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Having a relationship with an addict

I guess I don't really know where to begin, but I hope I find my way. Over the last 3 years I've had the lovely privilege of dating not only one, but two people who were addicts and I guess to put it simply, it wasn't easy. As a society I feel that so many of us know people within our families, friend groups, or even work environments who struggle with addictions, and we typically have a place in our heart for them because we want them to succeed. I had seen addicts within my own extended family, but never fully understood the effects of having an intimate relationship with one until I lived it.

There's many different types of addicts but they all share the same drive to do basically anything for whatever they're addicted too, regardless of what the outcome could be. I've been in a relationship with someone who was addicted to pornography, and another relationship where they were addicted to drugs and alcohol. Both very different, yet very similar.

I don't really know where it comes from, but I've always been drawn to those who have struggles or "issues" I guess one could say, with the mindset that I can change them. I try to see everyone’s potential rather than judging them for what they might be going through, but I've learned the hard way there's a big difference in supporting someone versus trying to change someone.

When that moment came where I learned of the addictions within both of my relationships I felt sad, but also confident that I could be the one to help them, and get them back on the right path. I made goals with them, found plans for them to succeed, and always made myself available for them if they were struggling. What I didn't realize I was doing was setting myself up for failure because every time they would slip up I ultimately put the blame on myself. "If only I tried harder to help them", "I need to be better next time" and "this is my fault". The constant pressure to babysit them, and make sure they wouldn't mess up would eat me alive because I allowed it to take over my every thought. There was a time where I was living under the same roof with one of these individuals, and I was scared everyday just to leave the house for work because I knew if I wasn't there, something would happen.

It doesn't happen with all relationships like this, but for one of my relationships that I had, the person couldn't take ownership as the addiction worsened and found it easier to lie, hide information, and ultimately blame me when the truth did come out. On top of me already putting blame on myself, to hear from the one person I was trying to help that apparently I was now the cause for them indulging in their addiction made me feel more helpless then even imaginable. Narcissistic personality disorder involves a pattern of self centered, arrogant thinking and behavior, and a lack of empathy or consideration for other people, which is exactly what I was now dealing with in that relationship.

Being with an addict takes patience, love, and communication, but it can't only go one way. I realized that I couldn't be the one to fix them or take away their addiction, but they needed to make that change and decision themselves. Unfortunately both of the people I dated weren't ready to make the changes needed, and the relationships couldn't continue. One of these relationships was with the person I was engaged to, and almost immediately after I broke it off my mind was filled with the darkest thoughts. My mind told me that I was a failure because I couldn't change them, and wasn't good enough for them to wanna get help. Statements like "I gave up on them" and "I didn't do everything I could" filled my thoughts, and made me feel horrible about myself. The effects of dating an addict and especially a narcissist stay with you a long time, and takes retraining your mind of what the truth actually was, rather than what they tried to make it seem like.

I truly loved one of these individuals more than I've ever loved anyone else before, and still have love for them today. When you love someone you tend to let go of their struggles because you convince yourself its okay, but I needed to learn its also a form of love to let them go. The constant pressure for the addict to act a certain way and mask what they're going through can be just as hard for them, as it is for me trying to change them.

I know several people who have different stories than mine with the Cinderella story ending, but it's important to remember that's not realistic for everyone. I was losing myself in these relationships, and they were ultimately causing more harm to myself than it was being beneficial for them. I still have days where I wonder if I could've done more to help, but I quickly remind myself I truly did everything I could.

When people hear about these relationships I've had they always say the same things. "You're so strong to go through that" and "I don't know how you did it". Sometimes those statements hit a nerve with me because it makes it seem like I knew what I had been getting myself into, which in both cases I didn't. I met people who I liked and got into relationships, to then find myself stuck in these situations. I did everything I could to make it work, and it clearly didn't. Unless you've been in a relationship with someone like this than you don't know what it's like when you're in the middle of it. The constant fear of them messing up, the loneliness of not having someone to talk to, the fear of others finding out, the crying yourself to sleep because you just want them to change, and then beating yourself up when they don't. Feeling responsible for their actions even though it has nothing to do with you is something you carry for a long time.

I'm finally learning that a relationship requires two equals, and not just one person trying to help the other yet losing themselves along the way. I needed to be true to myself and I'm grateful everyday I was. It was not my responsibility to change them, and their addiction was not my fault.

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