When pop star Ariana Grande confirmed her relationship with the rapper/singer Mac Miller in 2016, it appeared like the storybook pairing. Two artists at the apex of their respective careers formed a dynamic, creative partnership. Musically, they collaborated on a sublime rhythm track entitled “My Favorite Part,” which opens with Miller crooning, “…you just don’t know how beautiful you are, and baby that’s my favorite part.”
However, the relationship was ill-fated. They split in 2018 and published reports like this one identified the cause: Miller’s substance addiction.
Months after they broke up, Miller died of an accidental overdose at 26. Fentanyl, alcohol, and cocaine were discovered in his system. When he made that song with Grande, he hinted at the quagmire his addiction had become: “It’s been a while since I’ve been sober/This life can be so hard, I’d rather talk about you…”
The public details of Grande’s relationship with Miller only hint at how difficult it is to love and end a relationship with someone who has an addiction.
To do so, one has to be firm in their resolve, careful with how they treat that person, and mindful of their safety. This is especially true if children are involved.
How to Tell if Your Significant Other Has a Substance Addiction
Ultimately, addiction is a chronic relapsing disorder of the brain that causes a person to pursue and use their substance of choice in the face of adverse circumstances, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
In fact, the signs of addiction often manifest in three ways: physical, behavioral, and psychological.
The physical signs can be any of the following:
- Intoxication signs such as slurred speech
- Changes in appetite
- Runny nose or sniffling
- Strange sleep patterns
- Unusual odors
- Bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils
- Unexplained and sudden weight changes
- Shaking, tremors, or poor coordination
The most behavioral signs associated with addiction can include:
- Poor hygiene habits, a lack of self-care
- Trouble at work, school, or with the law
- Secretive or suspicious behavior
- Changes in social circles, new friend groups
- Poor or failing performance at work or school
- Strained relationships
- An unexplained need for money, constantly asking for cash
- Stealing money or valuables
- Having legal issues like arrests and/or pending charges
- Increased tolerance (drinking or using more before it’s effective)
- Lack of control with drugs or alcohol
Addiction has the ability to hijack and completely rewire the brain. This can manifest psychological signs that are quite noticeable. Those signs include:
- Angry outbursts or bouts of rage
- Irritability or agitation
- Strange and sudden mood swings
- Unusual surges of energy
- Lethargy, lack of motivation
- Fearful, panicked, anxious, or paranoid without a clear cause
Does this sound like the behavior of your significant other?
The Symptoms of Addiction
Another tool health care professionals use to assess whether someone has an active addiction is the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), considered the principal authority for psychiatric diagnoses.
The DSM-5 outlines verified and evidenced criteria that can help you understand the depth of your loved one’s addiction. According to the manual, if a person exhibits two of the following symptoms over 12 months, addiction may be present:
- Taking more of the drug than intended and for a longer time than intended
- A persistent desire to stop taking drugs or repeated unsuccessful attempts to quit taking drugs
- A lot of time spent trying to get drugs, abuse them, and/or recover from their effects
- Intense cravings or urges for specific drugs
- Failing to go to work or school, or to meet obligations to friends and family because of drug abuse
- Ongoing drug abuse despite the physical, mental, emotional, or social problems associated with the abuse
- Giving up hobbies or activities to abuse drugs
- Ongoing abuse of drugs in inappropriate situations, such as using them in the morning before work, driving while intoxicated, or abusing drugs around children
- Experiencing physical or psychological problems due to substance abuse but continuing to abuse drugs anyway
- Physical tolerance, meaning the body needs more of the drug to experience the initial level of intoxication
- Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when trying to quit the drug
Five Tips For Safely Ending a Relationship With Someone With an Addiction
There is nothing more painful than seeing someone you love destroy themselves with substance addiction. If you have time invested in a relationship and have created a family with that person, breaking up can be absolutely heartrending.
The persistent, dangerous, and often deadly nature of addiction almost mandates that you make a break from that person before it consumes you both.
What’s more, when you decide to break up with anyone — whether they are an addict or not — it is always best to be honest, upfront, and respectful.
Here are five tips for safely ending a relationship with someone, according to therapists in an article for Power of Positivity:
- Is this person in a safe situation? When someone has hurt you profoundly, it may be hard to look past those feelings and the anger it produces. When you make the decision to leave someone, it means that their immediate support system is gone. Before you leave, you will want to make sure that person has supportive family or friends to fill that void. An article published by The Power of Positivity poses these questions to consider: Do they have relatives who can keep an eye on them when you’re not there anymore? Have they got any solid income? What will they live on? These are important questions to consider as you prepare to leave someone. If you love that person, you will want to ensure they have a support system in place should you remove yourself from the equation. Many addicts become increasingly dependent on their partners as their addiction worsens. For your own sake as well as theirs, try to make sure a support system is in place for them, otherwise, you may end up regretting it, states the Power of Positivity.
- If you decide to break up, remain firm. When you decide to cut all ties with someone, you must cut all ties. What this means in real life is not answering their calls or their messages and not engaging in one-night rendezvous, according to Power of Positivity. It is emotionally unfair to that person when you go back-and-forth or are unclear about your feelings. It sends mixed messages to that person and fills them with hope. Once you know what you want to do, communicate it clearly and make sure that both parties know what to expect, says the Power of Positivity.
- Be considerate of your safety. An unfortunate truth about addiction is that people who have one tend to be abusive. This is why it is important to ensure that you and the children you share (if you have them) are safe. It is also important to know that if you have been in a serious, committed relationship with someone and/or have children with them, there will be some sort of fallout. Even then you will want to ensure that all impacted parties are safe.
