It can be very difficult watching your spouse or life partner struggling with an addiction. It is common that their behaviors will change and it will affect their mental health, which will in turn affect your relationship and possibly your marriage. Their addiction may be hurting you either actively or passively, it may be affecting your financial stability, isolating you from your close friends and giving you so much stress.
Helping those you care for
You may therefore be wondering what you can do to help your self and the person you care for. Help is at hand, by attending support groups such as al anon. Al anon will offer you unconditional support in developing new coping mechanisms for your own mental health care and how to supportively set boundaries to help the person you care for. This may involve your spouse or life partner going to a rehab facility for alcohol and drug misuse treatment.
We will discuss things to do, and also not do when your partner has an addiction problem in this article. A Treatment facility such as Crossroads are always willing to talk to you about identifing if your spouse or life partner is abusing substances and about the treatment process at rehab facilties.
Do Not Use the Term Addict
Terms such as addict, alcoholic, and alcoholism put the focus and blame of the addiction on the individual rather than the substance and the addiction. It also ignores the fact that addiction is progressive, in the early stages your spouse or partner may have used alcohol or drugs in a form of self medication, or to deal with undiagnosed mental illness, as time progressed their increased use of substances may have become a vicious cycle causing more harm to their mental health, thus becoming the cause of their problems.
If you want to talk about addiction, you can say that your spouse or life partner has a substance abuse problem to specific drugs or alcohol and possibly co occurring disorders or is suffering from a substance misuse issue -please do not use terms such as addict spouse or addicted spouse.
Educate Yourself About Drug Addiction
One of the most important things you can do when your spouse or partner has a severe substance misuse problem is to learn more about it so you can better understand what they are going through which may help reduce the blame game which can add additional pressure on the marriage and the family. A spouse or life partners, family members, and friends can be an active and helpful part of someone’s recovery if they are educated about addiction. In turn this will help with your own self care and that of your family. Self help groups such as Al anon can be a great support to families and the substance abusers.
What is Addiction?
An alcohol or drug addiction is commonly considered as a brain disease that makes you lose control of your alcohol or drug use despite the negative consequences that occur due to it. Addiction can be to illegal drugs but can also be to prescription drugs or alcohol. It develops gradually as you use substances and the likelihood of this depends on different risk factors such as mental health disorders, genetics, normalization of alcohol and drug abuse at home, with friends, or in the media, and even childhood neglect or other forms of childhood abuse.
Signs of Addictions
The signs of substance misuse can progress slowly enough that someone married to an addict spouse may not notice the small, incremental changes. One partner may always want to see the best in the other person and overlook his or her substance abuse problem. For the person married to someone who grows to abuse substances may become accustomed to increasingly self-destructive behavior.
One of the greatest challenges is recognizing the signs of an addicted spouse or life partner :
- Withdrawing from people they love
- Neglecting their personal hygiene and physical health
- Avoiding responsibilities
- Financial problems
- Losing interest in things they used to enjoy
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they try to reduce /quit
- Trying to quit but not being able to do so
- Obsessing with getting their next dose
- Reckless behavior such as driving under the influence
Understand Why They May Not Accept Your Help
It can be difficult to understand why your spouse or partner would not want your help. It is so important to remember that addiction causes a loss of control over substance use, it changes behaviors and mental and physical health.
A spouse, life partner and family members often struggle to understand why the person can’t put the marriage or family before the drugs or alcohol.
Replacing relationships with substances
Being married to an addict puts the spouse in the awkward position of being replaced by a love of substance abuse. One of the natural consequences of being married to an addict is recognizing this replacement and constructively managing a road to sobriety for their addicted spouse.
Their substance use has likely become the most important thing in their life through no choice of their own. Some other reasons your spouse or partner may not accept your help include:
- Denial – they may want to hide the severity of the problem from themselves as well as you and others. Also, they may compare themselves to others who use more of the substance than they do but are continuing, or appearing to continue, with their everyday lives
- Pride – it can be difficult to accept help, they might think they can do it by themselves
- Fear of rehab or withdrawal – they may have heard about rehab or have experienced it before
- Cost of rehab – rehab can be expensive
- Loss – fear of separation and the marriage failing and the family being hurt.
It can be difficult to treat your partner with empathy if you have been affected by their addiction, particularly for a long time. You may be frustrated and angry that they continue to hurt you. However, if you hope to help them, it is more effective to treat them with empathy rather than blame them for what is happening.
Active listening is a great way to build trust and empathize deeply with your partner. It is a method of listening that requires you to listen without judgment. Let them speak freely, asking open-ended questions so that they feel they can speak openly with you. It is important that they understand they can trust you and that you have their best interests at heart.
