Learn more about the relationship between addiction and toxic relationships.
Addiction to drugs or alcohol can wreak havoc on otherwise healthy and loving relationships, causing trauma and dysfunction. Alcoholism or substance use and toxic relationships are frequently linked, with 40 to 60% of cases of substance abuse co-occurring with physical and emotional abuse.
However, it can also affect other relationships. Addiction and toxic relationships are inextricably linked, perpetuating the cycle. Change occurs when persons with substance use disorder or their family and friends stop their harmful influence on relationships.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, addiction is “a complicated illness, a brain disease indicated by compulsive substance use despite severe consequences.” Addictions are often accompanied by other undesirable behaviors, such as lying, stealing, deception, and a drug or alcohol obsession. These habits assist persons with substance abuse disorder in concealing and maintaining their addiction.
They can, however, harm romantic or other relationships. Feeding one’s addiction to drugs and alcohol may take precedence over other vital relationships and duties. Regrettably, toxic relationships can cause a sober partner to turn to take drugs too.1
It doesn’t matter the form the relationship takes, whether marriage or friendship; maintaining a healthy relationship is quite difficult when addiction is involved. Toxic relationships entail bad conduct and habits of exerting control, selfishness, manipulation, and abuse, whether with a love partner, family member, or friend.
Toxic relationships may come in various forms and sizes, ranging from a partner to family members or friends in one’s social circle. Around 84% of women have at least one toxic acquaintance who encourages them to engage in self-destructive and harmful habits.2
A toxic relationship is detrimental to one or both individuals involved. Drugs and alcohol may poison your relationships with one’s loved ones in any situation, leading to codependency, enabling, and other vices; drugs and relationships don’t mix well. Due to a person’s dysfunctional connection with someone, they may turn to alcohol drugs to numb painful feelings, or they may urge their partner to take illicit substances as a method to exert more control on the relationship.
A toxic relationship is defined as “any relationship [between] people who] don’t support each other, where there’s conflict, and one seeks to undermine the other, where there’s competition, where there’s disrespect and a lack of cohesiveness” according to Dr. Lillian Glass, a California-based communication and psychology expert.3
Many things can make a relationship toxic, either intentionally or non-intentionally. Toxic relationships can develop over time and often stem from a challenging upbringing, bullying, or lack of self-esteem. In these relationships, either one or both partners fight for the upper hand and consistently undermine the other person to achieve that goal. There is often manipulation, volatile communication, and abuse, ranging from mental to physical.3
When things become poisonous, every accomplishment becomes a competition. In other words, the time the partners share is no longer enjoyable. The periods of joy are often fleeting, and patterns of cyclical lows always follow intervals of happiness.
There is no feeling of love or motivation, and partners don’t have faith in each other to support themselves. Instead, they may get the idea that their partner’s wants and interests are unimportant and that they are solely concerned with what they desire.4
You can recognize a relationship as toxic by assessing the following criteria:
A toxic relationship is consistently unpleasant
It’s always emotionally draining
The negative moments outweigh the positive moments
Bitterness and isolation
Lack of support
Instead of warmth and mutual respect, most of their conversations are filled with sarcasm, criticism, and contempt. These talks can cause a withdrawal from the relationship because it’s no longer healthy for them to continue.
Another sign of a toxic relationship is when a partner begins to control the other without letting them off the hook regarding small matters. These tactics of exerting control may indicate abuse in some circumstances. These actions might result from jealousy or trust issues, but they could also mean a craving for control, leading to relationship toxicity.
Being persistently late, nonchalantly “forgetting” events, and other actions that demonstrate a disregard for time, are all warning flags. Take note that some people have a hard time setting and maintaining appointments, so starting with a discussion about this habit may be beneficial. If it’s not on purpose, there could be a difference once the grieved partner expresses their displeasure.
When spouses share finances, they almost always have to agree on how they’ll manage their budget. However, if one spouse decides to spend money on items the other doesn’t approve of, it’s not inherently toxic.
However, it may be toxic if they’ve reached a financial arrangement and that person frequently breaks that deal, whether by buying big-ticket products or withdrawing substantial quantities of money. Additionally, if one partner uses finances as leverage over the other, that is a clear indicator of abuse.
Fixing toxic relationships isn’t simple, but it’s achievable if both sides put in the effort. There must be an intentional attitude, and both parties must agree to make it work. Both partners must buy in to ensure substantial improvement occurs over time. Here are a few tips to fixing a toxic relationship:
The effects of drug addiction extend beyond these concerns to include one’s social relationship and well-being. The ability to sustain good, satisfying relationships is referred to as social health.
Addictions, unfortunately, can hurt social health. When someone becomes addicted, all kinds of relationships, relatives, relationships with friends, and romantic relationships, can be severely strained.
Several features that make long-term relationships become even more difficult to sustain when substance dependency enters the picture. Once one progresses from irregular use to addiction, acquiring and then using the substance is likely to become their sole focus.
Because substance usage generally outweighs the euphoric feeling of partnerships, the user will devote less time and attention to maintaining the connection, enabling numerous negative features to emerge.
Those who witness their loved one go through the trials of addiction often process this by enabling their behavior. They often internalize responsibility and guilt for their inappropriate actions and activities.
This usually means making excuses for their behavior or funding their unhealthy lifestyle. This is a coping mechanism that burdens both parties of the relationship.
Further, different methods of engaging and behaving in relationships define attachment styles. Insecure attachment can take the form of a variety of attachment types. Anxiety can stem from this attachment style, wherein the individual expects a lot of attention, approbation, and intimacy from love relationships.
They can also develop fearful-avoidant (wherein they desire intimacy but remain apprehensive of it) or dismissive-avoidant (wherein they become exceedingly self-reliant) and have a minimal desire for emotional intimacy.
Non-heavy drinkers or people who are just getting started with substance use experience secure attachment. Insecure attachments may increase a person’s chances of developing a drug abuse problem (SUD). People who continue to abuse drugs may find themselves drifting apart in their relationships rather than growing closer and connected.
People in toxic relationships can opt out of them by being open to their loved ones, finding support from a therapist, getting help from a domestic violence advocacy group, and ultimately taking care of themselves.
If you or a loved one needs help, please call us at
(888) 744-9969 and our team at Blueprints For Recovery in Arizona will help.