DASH’s early warning signs are meant to guide you in determining whether your relationship is healthy. In this series of articles, we will explore each warning sign in more depth so that you will have a better idea about what each sign means and if you need to address a problem in your relationship. Our seventh early warning sign of abuse is:
You’ve been taught since elementary school that drugs and alcohol are bad news. With good reason, your teachers and parents have tried to impress on you the dangers of substance abuse. These dangers can escalate when your dating partner is under the influence.
Someone who uses drugs or alcohol can become more violent and paranoid. A person under the influence does not have the same control over his/her emotions or reactions as when sober. A small issue or incident may get blown out of proportion. Whatever “little” things bother him/her will suddenly become big things. You may be caught in the cross-fire of a paranoid reaction. You are the one your partner may take his/her frustrations out on. If your partner exhibits other warning signs of dating abuse (threatens you, insults you, tells you what to do), he/she will only become worse under the influence.
Judgement becomes impaired when someone is using drugs or alcohol. Your partner may drive under the influence putting others (and you!) in danger. Your partner may decide to engage in risky behavior like “car surfing”, “Jackass”-style stunts, or gun/knife play. Your partner may make unwanted sexual advances. He/she may try to get you to use drugs or alcohol with him/her. If both of you are using, your relationship can be volatile. These behaviors endanger both of you in ways you may not realize including the escalation of physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
Because substance abuse alters the brain, you cannot love the abuse out of your partner. A partner using drugs or alcohol, even if you think it’s only “recreational”, is someone who needs help from a professional. “Recreational” use leads to addiction which can lead to dating abuse. Substance abuse often occurs when someone has underlying emotional issues. The best thing you can do for your relationship with a substance abuser is to tell a trusted adult who can get your partner the appropriate level of help.
If you determine that these warning signs are part of your relationship, remember: you are not alone. You may not know how to get help. You may be afraid to leave the situation. Abusers know that they can control you emotionally because no one wants to admit that someone else has treated them so poorly. Do not be ashamed. Dating abuse is not your fault. Recognize the signs of dating abuse and get help if your relationship exhibits any of these characteristics. You don’t have to handle this alone. Sharing can save your life. For confidential help, please call the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474.