How to Protect Yourself While Helping an Addicted Partner

Many of the women who apply for the Live Your Dream Awards have struggled with addiction or addicted partners. This guest blog raises awareness and reinforces our position of solidarity with women who face obstacles on the path to their dreams.

If you’re in a relationship with a partner who struggles with addiction, life can be chaotic. Substance abuse causes people to do and say things they never would when sober — and that can leave you feeling angry, hurt and afraid.

You might think this is all part of loving someone with an addiction, but there’s never a good excuse for destructive behavior. And the damage isn’t just physical. The emotional and financial repercussions of your partner’s addiction can be just as damaging.

It is possible to support your loved one without putting yourself at risk. Here’s how to make sure you are protected while helping your partner find hope for recovery.

Put Your Safety and Security First

When you spend all your energy coping with your partner’s addiction, your needs can get lost in the mix. But caring for yourself isn’t just okay — it’s necessary, especially if you have children to protect.

There’s never an excuse for abuse, whether it’s physical, emotional or sexual. If you feel threatened by your partner when he uses drugs or alcohol, don’t stand by and take it. Find a safe place where you can stay until either the immediate danger passes or he seeks treatment.

Addiction can also cause your partner to steal from you to fund his next fix, putting your financial security at risk. Lock up cash and other valuable possessions, and don’t give your partner access to your bank accounts until he’s on a solid path to recovery.

Lean on Others for Support

Living with a partner who abuses drugs or alcohol can be isolating, but you don’t have to suffer alone. As tempted as you may be to make him the center of your world, it’s important to build your own network of support.

  • Maintain other relationships. Spending time with family and friends can help you cope with the pain and stress of addiction and rediscover joy of your own again. If you make plans, stick with them, even if it means saying no to your partner’s demands. You don’t have to feel guilty for doing things you love with people who matter in your life.
  • Join a support group. Al-Anon and Nar-Anon offer support for friends and family members affected by addiction. These 12-Step programs are a great way to connect with others who understand what it’s like to love someone with an addiction.
  • Seek professional help. You may think your partner is the only one who needs help dealing with his substance abuse. But counseling can help you process and recover from the trauma you’ve experienced too. A licensed therapist can also work with you to set healthy boundaries so you can build trust and self-confidence again.

Avoid Enabling His Addiction

Picking up the pieces every time your partner’s substance use wreaks havoc might seem like the right thing to do. But this response — called “enabling” — only makes it easier for him to continue abusing drugs or alcohol. If he never has to face the consequences of his addiction, he’ll never be motivated to seek treatment.

Here are just a few forms enabling can take:

  • Covering up for your loved one to family, friends or coworkers
  • Bailing him out when he’s in financial trouble
  • Cleaning up his mess after a binge to save him the embarrassment
  • Excusing abusive behavior because he doesn’t remember it once sober
  • Buying drugs or alcohol for him to use at home so you can keep tabs on him

Taking responsibility for your partner’s actions isn’t helpful in the long run. As hard as it may be to let your loved one face the music, it may be the only path to change.

How and When to Intervene

You don’t have to wait for your partner to hit rock bottom to seek treatment. The sooner he gets into a recovery program, the sooner you can both heal from the damage.

So when should you put your foot down and insist that your partner get sober? You know it’s time to intervene if:

  • Your loved one’s substance use affects his health
  • Your partner abuses you physically, emotionally or sexually
  • Aiding his addiction puts your health, career and future at risk
  • Your children have started bringing home bad grades or dabbling in drugs or alcohol

If you really want to support your partner, researching rehab centers is an easy place to start. Keep in mind that addiction often goes hand-in-hand with mental illness: 41.2 percent of adults with a substance use disorder have a co-occurring mental illness. Integrated treatment programs address both the addiction and any underlying mental health disorders at the same time, setting people up for long-term recovery success.


  1. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2016). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health; HHS Publication No. SMA 16-4984, NSDUH Series H-51.

Article written by Heroes in Recovery

Heroes in Recovery has a simple mission: to eliminate the social stigma that keeps individuals with addiction and mental health issues from seeking help, to share stories of recovery for the purpose of encouragement and inspiration, and to create an engaged sober community that empowers people to get involved, give back, and live healthy, active lives.

Share Your Story 

The Heroes movement has begun with strong momentum, but it still needs your help. We’re asking people in recovery to share their stories with us so that others who are struggling can realize that there’s life on the other side of drugs and alcohol.

With your help, we look forward to a future of enabling others to get help, encouraging those who are getting treatment, and celebrating with those who have won the fight to stay clean and sober. We believe that it takes a heroic effort to maintain recovery day in and day out. That’s what the Heroes movement seeks to emphasize. And we want to prove that courage—and hope—are contagious.

Join us today. Share your story, follow us, and become part of the movement!


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