Alarm bells have finally begun to ring over widespread and dangerous opioid drug use across the United States — including prescription pain medication and heroin. These days, healthcare and law enforcement officials don’t hesitate to call it a “crisis” demanding urgent attention.
But that’s not news to anyone who has lived with the effects of addiction up close. On a national scale, opioid use lends itself to dry and impersonal statistical analysis — but in individual lives the impact is immeasurable. Watching someone you love succumb to corrosive dependency is immensely painful and maddening.
Sometimes addiction tragically creeps into a relationship to which you are already committed. But if you are still only dating someone who is, or may be, addicted to opioids — or any other substance — you owe it to yourself to think long and hard about the sort of future that foretells, should you move ahead.
To help you do that, here are six hard facts to consider about life with an addict:
Trust is next to impossible.
In fact, this is the sum and inevitable result of everything else on this list (and more). For that reason, it deserves a place at the head of the line — especially with the vulnerability and intimacy of a romantic relationship at stake. That’s because, under the best circumstances, real trust between lovers is hard to achieve and maintain. Short of genuine and sustained recovery, an addict’s behavior will always leave room for doubt.
You’ll occupy no better than second place.
In truth, even that is misleading, because it implies you’re at least in the race. The harsh reality is, the demands of dependency nearly always displace other considerations entirely. Recovering addicts admit that, at the moment of decision whether to honor their promises to people they care about or to satisfy their need for relief, competing priorities simply cease to exist.
Addicts are crazy-makers.
A person in the grip of harsh dependency will say and do nearly anything — bending the truth or inventing plausible but false realities — to justify their need and their actions. This often leaves people around them disoriented and questioning whether they themselves might be the ones with a problem.
An addict’s “friends” are often suspect and unsavory.
To an addict, friendships are built around a common need for drugs and achieving the common goal of access to them. That means they gravitate toward other addicts and drug dealers — not a solid social foundation for your new relationship.
Addiction is frequently not an addict’s only mental health issue.
Research has indicated that one in two people struggling with drug addiction also suffer a diagnosable mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, or other personality disorders. That means recovery efforts will require far more than mere abstinence, but must address accompanying illnesses as well.
Your love is not enough.
Finally, it’s tempting to believe you are capable of “loving” the addict into sobriety. That is, with enough non-judgmental support and unconditional acceptance, they will finally find the strength to walk away from their addiction. While those things can certainly play a role on his or her road to recovery, by themselves they add up to very little — except as a recipe for disappointment for you. The vital ingredients for success will always be the addict’s own determination to heal, coupled with proper professional treatment. Period.