Substance abuse & dating abuse: what’s the connection?

Being in an unhealthy or abusive relationship is already a difficult situation. Alcohol and drug abuse only make matters worse. When a partner is under the influence, the risk of all types of abuse (physical, verbal, emotional, digital and sexual) increases, which can lead to a very troubling situation.

“It wasn’t me, it was the beer talking!”

“I would never do that if I was sober.”

“I’m not really that person. That’s just who I am when I’m high.”

You might hear stuff like this from an abusive partner who’s also abusing alcohol or drugs. They may blame drugs or alcohol instead of accepting responsibility for their behavior or actions. It can be all too easy to just accept what they say and move on without addressing the real underlying issue of abuse. We often hear from survivors who say, “If I could just get them to go to rehab, everything would get better.” But because drugs and alcohol aren’t the root issues of abuse (abuse is about power and control), achieving sobriety doesn’t necessarily end the abuse. There are plenty of people who use drugs and alcohol and don’t become abusive. Drugs and alcohol can affect a person’s judgment and behavior, but using them doesn’t excuse violence or abuse.

The cycle of drug abuse

When one partner has a drinking or drug problem, a vicious cycle can occur. The issues created by their habit (like financial stress, neglect of responsibilities, or legal problems) may lead to fighting with their partner, and then to take the stress off, they may drink or use more drugs. While this cycle continues, abusive behaviors might get worse. Treatment is available to help with drug addiction and abusive behavior, including counseling, self-help meetings and support groups. However, the partner who is using the drugs must decide for themselves to seek help for both their abusive behavior and their drug/alcohol use.

If you or someone you know is in a relationship with a person who is abusive while using drugs and/or alcohol, we are here for you. Call, text, or chat with an advocate any time!