Being Emotionally Attached to a Recovering Drug User Daniela Moreira

The road to sobriety is a challenging one filled with tears, heartbreak and unfortunately relapses. When a loved one is going through the process we hope to help as much as we can, especially if they are a romantic partner, this, however, may do the exact opposite. As Kupier et al. have found when subjects (in their study, mice) had concurrent drug use and sex, reinstating sex (regardless of who the individual is) will increase drug seeking behavior and may even cause relapses in its track. Kuiper states this is because both sex and drugs use the reward pathway, so the sensitivity to sex is enhanced due to exposure to drugs, causing cross-sensitization. Essentially behaviors that cause "reward", specifically sex, that a recovering drug addict did while using drugs become a cue and if done during the recovery process, can lead to a relapse. This is why when someone's going through recovery they are discouraged from starting amorous relationships. This often confuses people, assuming the security of another person might comfort them or be another, stronger support system, which harms the individual in the end. I found out the hard way that the science was right.

I met Vinny when I was 17. We saw each other from across the party and we were immediately drawn to each other. A mutual friend introduced us, and we spent the entire party at each other's side, even as things died down we were inseparable, spending hours curled up in a blanket watching the stars. Our romance lasted a few months, ending when we went our separate ways for college. We didn't speak much after move-in, brief catch-up chats and social media posts kept us updated; that was until November 27, 2018.

Vinny was admitted to the hospital unconscious- he had been drunk, high on cocaine and prescription pills when he attempted to overdose, three of his friends found and immediately called an ambulance effectively saving his life. I found out days later and went to visit him, feelings immediately flooding back into my system, he told me he felt the same.

It's now been 3 months- he's been in rehab, both inpatient and outpatient, going to Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and taking time away from school. We've been seeing each other often, I've stayed with him and he's met my college friends; the trickiest part is the boundaries we have to place, hoping to avoid any potential relapse.

Unfortunately, we witnessed firsthand Kuiper's findings- disregarding clinical orders in the heat of the moment we had sex, and for 2 days Vinny could think of nothing, but getting high and ultimately, he did. Partaking in the behaviors he had during drug use triggers him, he avoids locations, people and even songs. I never know how to help him or if there's even anyway I could. Drug addiction changes even the smallest thing in your life and we're still learning how to deal with it.


Kuiper, Lindsey B., et al. "Drug-Taking in a Socio-Sexual Context Enhances Vulnerability for Addiction in Male Rats." Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 6 Oct. 2018, www.nature.com/articles/s41386-018-0235-1.

"12 Step Rehab Program In Florida For Substance Abuse." JourneyPure 12 Keys, www.12keysrehab.com/our-programs/12-step-rehab-program/.


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