Painkillers & Your Love-Life

Let me be clear from the beginning, if you are abusing substances you are hurting yourself and your love-life. Now that I got that public health announcement out of the way, let’s talk about how an addiction to painkillers can mess up your love-life.

Let’s start with the basic observation that painkillers reduce pain (when they are working for you). When you ‘abuse’ painkillers they are also reducing a bunch of other things inside of you and in your life, like your emotional experience and the ability to be intimate with another human being.

As a doctor, I’ve gotten to make a few observations over the years about people who abuse substances. In my professional opinion, you don’t get hooked on painkillers unless you are trying, in a futile manner I might add, to reduce all kinds of pain.

Now pain comes in different forms. Most often painkillers are prescribed to reduce physical pain. When a person gets hooked on painkillers, whether it’s after a prescription is given for short-term physical pain, he or she is continuing to experience pain. In many instances the pain is now emotional.

Most if not all painkiller addicts I’ve worked with over the years were addicted to painkillers to manage their emotional pain through ‘numbing.’ The hardest part about this ‘method’ of dealing with emotional pain are the limitations it imposes on personal and relationship growth and change. Believe it or not, the incentive to change is often the result of emotional pain. Not too little and not too much, just enough pain (feelings) to motivate, to want something better or different.

If you blunt all the feelings you can experience, there is little or not incentive to change. In this state of ‘suspended animation’ life and love-life (if you have one) goes on without the necessary responsiveness to grow the relationship. To add insult to injury, the painkiller addict secretly ‘divorces’ his or her lover and marries the preferred painkiller.

This secret (not so secret) marriage becomes visible over time as drugging takes up all or most of your time and thoughts. It becomes clear what is on the priority list and in what order. This alone, never mind the blunting or numbing of emotion, is enough to start messing with your love relationship.

Oh yes, there is one more problem with this picture. When you’re in love with a person who is secretly married to painkillers you become a member of a love ‘triangle.’ This triangle consists of your lover, his or her painkillers, and you. Your ‘role’ is to ‘enable’ your lover to continue using his or her drugs in your love relationship. Basically you make it easier doing stuff like covering it up, the excuses you make for him or her, the denials of a problem, looks the other way, etc.

You are now ‘codependent’ on a painkiller addictive triangle. Your painkiller addicted lover depends upon your participation in this way. If you change something there will be disruptions. If you don’t change anything painkillers will eventually burnout everyone in the triangle. Hopefully when you figure out your triangle is fundamentally unhealthy, that it’s not only killing his or her pain but killing you as well,  you’ll make changes to save yourself.

Unfortunately you can’t save your painkiller addicted lover. He or she will have to do that for him or herself. Just remember, getting out of this kind of substance addicted triangle is the only chance you have to save yourself and your love relationship. If your lover gets cleaned up and starts working on his or her pain more directly without trying to ‘kill it’ and him or herself in the process, the two of you may have a chance to meet again sober and free.

Unfortunately this getting better process is often unpredictable and takes time. But you know what they say about love, anything is possible. The bottom line is, at least one person gets saved, hopefully two.

Comments? Welcome. Dr. Tom Jordan














Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.

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