The breakdown of the couple creates anxiety in the relationship. The addict reacts by falling further under the spell of the addiction process. He or she drinks more or uses more, stays out later or does not come home at all, suffers more consequences from their behavior.
The addict’s denial also increases; he or she believes nothing is different. Addicts will get more defensive and argumentative, especially when something threatens their illusion of normalcy.
They feel more shameful and make promises to do better in the future, but these promises are short-lived. As addicts move further into the addictive process, they betray their relationships – and themselves – more and more. Agreements break down further, causing more anxiety.
In addition, the addicted person is involved in an internal fight with himself or herself. On a preconscious level, he or she can sense that he or she is fighting for their life. However, he or she also in an external fight with the person he loves, who wants him or her to stop using drugs or alcohol.
The addict, unlike their partner, sees the substance of abuse as the problem and the solution AND the solution. Anxiety increases, and the addict runs further into the addiction. Because the co-addict finds no refuge in drinking or addiction, he or she seeks more power and control to reduce his or her anxiety.
This person expends an enormous amount of energy trying to keep the alcoholic sober, mend fences the addict has broken and making calls to work reminding the addicted person to come straight home after work. The partner desperately wants a return to what was.
The co-addict really wants his or her friend, lover, and partner back; he or she longs for the love that was protected and provided for by their relationship. This is why co-addicts often seem to be chasing after their addicted partners. They want their partners back. But the addict only runs faster and farther into his or her addiction, which in turns makes the co-addict partner more frantic and desperate.
This is not abnormal, sick, or dysfunctional. This is normal. This is the essence of love. People naturally panic when their love is threatened. Out of love or hope, the co-addict continues to make profound personal sacrifices for the sake of the relationship and the other person, the addict.
The sacrifices, however, are not healing the relationship as they might in a normal situation. But are actually harming it further. When a person makes genuine sacrifices for a deteriorating relationship and when these sacrifices are ridiculed, the co-addict feels more humiliation, anger, and a desire to distance themselves from the source of the pain – the addict.
The co-addict is in a relationship with some who may truly love them, but who is unable to adequately demonstrate their love – in essence the addict’s love has become meaningless.
The partner of the addict can sense the love but never experience it in a meaningful way. Remember, the co-addict partner is desperate to restore the couple, restore meaning, and rebuild the WE of the relationship. Co-addicts believe in what they are fighting for.
As they feel betrayed and beaten up by the addiction itself, the rightness of their “mission” becomes the salve on their wounds. Over time, they face the very real danger of becoming self-righteous.