The secret of a long life is knowing when it’s time to go – Michelle Shocked
If you are in a relationship with an addict, when should you leave your partner or when should you stay and treat codependent behaviors? We explore the meaning of co-addiction here, what you can do about it, and how to take action. Then, we invite your questions about personal situations at the end.
When to leave an addict or alcoholic
From the very moment an addict mistreats you, abuses you (verbally or physically), stays out all night, gets high in front of you or your children, steals, or continually treats you in a way that is out of character, it is time to leave. However, this is easier said than done. And co-addiction recovery is really unique to each person. So, even in the face of these difficulties, when should you start changing yourself?
What keeps you from leaving?
Some co-addicts believe that by being the voice of reason in an unhealthy relationship, they may be able to help the addict recover, and a healthy relationship will be restored. More than likely, many forms of help have been attempted, to no avail. When living with an addict, the emotional harm endured by the co-addict, and/or, their children, may be far more damaging than the absence of the addict would be. Consequently, the addict’s recovery may be delayed because their partner is always around to pick up the pieces.
So what’s the number one reason people stay in a relationship with an addict or alcohol?
In fact, it is only fear that drives a person to stay in a relationship they know deep down is extremely unhealthy. Most decisions made by an enabler are rooted in fear. The reality is, no fear of what will happen, is any worse than what is happening in their everyday lives. But in a co-addictive relationship, the co-addict may fear many things:
- fear for the life of the addict—for what will happen if they are not there to save them
- fear the addict will feel abandoned
- fear that there is not enough money to leave
- fear that the addict will not love them anymore,
- fear of being alone
- fear of having to be a single parent
- or fear that if they leave they will not be able to control the addict’s behavior
A co-addict may even fear that if they leave, they won’t be there to see the addict get better, and the recovering addict will reject them because they left. There are always many things to fear.
When will the co-addict be ready?
If the co-addict is unhappy with their partner’s behavior, due to the influence of alcohol or drugs, chances are their life is unmanageable. The only question in knowing when it is time to leave is; when will the co-addict be ready? When a co-addict fully grasps the harm being done to them and/or children living with the addict, and they make a conscious decision to break the cycle—that is the right time to leave.
Every single person must live out the cycle of co-addiction in their own time. Some may stay in a situation because they believe it is not that bad or they will be worse off without the addict. It is amazing what a co-addict will learn to live with or without. The fear can become crippling, and in many cases it takes a catastrophic event for the co-addict to wake up, and decide they are ready to leave.
Moving beyond fear and leaving an addict
The famous adage, “feel the fear…and do it anyway” by Susan Jeffers, Ph.D., is a concept helpful in moving beyond the fear. Fear may never subside, but that is no excuse to stay in an unhealthy situation. With most new experiences there is a fear of the unknown. When addictive behavior begins, it can be very frightening for the co-addict, and though fears remain, somehow the co-addict learns to adjust. There will be initial fears that surface when leaving the addict, but theywill learn to adjust just the same.
More than likely boundaries and promises have already been broken between the addict and co-addict. A co-addict must come to a point where they are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Knowing when it is time to leave is an individual choice; but by putting the fear aside, hopefully they will be able to come to that point a lot sooner.