- Learn from the experience and move on. People who date individuals with addictions tend to move on and date someone else with the same profile. The reason, according to Power of Positivity, is that you have gotten used to the dynamic of this particular type of relationship. If you find yourself chasing after someone because you think they’ll need you just as much as your ex did, it’s time to reconsider your strategy.
- Consider therapy. One of the healthiest ways to cope with a breakup is by seeking out a therapist for counseling. A good therapist will be able to help you identify these issues so that you can put certain tendencies in the past forever.
The Importance of Remaining Firm
You may feel guilty for leaving someone caught in the abyss of addiction, particularly if children are involved. You may genuinely fear for their life especially when the relationship was the only thing that seemed to keep them “alive.” This is particularly the case when that person does not seek treatment.
Writing for Psychology Today, Susan Pease Gadoua, a therapist and best-selling author, wrote this about the consequences a couple can face when the addicted person does not seek treatment:
Because all addictive illnesses are progressive, the only path for the addict and his or her spouse is a downward spiral — if they don’t get help.
Divorcing someone whom you have children with is never easy, but it is critical to the family’s wellbeing.
This is especially true when there are children involved because they need a stable adult around. When addiction is present, both parents are unavailable, and there is little or no stability and consistency, Gadoua wrote.
It is very likely that friends and family members may not be aware of your partner’s addiction. In the event that you choose to break up with your significant other, the people closest to you may question your decision, states the Power of Positivity.
They may even try to convince you to remain in the relationship for the sake of the family, especially in the event that children are involved. Relatives of that person may attempt to persuade you to hang in there, believing that the relationship can save the addicted person’s life.
Nevertheless, it is still best that you remain firm in your decision because your safety and that of your children (if there are any) are paramount, even in the face of considerable backlash and doubt.
The fallout that comes from our breakups can be considerable, but it is nowhere near the magnitude of what Grande, an international celebrity, faced when she decided to end things with Miller.
In 2018, TMZ reported that Miller was arrested on charges of driving under the influence (DUI) and committing a hit-and-run. Specifically, he knocked down a power pole in the Los Angeles area with his luxury SUV and fled the scene on foot with two other passengers. The incident occurred not too long after he and Grande broke up.
One particular Twitter user blamed Grande for Miller’s DUI, which compelled her to respond with this:
“I am not a babysitter or a mother and no woman should feel that they need to be. I have cared for him and tried to support his sobriety and prayed for his balance for years…Of course I didn’t share about how hard or scary it was while it was happening but it was.”
Predictably, that backlash compounded in the aftermath of Miller’s fatal overdose.
Here is one comment she received on her Instagram page: “Hope you’re happy now he’s out of your life cause now he can’t continue being in our’s.”
Here’s another one: “You did this to him, smh.”
It caused the singer to temporarily disable comments on her Instagram page.
But many of Grande’s fans came to her defense, with one of them posting a comment that best states why leaving someone with an addiction is the prudent thing to do:
The first reaction of some people is to blame Ariana Grande for Mac Miller’s death to the point she had to deactivate her Instagram comments. All she did was to remove herself from a toxic situation. She wanted him sober. There is nothing wrong with that. — Ines (@inihelene) September 7, 2018
How Professional Support Can Help You (And Your Loved One)
There are resources and programs available for the spouses of addicted persons, especially if you intend on sticking things out with your companion.
- Al-Anon: One of the most reputable 12-Step programs in the world, Al-Anon is a group that supports people who have been affected by alcohol addiction, including spouses and partners, children, parents, and friends.
- Couple Recovery from Addiction: This organization adheres to a holistic healing model of couple-based addiction recovery by not only focusing on the recovery of the addicted spouse but on the relationship as well.
- Nar-Anon: Nar-Anon is a 12-Step support group for the loved ones of people with substance use disorders beyond alcohol.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: The National Domestic Violence website has a repository of resources and information for the victims and survivors of domestic abuse. It also provides a hotline for people who need immediate crisis intervention and support: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
- Recovering Couples Anonymous: Though not affiliated with Alcoholics Anonymous, Recovering Couples Anonymous operates on the same 12-Step principles of recovery, which has been modified for couples.
- SMART Recovery Family & Friends: SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training) is a nonreligious, science-based support group alternative to Al-Anon. SMART Recovery Family & Friends is specifically geared towards the spouses, family, and friends of someone in recovery.
Setting up an Intervention
Whether you choose to remain with your significant other or not, you could collaborate with that person’s family members and friends to get them into a professional treatment program. An interventionist can help you accomplish this objective.
An interventionist is someone trained to set up interventions, which is a gathering of family, friends, and/or co-workers of an addicted person who comes together for the express purpose of getting them into a treatment program.
An interventionist can set up the actual intervention and orchestrate treatment options for the subject before the actual meeting.
How Professional Treatment Can Help
Substance abuse treatment is essentially a comprehensive, multilevel program that addresses the profound complexity of addiction. Whether that substance is alcohol, opioids, cocaine, benzodiazepines, or prescription drugs, a professional recovery program is designed to treat the entire individual — mind, body, and soul.
A comprehensive program includes medical detoxification, where the addictive substance is removed from the body. Next, is counseling and therapy, which can occur through a residential treatment or outpatient program, depending on the severity of that person’s addiction. These stages are where a client receives the sort of psychological treatment that identifies the underlying causes of addiction.
After treatment is completed, that client can be connected to a recovery community and resources that provide support, mentorship, and inspiration via an alumni program.