Facing Addiction as a Couple
Addiction is challenging on its own, but it also creates one of the most difficult situations for couples. When one spouse is using drugs or alcohol, it’s likely to create tension, stress, anxiety, and fear in the other. Quite often, spouses feel helpless to “fix” what’s wrong. You want to support and help your loved one. What can you do?
#1: Seek Professional Help
It’s frightening to think your spouse may need to leave home for a few weeks to get help in a residential treatment center. The reality is that it’s not possible for you to treat your spouse or help them to get sober on your own. They need professional help to:
- Learn what their addiction is
- Determine its cause
- Work through complex emotional needs
- Meet mental health disorder needs
- Learn strategies for managing triggers
These things happen in a professional setting, whether inpatient or outpatient. Encourage your spouse that now is the perfect time to seek addiction treatment.
#2: Recognize This Isn’t About You
One of the most challenging aspects of watching a spouse struggle with addiction is believing that it’s not your fault. But addiction is a disease, and your spouse’s addiction and recovery are part of their own journey. When you recognize this, you can begin to let down your guard a bit.
Avoid using statements such as, “Do this for me” or “Do this for us.” While getting sober will help your relationship, it’s best for a person with an addiction to seek out help for themselves and their future. This perspective is hard for some to understand, but if your spouse isn’t internally motivated to overcome addiction, their recovery will probably not last long.
#3: Understand that You’ve Been Hurt, Too, and Need Help
Another important component of helping your spouse is helping yourself. Working closely with a family counselor, marriage counselor, or your own private therapist can give you the tools and resources you need to manage this complication in your life. You may need help with depression or anxiety. You may need to learn how to take care of yourself and set boundaries.
#4: Create Un-bendable Rules
It’s very easy to give in when your son or daughter asks for candy or when your friend needs to borrow something. If you tend to give in to other people’s demands, you’ll want to be careful to change this habit when it comes to your spouse’s addiction. Are you allowing your spouse to avoid responsibilities? Are you covering for them when they miss work or other events? Are you helping them avoid other consequences of their addiction?
Creating rules for your spouse will protect your wellbeing and motivate them to get treatment. For example, if they are high or drunk, don’t allow your spouse in the home. Don’t make it easy to get money to make purchases. Once you create and communicate the rules, stick to them. By doing this, you make it harder for your spouse to keep using alcohol or drugs.
#5: Stop Making Excuses for Them
It’s common to make excuses for your addicted spouse. They are late to work again, so you tell their boss the car has a flat. They are missing out on another family function, so you tell everyone they are ill. Instead of lying for them, either be truthful or don’t say anything at all.
Making excuses for your spouse is a form of enabling them. As hard as it may be to tell someone the truth, it’s critical to motivate change. Your spouse needs this type of line in the sand – it’s not up to you to fix the mistakes they make due to their addiction.
#6: Be Open and Clear About Your Emotions
During active addiction, you’ll feel a huge range of emotions. You’ll love your spouse so much that you want to do anything for them. You’ll want to fix them. You may at times be afraid for your safety. Other times, you may be full of anxiety and worry about whether they’ll make it home okay. You may feel angry that you’re facing financial difficulties because of their actions. You feel like you’re doing everything else while they live their life high.
As challenging as it may be, it’s important to tell your spouse how their actions make you feel. Explain the depths of your emotions and how overwhelmed you are. They need to see what their actions are doing to you and your family. Don’t assume they already know.
#7: Recognize That Addiction Is a Disease
Addiction is a type of disease, much like cancer, heart disease, or any other type of debilitating, chronic, and life-threatening illness. When you realize this, you’ll see that your loved one needs help to get better. You may need to call a treatment center for them. You may need to hold an intervention to get them into care.
Most people with addiction are unable to stop using without professional support. Let our team at DK Solutions Group offer the guidance you need to help your spouse and yourself through this.