Three Things to Know About Dating Someone with an Addiction
With the legalization of marijuana and the ease of access to alcohol, more and more people are suffering from addiction. According to the Center for Disease Control 10% of people 12 years or older have used illicit drugs and this number does not include alcohol. In light of this, there are many functioning addicts. These are the people that work, go to school, and even raise their children, but they need to get high. While many of us would say we would never date someone who abuses drugs, the functioning addict is the hardest to detect and determine the value or baggage they will add to our life.
We can go years without knowing someone is an addict. Functioning addicts typically do not fit the traditional script for how we think drug users act, talk and behave. Consequently, we may begin to think functioning addicts are harmless. Because they maintain employment, pay bills, and manage their responsibilities. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The social and health consequences of addiction are deeper and not so easily detected or foreseeable.
So What Should You Do When You Discover That The Person You Are Dating Has An Addiction?
First you will need to realize that you will never come first. An addict’s first priority is their drugs. Think about it – if they did not prioritized drugs and/or do drugs excessively, they would not be an addict. Addiction is a disease and functioning addicts will just do enough to maintain the lifestyle that they are comfortable with. Many will choose drugs over engaging with their non-using family and friends. They will make excuses for their bizarre behavior and they will spend their last little bit of money on obtaining their substance of choice. This last part is what makes a functioning addict difficult to identify, because a functioning addict will pay their bills first and then blow the rest of their money on drugs.
The second thing you need to know about dating someone with an addiction is they will have to want to change and that you cannot make them change. No amount of love can change anyone. In fact, there is a fine line between enabling and loving an addict. You might think small favors such as, loaning them ten dollars or calling in sick for them is not a big deal. But the truth is you are helping them avoid the consequences of their behavior. Sometimes people need to face their reality before they can make a change.
Thirdly, while your boyfriend may seem more light hearted, kinder or fun while high, it is important to remember that this is the desired effect of using drugs, and often times returning from that high can be brutal. Depending on the drug, a person can undergo serious mental and physical alterations when having withdrawals such as: becoming moody, irritable, having trouble sleeping, experiencing fatigue, having body aches and trembles. Many of these side effects will require you to pay special attention to your significant other to ensure that they are not in need of medical care. This is also true when the person is high, because some substance mimics that of mental illness causing users to experience hallucinations, increased heart rates, and feelings of invulnerability. This can put users at risk for hurting themselves and others. Therefore, when dating a user sometimes you may feel more like a babysitter than you do as their significant other.
Overall, no one is perfect. And substance abuse could be the one flaw of the person you love. Yet, you must be prepared to accept the reality of a person with an addiction. Your love can encourage and support them, but it will not change them. Addiction is among one of the toughest battles a person can fight, yet it has to be done out of their own free will and choice.
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