Relationships are a very challenging area of life. They can trigger our deepest wounds and make us feel the most vulnerable. Relationships can mirror any wounds we might have around intimacy, bonding, and empowerment.

Because of the deep potential for feeling hurt and vulnerable, relationships could easily trigger someone and cause them to turn to drinking or drugs. Something else to keep in mind is that relationships that involve drinking, drug use, or addiction are often co-dependent ones. For instance, in relationships, the powerlessness and that locus of control often get played out. The belief in being powerless in life leads to a dysfunctional relying on the other person for things that one can and should do on their own, such as being financially stable. This underlying belief in being powerless seems to attract an enabler who in turn believes that no one else can perform a task as well as they can. Enablers tend to take control of a situation thinking that they are being helpful without seeing that it would be more healthy to allow the other person to do that task on his or her own. This powerlessness and enabling is the crux of a co-dependent relationship. However, for someone who is living out these patterns, there is often hurt, blame, and feeling victimized.

Another challenging aspect about relationships, which can also be a trigger for drinking or drug use, is the pull between separateness and togetherness. Each person in the relationship will try to find a balance, albeit unconsciously, between wanting to separate and be an individual and wanting to relate more deeply with their partner. However, in co-dependent relationships there is frequently a need to merge to feel a sense of completeness and power through the other person.

If you’re in a relationship and you’re aware that it’s causing you to cope through the use of substances, there are a few things that you can do to help yourself. First, you might want to seek professional support. You might look for a therapist, drug counselor, or psychologist who is familiar with the patterns of addiction and relationships. You might also do some researching yourself on the connection between relationships and addiction.

Another technique to try is observe yourself and change your tendency to reach for a drink or drugs to feel better. This technique is going to take some time because it’s going to require you to change your coping tool. It’s going to ask that you pay close attention to your inner experience and how you’re attempting to change that experience through the use of substances. The process of noticing that you don’t feel good inside but changing the way you’ve reacted in the past to uncomfortable feelings is going to take some time. However, it’s quite possible to do. In fact, you might notice that you’re able to stop yourself from reaching for a glass of wine after feeling guilt or shame or anger. However, it’s likely going to be a two steps forward one step back kind of experience. You’ll move forward a bit and then, at other times, you might fail to remember that you’re doing it differently this time.

It’s quite possible to change your pattern of coping with life. It takes practice, patience, and plenty of self-care.

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