One of the main issues in substance use is problematic relationships. What types of relationships are these and how are they affected? What damage is a two way street and how can it be fixed? We will attempt to elaborate on this topic in a concise fashion.
Family and Friends
There are many relationships that are destabilized by substance use. Some of these include acquaintances, such as co-workers, bosses, and classmates. However, relationships with friends and family are the most prone to being destabilized as a result of the behaviors associated with substance use. Substance using individuals tend to have chaotic patterns of relationships, some of which are toxic on one or both ends. The behaviors that accompany substance use, such as lying, stealing, manipulating, anger, or entitlement will eventually wear on anyone. The key factor here is manipulation. When the relationship becomes destabilized to the point of boundary implementation or separation, the substance using individual will manipulate their loved one or friend back into a support role to allow them to continue their substance using behavior. This is codependency and enabling at its finest.
Codependency and Enabling
The biggest issue in relationships in substance use is codependency, enabling, and enmeshment. This behavior may be prompted and developed as a reaction to the substance using individual's behavior, but it can also predate substance use. Regardless, it is a threat to stability in all relationships and will prevent early individual development, and ultimately prevent a relationship from being healthy altogether. In this way, unstable relationships occur, with codependency or substance use having an adverse reaction in the other party.
In this scenario, the substance using individual will be highly dependent on the codependent individual, and at bare minimum, the codependent individual will take care of the substance using individual so that they can continue to act on this behavior. Realistically, the enabling behavior is selfish in nature, and has more to do with the codependent individual’s emotions and needs than actually helping the substance using individual. As the behavior comes from a place of caring and appears helpful, it is commonly misunderstood or not identified as being harmful. If you or a loved one are using substances, it will be imperative for the whole family to be involved in treatment it counseling, so that systemic change can occur.
Individual, Couples, and Family Counseling
In order to address relationship instability, and return relationships to normal healthy functioning, it will be imperative for the individual to participate in their own counseling to work on their substance use. They will need to understand that their relationships will continue to end until they are left alone, and this may be the first step. After this, behavioral change can occur that will help repair relationships. Simultaneously, it will be necessary for the family and loved ones to seek their own help. This help can be in the form of counseling, or it can be a 12-step fellowship, like Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, or CoDA. We highly recommend that the family get their own help. It is difficult for stability to return or recovery from substance use to occur without this. Furthermore, in addition to separate individual counseling, we also recommend family or couples counseling. This can allow for communication issues to be addressed in real time by a professional. Concerns by both parties can be brought to light and worked through together as a team. With everyone on the same page, substance use treatment should be a simple matter.
At Independent Recovery, we want to see families and couples reunited. We advocate for family involvement and individual counseling for all, so that relationships can achieve, or return to, a state of stability. If your relationships feel chaotic, and you or a loved one are struggling with substance use, head on over to our Get Started page and we will be with you shortly!