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Addiction & Heart


Posted by: Michael

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Relationships and marriages can be destroyed by addiction. People that are actively using will lie and deceive their partners to hide and protect their using. There may be massive financial debt piling up. There may be betrayal or infidelity. These are enormously traumatic experiences for anyone to face. Many partners that have been hurt by addiction also describe their relationships with an addict as being without love, connection, or intimacy, which are like many levels of deeper pain under the surface of all the deceit and trauma.

Partners speak about their addicts as being unwilling or unable to show warmth, kindness, understanding, empathy, affection, or trust, and often call this malfunction intimacy anorexia. Addicts may be aware that they are “closed off” or “shut down”, or they may not have the slightest clue. They may comprehend that intimacy is important in relationships, and in life, or they may not understand this at all.

This article is for both the partner and the addict, for learning about each other, for asking questions, and for being heard. Without communication in your marriage or relationship, one of you, or both of you, will wither and die. Intimacy is necessary. It is amazing. But for addicts, especially if they have not experienced deep connection, it is terrifying. Intimacy is “into me, you see,” and addicts will avoid this, at great cost. They do not want to be seen. In their isolation, they block and bury feelings. They use.They destroy.  

Intimacy is the way out of addiction. Connection resolves loneliness. Belonging resolves rejection. Trust resolves fear.

Use the simple points below to take a real look at where each of you are at, and to see the world through each other’s eyes. Open your communication, deepen it, and know that any strength or skill can be built over time, with practice.

How to recognize if you are starving for intimacy:

     1. Needs of the Body

    • Do you touch your partner in a physically affectionate way?
    • Do you ask them to touch you in the way that you like?
    • Are you able to ask for sex?

     2. Needs of the Mind

    • Do you share your most private thoughts with your partner, such as deepest fears and highest hopes?
    • Are you keeping secrets?

     3. Needs of the Heart

    • Do you name the different feelings that occur in different situations?
    • Do you share your feelings with your partner?

     4. Needs of the Soul

    • Do you have any values that are beyond your own individual needs?
    • Can you share these values and experiences with your partner?

How to recognize intimacy anorexia in your partner:

    • They isolate, or zone out.
    • They are irritable or explosive.
    • They do not like being disturbed, or bothered.
    • They are using.
    • You never know what they are thinking or feeling.
    • They appear expressionless, or rarely smile.

It is reasonable for a person to want connection, understanding, companionship, and warmth in their relationship. Without intimacy, life can seem cold and difficult. When we experience life together with our partner, the highs are more fulfilling, the lows are easier to face, and every moment in between is made more important.

If you are the partner, know that you can speak up and ask for what matters to you, but be patient. It will take some time for the addict to learn how to step up. If you are the addict, know that intimacy is the way out of addiction, and that learning to communicate is done the same way any person learns anything. Start small, and build.

Michael is the Lead Sobriety Coach and Head Blogger of Addiction Reality.