The Addicted Relationship

Be very clear, folks, addictions preclude intimacy. Period.

Why? Because the addiction is the addict’s primary relationship, no person comes before it.

Whether you use alcohol, drugs, pain medications, marijuana, video games, sex, porn, shopping, gambling, exercise, food, or any other form of excess, that thing is keeping you disconnected from yourself and other people. It comes first.

How can I say the addiction is the primary relationship?

Let me give you an example. A woman with an alcohol addiction pours herself a shot. As she finishes pouring, the baby starts crying in the nursery. What do you think the woman does? Ninety-nine percent of the time she’ll pound the shot and rush to the nursery. She will have convinced herself it took “only a second,” but in that instant, the alcohol came first, no matter the justification. I have had people admit they would shoot up, purge, make one more play on their online poker game, finish a boss fight, or make one more purchase on the computer before responding to another person, even their child.

The addiction came first.

So how do you know if something is potentially an addiction or at least something you are abusing? Or how do you know if someone else is addicted?

First and foremost, listen to those around you. If the use is being commented on directly or indirectly, it is a problem. Someone could mention it straight out or you may notice people avoid the subject or avoid you when you are using. For example, they won’t go out with you, they no longer have alcohol at their parties, or they won’t spend time with you when you are surfing the porn sites or internet. Your spouse complains about the money you are spending. I know you’ve crossed the line into addiction because one indicator of an addiction is it has caused some sort of problem or change in your life. A DUI is a consequence that points to possible addiction, but so are distance from your spouse, frequent arguments, decreased productivity at work (or at home), and a whole host of problems. You could be a workaholic and do great at work, but be failing at home; your work is your addiction.

When a therapist evaluates you for an addiction, they look at numerous bio-psycho-social effects. You can use these to evaluate your own use or that of a significant other.

1. Do you have physical/biological symptoms (shakes, anxiety, withdrawal, cravings, changes in test/lab results?)
2. Do you have any psychological changes such as mood swings, depression, anxiety, irritability, crankiness?
3. Does your thinking seem slower, distorted, racing, or confused?
4. Do you think regularly about your addiction- how to get it, use it, come down from it, hide it?
5. Socially has it affected you? For example, do you avoid certain people or places or find others avoiding you?
6. Do you do things you once promised yourself you wouldn’t do (like using more, using in places you didn’t want to, using ‘harder’ substances, spending more money, using at times you swore you wouldn’t?)
7. Do your kids comment? Do they act differently around you when you are ‘using’ your addictive thing?

These are all signs the things you are doing are a problem, probably abuse, and probably an addiction. You need to get treatment to address this before you can be rational or relational.

If you truly want to be in a rewarding, intimate, and connected relationship, clean up the addictions.

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4 thoughts on “The Addicted Relationship

  1. LB,
    Things escalate, the small things become larger, and all of the sudden your life is no longer your own- the addiction owns it.
    Few people have the ability to catch themselves. Sounds like you are working on your stuff, good for you! Keep it up.

  2. Addictions are one of the hardest things to admit to being a problem, or even admit to having one. I know so many people that would chose to smoke pot or drink rather then helping their family or friends with something first. These people are hurting the people around them but are minimizing them so they don't have to stop. I know when i was deep in my eating disorder i use to break plans , or push them until later so i could finish purging. I never use to see it as a big deal, but little things like that would turn into , not going to peoples birthdays, not going to see my dad and so on so forth.

  3. John,
    Nice visual about the invisible. When you finally start to "see" is when you decide if you are going to change. Often the bottom you reach is found through others' input.
    Thank you for the comment!

  4. With addiction the world around me became invisible, even the details of my addiction. These were details I knew intellectually but did not absorb as internalized evidence that something was wrong.

    Thanks for your blog, K. John T. Marohn

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