Breaking the Cycle of Abusive Relationships Before They Break You

A very dysfunctional synergy exists between relationships, abuse, and chronic alcoholism or addiction. When all three are present, they can create a cycle that is difficult to break. Whether the relationships came first, the abuse or the substance abuse, when you are a part of that cycle, it can be very difficult to get out. Even just getting sober is not enough because the cycle is likely to keep repeating itself when there is a pattern of dysfunction and abuse. That pattern can keep repeating, even when the people in the relationships change. Breaking the cycle of abusive relationships before they break can bless not only your life but the lives of your family and others as well as future generations.

For many, abuse is learned in the home

Children are born into a cycle of addiction and abuse. Learning the roles of the abuser or the victim, being the victim of abuse, or witnessing abuse in the home are all factors that make it difficult to change the narrative of your life. Roles may be reversed within the cycle. Sometimes, those who were abused within a family become the abuser; other times, they continue to be the victim.

Other abuse is learned outside of the home, such as being bullied in school. Abuse may also begin within romantic relationships, especially as a result of wanting to be loved or accepted or as a need to control or dominate someone else. Regardless of the origins, abuse may be difficult to identify, especially when you are within the cycle.

Abuse is not just a trip to the emergency room

The term abuse conjures up certain ideas and stereotypes of physical abuse. However, abuse is far more pervasive, comes from many different sources, and has many different forms, including:

  • Emotional
  • Physical
  • Sexual
  • Neglect
  • Abandonment
  • Exploitation
  • Psychological
  • Financial
  • Cultural, gender, or identity-based abuse

Do you have increased risk factors for abusive relationships?

In addition to familial or learned abusive relationship roles, there are many other risk factors for becoming a statistic of abuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists many risk factors for both abuse and becoming a victim of abuse, including:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Need for acceptance or love
  • Poverty, unemployment, low income, or financial stress
  • Low education level
  • Substance abuse
  • Mental health diagnoses
  • Anger management issues
  • Poor impulse control
  • Strict cultural or gender roles
  • Unplanned pregnancy
  • Jealousy
  • Dominating or controlling nature
  • Desire to please
  • Lack of support from family or community
  • Easy access to substances
  • Cultural violence and acceptance of violence

Substances and abuse: like fire and gasoline

The various types of abuse are far more common when there is chronic alcoholism or addiction involved. Likewise, addiction is more likely to occur to self-medicate after the abuse. Abuse begets pain and trauma, which creates the desire for substance abuse. Substance abuse creates a much higher likelihood of more abuse. Together, they act like throwing gasoline on a fire, creating an endless cycle that is as difficult to put out as a fire with an endless supply of gasoline. Even when the people in the relationships change, the fire of an abusive cycle keeps burning.

Breaking the cycle is more than getting sober or clean

While becoming clean or sober is a very important part of breaking abusive relationship cycles, the learned behaviors and relationship styles are still there. The patterns of the abuser and the victim still exist, even when the alcohol or drugs are gone. Breaking the cycle means digging deeper and finding the root of your abuse. Being willing to learn self-esteem, self-love and new ways to communicate and interact within all of your relationships can be life-changing. Breaking old patterns of being attracted to people who will abuse you or who will allow you to abuse them and learning to set and keep boundaries with all of the people in your life will help break the shackles of abuse.

Changing the narrative permanently

Living in abusive relationships can wear you down until you feel completely broken. When you see the patterns repeating in every relationship, it can feel like there is no escape. There is a way out, though, and you have the opportunity to change the narrative of your life permanently. Getting treatment for chronic alcoholism or other substance abuse is the first major step and a pathway toward successfully breaking the cycle of abuse forever. As you learn to take your life back, you can bless not only your life but also the lives of those around you and your children and their children

Relationships, abuse, and addiction create a brutal cycle that is difficult to break free from. When you can recognize the abuse and take action, you can change the narrative of your life and break the cycle for good. 

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