Avoid Enabling Behaviors
There is a difference between enabling and helping your spouse or life partner, and you may think that you are helping your partner when you are, in fact, enabling their addiction. Enabling is when you are doing things for your partner that they would be able to do if they were sober. Helping them is doing something they would not be able to do themselves, for example, driving them to support groups if their license has been taken away from them.
What enabling behaviors should I look for?
You may fall into enabling behaviors without noticing. Frequently, people protect those they care about, often deceiving themselves in the process. This pattern of behavior can become mutually self destructive. Without recognizing and confronting enabling behaviors, the road away from addiction becomes that much harder.
Common signs of enabling:
- Ignoring or denying their behavior
- Giving them money
- Making excuses for their behavior so they do not need to face consequences
- Neglecting your own needs to take care of them
- Taking on their responsibilities
Instead of enabling your partner’s drug abuse, you can help them take responsibility for their actions. For example, if they are unable to go to work because they are hungover, do not make excuses or call in sick for them in the long term this is not taking care of your spouse. Your partner may need to face the real consequences of their actions and their substance abuse to see the severity of their addiction.
Encourage Them to Seek Professional Help
You do not need to wait until your spouse or partners substance abuse has reached rock bottom before you seek professional support. Your partner may be ready to get treatment long before then and being aware of treatment options and rehab facilities may help your partner to get treatment before the problem becomes too severe.
Research what professional care is available, this could include treatment centers, therapists, and support groups. You may then bring these options to them and some people suggest holding an intervention where you make them aware of options.
What is an intervention?
An intervention is a planned and structured meeting where you help your spouse or partner understand the effects of their substance abuse on both you and them. You can involve a professional in this to help you plan the intervention – they can help you work out what to say, who should be there, and where to have it. They can even be there during the ‘meeting’ if you think that may be helpful.
Again, make sure that you do not blame your partner during the intervention whilst you should not sugarcoat their actions, the aim is to show them that you are there to help and support them.
Be Prepared for Ups and Downs
Recovery is a long process and it is not linear – more of a roller coaster. You can expect your spouse or partner to have highs and lows and most people will relapse at least once before they remain sober long-term or no longer partake in problematic substance use.
Support is critical
Try to remain supportive throughout the entire process. You can try to encourage them to build a healthy lifestyle, for example, you might suggest exercising, cooking, or doing fun activities together. And give practical help such as driving them to meetings if they want you to.
Look After Yourself
One significant point to remember is to continue taking care of yourself – your own life is just as important as that of your partner and if you do not care for yourself you will not be able to be there for your partner. It is important to set consistent and healthy boundaries. This will help you to stay true to yourself and not lose yourself. Make sure that the boundaries are clear to both you and your partner.
Being married to someone in active addiction can be stressful and difficult. It is important that you have your own support networks. Practice self-care and make sure that you spend time with other people you love, as it can be very unhealthy to be isolated. You may also wish to get professional help, such as a therapist, to help you work through the effects of your spouse’s addiction on you and your relationship.
Knowing When to Leave
It can be extremely difficult to question whether it is time to leave your addicted spouse. You may feel helpless and that you are letting your partner down or fear their response, especially if they are acting abusively. However, there may come a time when you need to think about your own well-being and even safety.
Signs you may need to leave an addicted spouse
While it can help your partner to have someone support them through recovery, they may have no intention or wish to recover and may be hurting you in the process. Signs that you may need to consider leaving include:
- Constant lying
- Showing no signs or willingness to change
- You cannot help but enable their behavior
- Emotional abuse
- Physical abuse
Substance Abuse Treatment at Crossroads Antigua
If your partner is suffering from a substance abuse problem, Crossroads Antigua is here for you both. We recognize the difficulties being married to an addict.
The Family Therapy program is an inclusive cost and is fully inclusive of the family for up to 5 days.
We understand the difficulty of managing addiction and supporting your loved one through this. Each person’s recovery is different, so we offer options for everyone. These include:
- Individual and group therapy, including cognitive behavior
- Family Therapy
- Trauma therapy
- Yoga and fitness
- Nutritional counseling
Crossroads Antigua can help
Set on the beautiful Caribbean island of Antigua, Crossroads Antigua offers a quiet place in which to recover from substance abuse and set up a change in lifestyle to promote long-term health, happiness, and well-being.
Family members can be a big part of this recovery and will be welcome at our facility. Please reach out to us to find out more, you can visit our website or call us at 0-800-783-9631. We look forward to hearing from you.