to get up and try to live their life. When the pain is at its worst they may take it out on those closest to them both mentally and physically.

Even when the addict in your life seeks help from a professional, things are not simple. Your loved one is still suffering through such a wide range of emotions and there might not always be answers to why they feel the way they do.

For several years the love of my life has been an opiate addict. I tried to ignore it in the beginning, and pretended everything was okay. There were many days that when I mentioned the addiction to my beloved and he would become angry with me. I learned quickly that he knew he had a problem but he just couldn’t come to terms with it yet. We reached a point when he openly admitted he had a problem and he tried on his own to overcome his addiction. As difficult as those days were for him, they were bad for me as well. He couldn’t function normally with our family and I found myself making excuses for his erratic behavior. Then there were days I had to try to explain to our children that daddy wasn’t feeling well and we needed to try to be understanding of his anger and his unwillingness to participate in our lives. One of the times that he tried on his own to quit, left bruising on my body as a result of his inability to control his temper. Still I loved him and wanted desperately to be able to help.

Before long my patience had dissolved, leaving nothing but anger behind. I became angry with him for not being able to control his addiction. I became angry with myself for not being able to do anything to help him. I became angry with friends and family who knew but never tried to help him. It took months of being angry for me to realize that my anger would get us nowhere.

Finally after many months of begging and several failed attempts on his own he has sought out professional help. Before accompanying him to his first appointment I felt a little relief. This time we wouldn’t be facing it alone. This time he would have people to turn to who could understand better than I did. I convinced myself that this time wouldn’t be as difficult as the other times. I was wrong. Withdrawal is still nearly unbearable regardless of how many people are being supportive along the way. Not only is it still unbearable for the addict it is still extremely difficult for the one who loves him. He is still very withdrawn, and moody. Let’s not forget the pain. I am completely in awe of how a little pill can control so much of the human mind and body.

That brings us to the present. I am in love with a recovering opiate addict. I share with him his highs and lows. I sit up with him on restless nights. I rub his legs down when they ache. Nearly every day I remind him that he is loved, he is not alone, and that I am so proud of him for making it this far. When he feels that he needs to be alone I try my best to keep my distance so he can have the space he needs. I even went as far as offering to get a second job so he could quit his and focus on recovery.

Just because his recovery has become one of the main focuses of my life doesn’t mean everything else has faded into the background. Our children still need to be taken care of. My job is still very demanding and growing more demanding by the day as I work towards the promotion I hope to achieve by the middle of next year. My time is also taken by family obligations, the beginning of a new school year, and the numerous mundane tasks of everyday life. This is where things can become overwhelming. Who is holding my hand, who is giving me the love and support I so desperately crave? I am. I have not only come to terms with several harsh realities but I have realized a few things along the way.

  1. Don’t neglect other important people in your life because you are busy trying to be supportive of the addict in your life. By alienating your friends and family you both may be left alone once your loved one begins to feel more stable. You need to find a healthy balance in your time.
  2. Try your best to keep your usual routine going at home with your children. Not only is the routine good for your children, but it will help your loved one to see that although it feels as if his life has stopped the rest of the world has not. Your life and your children’s lives are still going; eventually your loved one will realize they want to be a part of that.
  3. Don’t expect to always have the answers. Withdrawal is a long, painful process and it is something that you can’t just fix. You won’t know why your other half is in pain, or how to make it go away. There isn’t always a reason for why an addict has the feelings or emotions that they do; most likely they will change within several days. If you analyze every little feeling they share with you, you may drive yourself crazy.
  4. Unkind words can hurt. If you take everything that comes out of the other’s mouth personally you will experience so much unnecessary grief. Take everything said in stride and remember that anger and frustration can cause everyone to say things they do not mean.
  5. Helplessness is an awful feeling. Yes, you will feel like you are not doing enough to help. Yes, you may get very discouraged because recovery takes a very long time. You cannot heal every ache and pain, but you can let them know that you are there for them to lean on.
  6. You’re not alone in this world, so don’t try to go through this time in your life alone. When a person is recovering they become extremely mentally stressed, therefore it is not a good time to share with them all of your feelings about what is happening. Find someone to be your outlet. Let your beloved know that you need someone to confide in, ask him if he would mind if you confide in a close friend or family member until things become a little easier. Let him know you’re not announcing to the world what is happening in your personal life, but that you are a little overwhelmed and you don’t want to burden him.
  7. Lastly, do not give up hope. Things will get better; it may just take longer than you had hoped. Words will be said that will leave you feeling crushed. The one you love may become very cold and distant for a few days. Do not give up hope that things will be ok. It may take a lot of hard work, but eventually you can get there, together.

I am guilty of doing the wrong thing, repeatedly. I turned my focus too much on my husband and began to neglect the needs of my family. Too many times I pushed him to communicate with me instead of giving him his space. All of my fears and concerns and my pain I have kept bottled up, until recently. It took awhile for the realization that just because he was leaning on me didn’t mean I couldn’t lean on a trusted friend. I have over-reacted at harsh words. Just the other night I cried myself to sleep because he told me he doesn’t feel the same towards me. I know that could all change in his mind overnight, but knowing that didn’t make me feel any better when I heard the words come out of his mouth. The hardest part of all of this for me has been the helplessness. I have felt like I wasn’t good enough because I couldn’t stop the pain. Knowing that mentally he is so confused and I cannot ease his thoughts hurts my pride. I have even caught myself doubting our love for one another because we have become distant from each other from time to time. Not even the greatest of love can heal an addict’s pain.

If our love can survive this, the ultimate of all tests, then I know we can make it the rest of our lives together. One day, when all of this pain and suffering is behind us, I will confide in my husband just how hard this has been for me. Until then, I will make sure to have support for myself while I try to help the love of my life though what may be the hardest thing he’ll ever have to face.