That substance abuse harms relationships is an indisputable fact. A lot has been studied and written about it, and since in previous posts we touched on the subject of domineering, possessive, oppressive, consuming and thereby intimidating lovers (in Hades and the Abuser and In Love with the Abuser) substance abuse must be mentioned as the gateway to hell.
It would be a waste of space to write about all the studies and articles and experiments and you-name-it that have been written and conducted on the subject, but a few things must be mentioned in order to understand WHY substance abuse takes such a great toll on relationships. Some of the most important points are:
- Drugs/Alcohol consumption deteriorates the brain over time – alcohol and drugs consumption slow down brain activity; the brain of an alcoholic (or of a long-time alcohol/drug consumer) looks very different from the brain of a non-alcoholic/non-consumer; over time the brain as an organ is affected.
- Drugs/Alcohol are depressants! – Contrary to what the large public might think (many people turn to alcohol to feel better or to cope with difficulty and therefore use it first as an antidepressant), alcohol/drugs actually plummet you into depression due to the chemical changes they determine in the brain!
- The substance we’re addicted to is our greatest love – addicts will go to any lengths to procure their drug, this is also a well-known fact; even cigarette smokers show this trait; leave a smoker without cigarettes in a chalet on top of a mountain, and they’ll walk to the nearest village barefoot to get their drug; addiction affects behaviour and eats at personality.
Substance abuse has such devastating effects on the relationship because:
- The substance abuser is depressed, or in the preliminary stages of depression, namely anger and frustration; frustration also appears due to inability to procure the substance, or to cope without it; negative feelings such as these demand an outlet, and it’s only natural that the person most vulnerable to the substance abuser – most often the partner, and in most cases the woman – becomes the outlet.
- The substance abuser projects their disdain and hatred for themselves onto the partner (projection is, as we’ll see in following posts, a natural phenomenon in romantic relationships); the substance abuser will motivate their abuse of the partner in many ways, but mostly they will victimize themselves (only natural, since they are indeed victims, but victims of addiction) and find “profound” faults of the partner for their behaviour; the partner falsely interprets this as the deepest possible love (since the abuser is so hurt by these small but “important and deep” things that we do, he must love us very profoundly, like no one else can).
- The substance abuser unconsciously looks for someone to blame for their suffering, and will assign this part to the most vulnerable person – again, often the more vulnerable partner; this way the substance abuser becomes an abusive lover who repeatedly and systematically accuses their more vulnerable partner of many things – e.g. of not truly loving them or of cheating – and wakes terrible feelings of guilt in the latter.
The vulnerable partner often has a compelling desire to save the abusive lover from their “demons.” This compelling desire is born either from a deep unconscious sensation of failure of having saved a parent in need (a drunkard broken father or a beaten mother, but these stereotypes can vary), or due to own insecurities which have been caused in our formational years (childhood but also youth), which the abuser knows very well how to soothe in the beginning of the relationship! (Being in touch with their own soul wounds, substance abusers that turn into abusive lovers know very well how to exploit these insecurities and manipulate us through them).
We might be asking ourselves, “Okay, but what is the solution?” In truth? Depends on what you want, but most experts will warn against relationships with substance abusers and will advise us to leave them if we’re already involved. We might need help ourselves to escape the tentacles of such consuming relationships (often addictive in themselves because they emulate the characteristics of the Substance Abuser, the more powerful part of the couple), so fighting to “save” the Substance Abuser from themselves might be too big a mouthful for most of us.
Regarding what YOU can do – you can walk away, which is what most experts recommend, and with good reason; if you DO decide to dedicate your life to saving a Substance Abuser, it is IMPERATIVE that you take professional help on this ride (step by step, not all at a time)– counsellor, support groups, maybe one or two “saved veterans” that can become friends.
I’d truly love to hear from you, about your own life experiences. Have you ever had emotional entanglements with substance abusers? How has that impacted your life and your relationship? Please share your thoughts in a comment, they will be much appreciated.