Relationships give meaning to life, but they also provide material and emotional support. The stories in this chapter reveal that drug users had few lasting relationships that provided meaning in their lives, and most were living in “relational poverty” at the time of the interview. Some recalled childhood trauma that still impacted them emotionally; others lost family members whom they loved, which pushed them into uncontrolled drug use and chaotic addiction, recovery, and relapse cycles. While drug use is known to impair relationships and destroy marriages, this was not always the case. While drug use led to the dissolution of marriage for some, for others, partner relationships provided strength navigating treatment programs and resisting intrusions from law enforcement. Many baby boomers started using drugs with friends and often relapsed with friends; however, some had friends who paid for treatment or provided employment or housing. When drug users are incarcerated, relationships suffer, and access to the resources needed for survival is limited when they are released. The findings in this chapter highlight the need for more social capital building by repairing relationships and linking people to new social networks through facilitating access to social roles in mainstream society.
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