The recent tragic death of Eva Rausing, daughter of a Pepsi executive and married to the heir of the Tetra Pak billions is yet another sad addition to the long list of deaths claimed by addiction. In a relationship fuelled by co-dependence, it is clear that neither partner would ever get recovery long enough to have a proper chance at life.
This situation is so familiar to those of us working in the field. Over and over again I warn my clients about getting into a relationship in treatment or early recovery and those who don’t listen – self will run riot – (and who stay in touch) have almost always found themselves in difficulty later down the line. And although it is the truth, to say ‘almost always’ to an addict they will illicit an attentional bias towards ‘almost’, encouraging the inherent arrogant belief that every addict has that they will be the exception.
It is so obvious to me that in rehab where you are putting down your drug of choice, you are wide open to an alternative, something to fill the gap, the void that any addict in early recovery feels – indeed must feel and learn to tolerate. For this lack of tolerance IS the addictive process in action. An inability to not know, to feel exposed, alone, afraid… – to feel vulnerable generates the compulsion to use. So a relationship in early recovery is a collusion between addicts to mutually fix and avoid this seemingly intolerable void, dressing it up as something worthwhile.
Sadly most of the time the addicts themselves are completely unaware of what is going on, usually insisting that they do know and they are actually in love, and treating those who seek to challenge the addiction (family, sponsors and therapists) as lacking in understanding, punishing and unreasonable. In turn this can drive the couple into secrecy, into the false yet seductive intimacy of ‘them and us’… as the examples given by the journalist of this article displays, feted couples Burton and Taylor, Cobain and Love, Britney and Kevin, Whitney and Bobby – all very Bonnie and Clyde: over romanticised sickness ending in disaster.
At Charter we work on co-dependence and relationships (with self and others) as a mainstay of our programme. Addiction is at its roots relational and addicts need to be able to have healthy interactive relationships that nourish them, or they will relapse. I have had the privilege to support many people to avoid an ending such as Eva’s despite all the priming that might make that their destiny, and I am grateful for these clients’ willingness and trust to follow my direction. It is not easy, never easy, but it is most definitely worth it.