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  • Writer's pictureKennedy McLean

How Addiction Affects Relationships

Secure functioning relationships cannot exist while addiction is present. Substance abuse and addiction have many costs and one of the greatest comes to close relationships.

Romantic relationships affected by addiction tend to involve far more conflict than most relationships. Broken trust, hurt feelings and anxiety are side effects of substance abuse on a relationship. These issues lead to empathic failure, resentment and often the dissipation of the relationship.

Addiction hurts the person who is struggling as well as their family, friends and romantic entanglements. All the while, everyone wishes they could fix the problem, make it.

Family therapy is an integral part of many addiction treatment programs. Often, it is friends and family working together who convince their loved ones to get help. The difficulty is knowing how to guide someone towards treatment.

How Can I Support Someone With An Addiction?

It is painful to watch someone you love and deeply care about slowly pulled deeper and deeper into addiction. Substance abuse is painful for everyone. We see our loved ones hurting, and we wish desperately to help them. Often our instinct is to intervene, and out of anger or a wish to protect them, we may lecture. This is where taking a step back is likely more helpful.

Take A Pause

Take a deep breath. Before you jump into fixing, helping or confronting, you need to understand that addiction is a complex issue. No one wants to be an “addict.”

Even if you don’t think you are the one with the problem, addiction is a family illness. It affects entire families, and no one is untouched. In this sense, getting therapy can be helpful to process the feelings of helplessness, anger, or frustration you may be having. Seeing a therapist is helpful and often more productive than speaking to those in your life who may be well-meaning but give damaging advice.

Taking Action

Everyone responds to concern and criticism differently, so you will want to keep that in mind before speaking to them for the first time about their substance abuse. Be thoughtful about how you raise your concerns and when the appropriate time and place is to have the conversation. It is best to encourage your loved one rather than criticizing. Rather than shaming, use information you have noticed to encourage your loved one to seek something better. Expect them to be defensive, especially if this is a first-time conversation.

If it is an ongoing conversation, try to have an open dialogue about treatment options. See where they are at. Be honest and upfront but supportive.

How To Support A Loved One In Recovery

The work is not over once someone enters treatment. In fact, this is just the beginning. In the early stages of the recovery process, it can be tempting to reach out to connections for drugs or alcohol and many treatment centres limit exposure to outside influences for this reason. It also helps encourage people to develop new healthy habits. Each centre will be different however, most allow phone calls, the opportunity to engage in family therapy, in-person visits, and the ability to receive care packages. All of these are ways to show your loved one that you care while respecting their recovery process.

After Treatment

You can help your loved one brainstorm a list of sober activities and fun ways to connect and release stress. You can avoid partaking in substances around them. You should expect both good and bad days and have your own support network. Again, personal therapy is always helpful. If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction, contact us for a consult

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About Kennedy

Kennedy has been working in the field of addiction and mental health for 10 years. She currently runs a virtual private practice treating clients throughout Ontario.   

Kennedy's practice currently focuses on trauma, attachment, couples therapy. Associate therapists work with people of all ages experiencing a wide range of concerns such as stress, depression, anxiety, relationship distress, and grief for example.

Anything written in blog posts are the thoughts of Kennedy. They are intended to offer information that may be interesting or useful for contemplation.


Nothing written is intended to be a substitute for seeking professional help.

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