Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Guest Post: When substance use sabotages your quest for love

Bio: The following is a guest post by Saint Jude Retreats, a non-12 step non-treatment alternative to traditional drug and alcohol rehab. The program concentrates on self-directed positive neuroplastic change and positive self-change as an alternative to traditional alcohol and drug treatment.

When substance use sabotages your quest for love

Is alcohol or drug use getting in the way of dating or your ability to create lasting, meaningful relationships? Whether you have battled through a serious substance use problem or are trying to overcome one, drug and alcohol use can certainly cause problems to arise while dating and throughout a relationship.

If you are newly dating someone, it may take awhile for you to share with them that you’ve had some problems with substance use in the past. Typically, this is not first-date conversation that needs to be shared or discussed right away. This is a private matter in your life, and only you can decide when you’re ready to share those details. You may believe that the right thing to do is automatically proclaim that you are/were an “alcoholic”, but drinking is a behavior that you engage in, it’s not who you are. Allow the person to truly get to know the things you love and your true personality, as these are important qualities in your life that matter. There are, however, a few other things that you should take into consideration while dating with a substance use problem.

Does the other person drink alcohol or do drugs? If you have overcome, or are attempting to overcome, a substance use problem, you may decide that you do not want people in your life who engage in these types of habits. This is not because you feel you can’t control yourself around substances, but you may have decided that, in order to live your life productively, you would rather engage in healthy habits and other types of behaviors. It’s best to find someone that enjoys the same things so that you will eventually be able to do them together as a couple. If the person you’re dating loves the bar scene, and you wish to avoid it, it may lead to conflict down the road.

The other thing you may need to consider is dating someone who is a moderate social drinker. A moderate drinker is a person that socially consumes 1 to 2 drinks on dates or at special events such as weddings, birthdays, cookouts, etc. This type of person has successfully mastered drinking in moderation and has no issues with substance abuse. There have been an overwhelming number of heavy substance users who have had much success with moderating their alcohol use. If you are still trying to figure out your own substance use problems, you may decide that moderation is an avenue you wish to explore. Abstinence can sometimes make a substance user feel limited in their choices, and, at times, less likely to completely change. Moderating your intake may empower you by helping you to understand that you are responsible for your choices and behaviors regarding substance use. Having a partner who moderates their own drinking may even prove to you that you are more in control than you think.

While you may not want to reveal your substance use history right away, it’s also not a good idea to enter into a relationship lying about it, especially if you’re still using. Heavy alcohol or drug use can shake a relationship to the very core. It can damage important values such as trust, communication, and loyalty, especially if you have vowed to never drink or use drugs again and you begin lying about your behavior. Lying can create tension in a relationship while leaving the partner who does not have a problem with substance use feeling betrayed, angry, or resentful towards you. Open communication and honesty can help solidify your relationship, while solving these problems before they even arise.

Not only can substance use cause emotional problems in a relationship, it can cause quite a few financial ones as well. If you are constantly draining your bank account on drugs, alcohol, or both, you may feel like you can’t provide for your partner or family. This will not only make you feel more guilty, but it will most likely cause arguments between the two of you. Again, it’s important to not be deceitful regarding your financial information while dating. If you have lost everything, or are starting life over again, it’s important to not give the impression you are something that you are not. When you find the right person to create a lasting relationship with, they will accept you and your situation for what it is.

If your substance use is seriously impacting your ability to find love, the obvious answer is to change or stop the behavior. If you have been told in the past that changing an alcohol or drug problem is impossible, know that you have always had the power within you to use or not. It’s never too late to change your current behavior and live the life you want.

Ultimately if your spouse or partner decides to stand by you and help you change your life, this can certainly lead to a lasting and meaningful relationship; but you both have to work towards it. If you are dating someone who decides they need to walk away from the situation, you need to be understanding and respect the choice they are making as well.

Relationships are difficult and there is no doubt in my mind that adding substance use to the mix will only make them harder, but they all don’t need to end badly. The right person will certainly come your way. Just remember it is your choice as to what is more important to you; substance use or love.