On Addiction: Practical Advice for Those Feeling Stuck in a Relationship with an Addict (Part 3 of 3)

Up Close and Personal with Stacy D. Phillips, Esq.
Stacy D. Phillips

So, what can you do if you feel stuck in a relationship with an addict? Trust me, I know firsthand that it’s unfortunately super easy to get there and very hard to pull yourself out.

My advice to anyone in a relationship with an alcoholic or drug addict is, first and foremost, to ensure your safety and that of your family. This can be a hard step to take, but it’s one of the most important ones.

For example, it should go without saying, that please never allow the addict to drive a vehicle while under the influence, particularly with you or others in it. That is easy to say but not so easy to enforce. And certainly, do not let them carry out other forms of abuse on you or your children.

Some practical advice includes the following eight (8) tips:

  1. Secure your safety, and that of your family, as mentioned above. It bears repeating. (One of the illusions is that you think you’ll be safe. It’s a mirage.)
  2. If you don’t already have one, find a private therapist, one just for you and possibly your children. You must take care of yourself before (and while) you can help others.
  3. Expand your medical team to include a therapist who understands or specializes in addiction, one for you and another for the addict in your life. These therapists are different than your regular therapists. You can have two or three therapists – one for your general issues, an alcohol/addiction specialist for you, and one for the addict! The therapists and doctors can even collaborate.
  4. For the addict, you’ll need to help them find a psychiatrist or medical doctor to prescribe actual medications for their mental issues like depression, anxiety, traumatic stress, etc., which are likely the root of the addiction issues.
  5. Be prepared to put in the work that’s needed. You may need to attend meetings or sessions together. You need to educate yourself, so you are less vulnerable and wiser to the warning signs.
  6. Find other people in the same situation so you don’t feel like you’re alone. There are different types of support groups including AA and Alanon – there are public groups, Zoom groups, some bigger, some smaller. Support groups can be challenging if you're not one to speak out in a group, but remember it works for millions of people.
  7. Two-plus-one Intervention Method(™). (The plus one is the intervention for you!) In my previous article, I described giving the addict one or two chances – MAX – at interventions and rehab, and – of equal importance – seeking an honest intervention for yourself with close friends or family. If those fail and end in relapse, it’s likely time to get out.
  8. Rebound and Rebuild. Take care of yourself by getting a support team, including family, friends, and professionals, to help you do self-care and repairs, so you can start fresh.

In the end, please don’t lose hope. Don’t live in despair, rather move forward – keeping yourself and your family safe – and take active steps to manage or remediate the situation. As they say, there is light at the end of the tunnel, but you must keep moving forward to find it.

Even with all my experiences, I don’t have all the answers. I share my experiences candidly in hope that I can reach just one person who may be struggling alone in silence. May my stories help be their wake-up call of sorts.

Honestly, it all has made me a better person, a better mom, and better family law and divorce attorney. I now know things and see signs I clearly didn’t recognize before. It helps me be sensitive to these issues when working with clients. But let me be clear, I’ve worked very hard with experts to make sure I don’t impose my issues on my clients, being careful never to place my own feelings in the way of their real needs.

Let me end this series by adding this. If someone you know is struggling in a relationship with an addict, please lean into the relationship and offer support. Be honest and candid – of course, not to the point of damaging the friendship – but find an opportunity let them know what you’re seeing, that you’re in their camp and that you’re there to support them when they’re ready to address it. Point them in the direction of getting the help they and their spouse need.

This article was published by Stacy D. Phillips on LinkedIn on November 2, 2022.