Telling the difference between someone in addiction who uses abusive tactics to keep the addiction alive and someone who is an abusive individual who happens to have an addiction can be hard.
I'm sure you've seen some of the big names in the industry that preach that the addict is "narcissistic" and "abusive" and basically paints all addicts to be monsters.
I'm here to say that isn't always the case - and in fact it's not something I come by often.
Maybe it's my messaging and who is drawn to me?
Whatever the reason, once the addict becomes sober, if the abusive tactics don't stop after 6 months to 1 year, there are bigger issues at play that often mean going to therapy to get a diagnosis for the addict as well as the betrayed partner getting Domestic Violence (DV) and Sexual Violence (SV) resources if they already haven't.
When I interned and got certified as a Victim Advocate at my local Domestic and Sexual Violence Family Justice Center, I learned a lot.
I saw a lot.
I made DCF calls.
My heart broke.
I saw women - with kids - who stayed in situations that were unimaginable.
I didn't judge these women though, because I know that the most dangerous time for a victim of abuse is when they try to leave.
However, my heart went out to them, and I could only hope they implemented what they learned at the center.
At the center, we made safety plans with these individuals, filed protective orders, educated them on all the types of abuse and how it shows up, how to make sure your partner isn't tracking you and more.... all of it was tough.
And no, not just women of low socioeconomic background walked through that door, but women with wealthy partners who had no access to money because of the financial abuse at play.
People of all backgrounds walked through that door, each with their own lived nightmare to share.
So, how do you know when someone is abusive versus using tactics to keep the addiction alive?
Here is a starting point for you to distinguish, for yourself (as only you know the day to day of your relationship):
Abuse Extends Beyond Addiction Protection
They may blow up at you if you touch their phone, or they may gaslight you when you catch them - that is all tactic to protect the addiction. (Not saying that it's okay, but this is something that can change and won't be in your relationship when they are in recovery)
But when you see things like....
Explosive tempers (slamming doors, cabinets, and punching through walls)
Locking you in a room/blocking you from leaving a room (aka trapping you)
Screaming in your face where you physically feel threatened
Plus, all of these behaviors in this Abusive Behavior Inventory.pdf
You're in an actively abusive relationship.
Now, if you read that PDF and you're in awe, shock, denial, or experience anger - that is all 100% normal.
If you, as the victim read that inventory and think, "well I've done some of this back to protect myself" … if your behavior started after they abused you and you only do it when you're trying to survive their abuse it's called "reactive abuse".
No one ever wants to admit that they have been the victim of abuse.
But you can get out, there is hope, and you can be healthy and safe.
The biggest difference is that an abusive person - addicted or not - will always be abusive to their partner (unless they go to an abusers program and actually dismantle their beliefs and core messages they tell themselves).
What you need to know?
Couples Work Is Unsafe In Actively Abusive Relationships - all it does is teach them how to be more abusive and to get away with it.
Make sure you have a safe device that your partner cannot get on/access to google local DV/SV centers as well as google your laws around whether you're married or not with kids and how custody works.
If your abusive partner has threatened you to the point where you fear for your (or your kids) lives - make sure you let your Victim Advocate know so that they can help you file an order of protection (which is different from a restraining order).
If you need Domestic/Sexual Violence resources and help, please look into your local resources and centers.
With all my heart,
P.S. if you have any further questions on getting support just email back and I’d be happy to answer your questions on getting the right resources!