Addiction and Relationships: Leaving vs Staying- The Missing Piece You Need to Consider First
I don’t think I have to tell you that when you are in a relationship with someone with addiction, things can be crazy, stressful, and unknown. We can get so used to day to day life being hard that we forget what life could or should be like.
Sometimes when our mind wanders, we think about leaving the relationship.
We think about how much easier it would be, in terms of how much our stress levels would go down.
We wouldn’t have to deal with our addicted partner nearly as much. Our finances would be in order. Even if we have kids we could do that on our own fine (we kind of already are). Everything would be much better and the chaos would end.
A few years back, when our daughter was still an infant, I kept a journal. This wasn’t really a healthy journal where I worked on my thoughts, rather, it was kind of a dumping ground of how I felt and almost caused me to wallow in my stress more.
Anyways, one time while I was gone, he found it. At the time, he was active in his addiction, and so read it and instantly it became a problem. I wasn’t even gone for 15 minutes before I got text after text questioning me on why I had wrote what I did. Guilting me for wanting to leave. And daring me almost to do it.
But even after that point, I still thought about it. It sounded tempting. Obviously things weren’t working out here were they? My life was a mess, our daughter got older and I worried about it being a regular thing to visit her dad in a rehab facility, I was terrified of finding him dead somewhere or getting the news of it, and our relationship wasn’t even a relationship since we were either always fighting or not talking to each other.
Even in the groups I’m a member of on Facebook now, it’s the same questions. People ask if they should leave their addicted partner, they wonder if it’s really better to leave, the ones who have left say to do it because they regret the wasted time but are still hung up about it, and even if they haven’t left but are also still considering it they advocate for it.
“Get out while you still can”, they say.
Maybe I’m just, uh, blessed, in that things with my partner were able to be repaired. But honestly I don’t think that’s it. It certainly wasn’t easy, and this last episode was worse than I could have even imagined. I had almost a full mindset that things wouldn’t make it, on any level.
But yet here we are. And here’s what you have to consider when leaving: it’s not about leaving or staying because of the craziness with your partner.
When you consider leaving or staying, it’s about trying to leave or continue on with the chaos in your life. And if you don’t realize that, no matter what you do, it will always follow you, and it will always find you. It’ll just pop up in other ways, or find its way into your next relationship.
Now, one thing to note before I go on: I am only speaking from my perspective. If there’s abuse, deeper and more intense issues, other things best handled to professionals, or just personal preferences related to leaving, that’s another thing, although this might possibly still apply. Just take my words for what they are, and realize I can’t speak for everyone and everything. This is just my experience with my addicted partner, in my own personal situation, and in my own inner struggle with the concept of leaving.
Let’s consider some things.
When you get to the point where you daydream about leaving, even make a plan for it, you are quite simply at your wit’s end. You are tired, drained, stressed, worrying 24/7, want a better life for your children if you have them, and you know things shouldn’t be like this and you want to be better, right? You want to be happy.
So you think, I’m just going to do it. I’ll figure it out, I’ll leave, and I’ll be done with all this. It will be peace.
But what you don’t consider is that no matter what you do, you’ll still have your issues, and your recovery will still need to be started. It’s like that quote, “no matter where you go, there you are.” If you get to the point where life is crazy and unmanageable but you just bounce without considering your own issues first, sure, you can leave, and maybe it will be better.
But they’re going to follow you, no matter where you go. It may be peaceful at first, but slowly but surely, they will pop up again, and will show up in your new life just as much as your old one.
You’ll worry about your old partner, you’ll do it from a place of ultimatums and trying to use it to get them sober, you’ll feel guilty and think that you leaving caused them to do worse or not start recovery, you’ll carry the burden of them not doing well still, you’ll be angry and resentful about your past, you’ll still be codependent, and all the other things that you thought you escaped from. Even if you meet someone new down the line, you’ll end up with the same relationship with a different character.
Even if you stay, your life will continue to get crazier, your emotions will be all over the place, you will resent your partner even more because they make you feel trapped and unable to live a free life, you might cheat or emotionally stray to become more distant, you’ll be angry at how everyone else has a better partner, you’ll be sad and unhopeful of the future, and things will slide further and further downhill.
But what do we do about it?
We put our recovery first and foremost. Before we decide to leave. Before we decide to stay. And it doesn’t matter one bit what our partner is doing.
How is that?
Because our recovery is about us, without input from anyone else. It’s what we do to heal ourselves, get healthier, sort through and lay to rest our past, realize we are in complete control no matter where we are of having a much better and happier future, and how we get to a place of hope and contentment.
When I realized this, I realized I didn’t want to really leave. I still loved my partner as much as I ever had, and I still had hope he would recover. But my happiness wasn’t dependent on it happening a certain way or within a certain time frame anymore. And I made peace with the idea that maybe it wouldn’t ever happen.
And the funny thing is, once I started that in myself, it started in him, too.
Because just as much as we use fantasy to escape our lives and chaos of our relationship, so too do our partners use drugs to escape the chaos of their own lives and their side of the relationship.
My partner said once that our relationship was his biggest trigger. And while at first that statement hurt me, I realized that once I understood that, it made sense. It wasn’t my fault per se, but along with the other things he was dealing with which he used drugs to cope with, our relationship was a huge thing that he couldn’t ignore or easily get away from.
If he wasn’t doing well, but couldn’t even find relief or hope or love in his partner, the relationship just became another thing to try to escape from. Just like it was for me.
So my point is, it’s not about leaving or staying. It’s not about advocating for one or the other. We can’t say that just because something worked for us, it should work for everyone. Just like each person’s drug recovery is different, so is ours. It’s not a cookie cutter system.
And that’s what’s so great about this, and life, as a whole. The essence is that it is perfectly customizable and different for everyone, and we have nothing but options.
At the end of the day, it’s about what you want to do for yourself. And what you really want is to feel like you have a life worth living and being excited about.
So why not start there first?