Substance abuse plays havoc with relationships. The following are dynamics and issues that are common to the practices of Dr. Virginia Crist and Attorney Mark Astor.
Drug and alcohol abuse impacts everyone who has a relationship with the user. There is a tremendous amount of denial initially, and the stress imposed upon those living with an addict is far beyond what the abuser can comprehend, appreciate or rectify.
PARENTS: Once the parents become aware of the gravity of the situation, they are typically the first who make repeated attempts to come to the rescue of the child they love. Initially, with logic, ie., “You can work for your father;” then fear; “Look at what you’re doing to your life;” to bargaining, “I’ll help you find a job;” to pleading , “Quit hanging around those friends! They’re a bad influence on you,” and “YOU’VE GOT TO STOP!;” to spending thousands upon thousands of dollars on drug and alcohol treatment centers, once or multiple times. There is deep concern that their child will not be a well-functioning, independent, contributing member of society, able to care for himself and others.
SIBLINGS: Siblings are those with whom abusers beg to keep their secrets of deceptions, shoplifting, theft, etc., often demanding unfair loyalties from someone often younger than themselves. Further, siblings are then saddled with the split loyalty of telling a parent or someone who might be helpful, or honoring the desired trust of brother/sister blood.
CHILDREN: Studies show that young children who must act as ‘caregiving youth’ to an alcoholic parent demonstrate negative effects like school behavioral or social problems and emotional difficulties. Parental substance abuse creates an atmosphere in which children live in fear, children fail to receive the tools they need to become healthy adults, and role reversal.
FRIENDS: Well-meaning friends stay until they can no longer stay. They talk until they can no longer talk, and they listen until they can no longer listen. Then they move on. The sacred honoring of the friend-to-friend bond is under duress here and severely challenged.
ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS: The romantic partner is not always aware of the extent of the problem at the onset. Sometimes people fall in love and then realize all that the new partner brings. The negative effects on a healthy love relationship surface when the healthy partner fatigues of trying. Once the communication deteriorates and conflict escalates, the couple loses their ability to function well. The sexual life that started out so well becomes a memory. In some cases, domestic violence occurs. Love is not as they once defined it.
There is a tremendous sense of loss in each of these relationships. Each life and role and system is negatively impacted. Whether through attachment, violence, driving while intoxicated or financial, the destructive path of the abuser is made evident. Each who has made an attempt to love an abuser has a life interrupted for the unequal pouring out of self to attempt to correct a life.