Last week, I wrote a blog about addiction and relationships with Heart Month and Valentine's Day in mind. However, it somehow feels even more important to share after learning about the tragic death of Whitney Houston on Saturday. While it's too soon to know the official cause of her death—Ms. Houston had publicly spoken about her volatile relationship with both addiction and her ex-husband.
Our hearts go out to her family and friends during this difficult time. It's tragic that Whitney's precious, beautiful voice has become silent. As we pause and reflect on this sad occasion, let's take this opportunity to look at the importance of relationships in our lives and also the impact addiction can have on them.
Most of us have experienced both healthy and unhealthy relationships. Many relationships are a mixture of both. No relationship is perfect but some are more helpful to us than others. Some are even hurtful and sometimes even abusive. Just because someone says they love us doesn't mean they know how to love.
Healthy relationships are generally safe and respectful. They are flexible and change over time as circumstances change. People in healthy relationships communicate about things that matter to both people, including feelings. Each person gives and takes, compromises when needed, and sometimes agrees also to disagree. Both people are committed to the relationship itself. They admit to mistakes and forgive other mistakes. Healthy relationships have ups and downs but generally they bring a sense of fulfillment and not depletion to life.
On the other hand, unhealthy relationships have ups and downs and generally bring pain to our lives. They are neither safe nor respectful. They aren't flexible as life happens. In unhealthy relationships people may rarely communicate, particularly about feelings. When they do communicate about feelings, it is usually done in anger. There may not be mutual give and take. One may almost always give and the other may almost always take. Forgiveness may be one-sided or not given at all. Unhealthy relationships bring more pain than necessary to life.
For people in active addiction to alcohol and/or drugs—unhealthy relationships are common. Addiction is a huge barrier in relationships. In fact, these four relationship patterns may even reveal that you have a substance abuse issue that is getting in the way of your relationship or possible relationship:
If you see these signs in yourself—we encourage you to seek help from someone who understands addiction. You don't need to suffer alone and in silence. There are many people who understand.
It's important to remember that you can have a healthy relationship—but it will take work. If you are an active addict, that will mean committing to sobriety and a program of recovery first.
It doesn't have to be this way! If you see these signs...ask for help. Recovery is very possible, both in relationships and addiction.
Brenda Iliff is the Clinical Director for Caron Texas, a leading nonprofit addiction treatment center. For more information, please visit http://www.carontexas.org