Substance abuse and relationships do not go hand in hand. Addiction is a disease that not only affects the addict but their families and loved ones as well. Addiction can result in physical or verbal abuse, uncontrollable emotions, isolation, codependency, and serious debt, which can put a strain on relationships. When alcoholism becomes the main focus of arguments, a vicious cycle occurs in which alcohol becomes the cause of conflicts, but then lead to the consumption of more alcohol as a way to reduce tension.

It isn’t uncommon for loved ones to blame themselves for an addict’s decisions, and over time that can create emotional trauma for all involved. The following are just some of the uphill battles facing relationships with alcohol abuse.

Broken trust
Trust is something that takes time to build, but when it’s broken, sometimes that trust can never be repaired. Addiction can break down relationships, and it often leads to divorce and disconnection from family members. When an addict is abusing a substance, that substance comes before everything and everyone, which leaves little room to put effort into a relationship. No matter what an addict says, the substance is number one in their life, which means it comes before themselves, spouses, family members, and even their children.

Trust can be terminated in a number of ways when it comes to addicts. Whether it be cheating, lying, or stealing, the pain is real for loved ones. Loving an addict is a difficult road, one that will lead to pain and heartbreak long before anything else. For significant others, trust is much harder to rebuild, mainly because they aren’t obligated to stay in the relationship.

For family members, that trust is a roller coaster of emotions that can go from complete trust to broken relationships rapidly. Family members find it harder to walk away from their loved ones who face addiction, and all too often addicts take them down with them.

Emotional unavailability
Coping is a significant part of recovery for addicts, and most of that has to do with emotional maturity and emotional unavailability. If an addict began drinking at age 15, then by the time they are 30 and still abusing alcohol, their emotional maturity level will still be that of a 15 year old. People with addictions are often unable to contribute to mature and healthy relationships. Their main focus is on the substance they need, which leaves little room for relationships with people.

Addicts can grow distant because they are preoccupied with finding their next fix, being sad and tired, and pursuing unhealthy choices. All of their time and energy goes into their addiction, so holding a steady and healthy relationship is not important to them. This doesn’t mean an addict can’t have relationships. On the contrary, people suffering from addiction can be very manipulative and will often find someone they can use before going back to their lifestyle.

Decreased sex drive
Prolonged alcoholism can lead to a decrease in sex drive overtime in both men and women. Alcohol has been known to boost sexual desire, but it severely impacts performance. A person can lose interest in sex or even feel an aversion to intimacy. For men, alcohol can inhibit the ability to achieve an erection, which can also lead to decreased sex drive. With a low libido, an addict may begin to feel like something is wrong with them, and instead of communicating with their partner, they will focus more on alcohol. This can lead to self-doubt in both partners. The addict begins to have performance anxiety, and the partner begins to feel unwanted or unloved by their partner. Having little to no intimacy can become a serious problem in certain relationships, and all too often it can lead to break-ups.

Addiction is a disease that affects all facets of a person’s life, leading to devastating results. As an addiction worsens, it begins to take more and more time away from being a couple, placing more importance on the addiction itself. Addiction creates an emotional disassociation between partners that is extremely difficult to overcome.

If you or a loved one would like to speak to someone about the path to recovery, please contact us today.



Erica Franco Mortimer, MA, LPC, LCADC
Founder and CEO
Center for Healing
Evan Berk Erica is a licensed therapist with over twenty-years experience in mental health. Erica offers practical and straight forward advice to those struggling with addiction and their families. Having deep insight and understanding of addiction, Erica is able to offer guidance to those looking to regain control of their lives.


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