Dating an alcoholic or drug addict – how to help

Finding out that you’re dating an addict, whether they’re a long term partner or someone new, can come as a shock. Addiction is a dependency that progresses over time, and it can take a toll on even the strongest relationship. Many elements that make for successful relationships become much more difficult to maintain when you add addiction to the mix.

You may decide to call it quits if this is a red flag for you, but what if this is someone you really care about and see a future with? Here are my tips on how to handle this situation.

Seek support

There are a lot of communities that offer different types of support groups, including support groups for loved ones of the addict.  Within these groups, you can learn how to manage life when it seems unmanageable, share your stories and feelings, and learn from others who are also going through what you’re experiencing.

Set boundaries

People who struggle with addiction often cross boundaries. Spend time identifying what your personal boundaries are, and let your partner know what they are. If your partner disregards those boundaries, be prepared to follow through with a consequence. As harsh as it may seem, this is vital when dating an addict because giving into their boundary crossing behaviour just enables them, and makes things worse over time.

Ask for help

There’s no shame in battling an addiction, or loving someone who’s struggling with one. But the truth of the matter is, you can’t do this alone. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to reach out to trusted family, friends or even counsellors for advice on how they can help both you and your partner. You can also reach out to me.

Get educated

When you understand how addiction works and why, you can set aside some of your negative feelings and reactions and develop a healthy sense of compassion for your partner’s struggles.

It’s always easier said than done to remain in a relationship where addiction is present, but it’s possible- especially when your efforts help your partner get the treatment they need.

Fighting an addiction is a team effort, and your partner needs to want it as much as you do for them. If your partner refuses to make the necessary changes, you’re not obligated to stay in the relationship. It’s ultimately up to your partner to decide to quit or not.

If your partner needs help for an addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for that help. It can be extremely lonely and depressing at times, but with the right support, you can get the skills and information needed to support your partner on their journey to getting sober.

If you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send a Facebook message or a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).