Discovering you have an addicted spouse who abuses drugs or alcohol can create the biggest trial a marriage will face. Being the sober partner can leave you in a position of financial strain, legal issues, and household stresses. One of the biggest stress factors is the feeling of shame and guilt.
According to Psychology Today, there are an estimated 12 million spouses living with an addicted partner. Addiction is a progressive disease that can get worse as drug or alcohol abuse continues. It is imperative to understand that you are not to blame and it is not your fault your spouse has an addiction. If your feelings of guilt become an enabling tool, it’s time for help.
Marriage and Addiction
One of the hardest things about being married to and living with someone with addiction, is learning how to avoid codependency. Before you know it, your role includes cleaning up messes your spouse leaves behind. You’re taking care of the kids alone, you are working extra hours to pay the rent and bills, and you’re making up excuses when missing family events to hide your spouse’s addiction.
When you love someone with addiction or alcoholism, you find yourself neglecting your needs because you are focusing entirely on them. When you realize your efforts aren’t fixing the problem, you end up taking on blame, guilt, and shame. Those feelings do not belong to you. Harboring these emotions can make you sick.
You Are Not The Cause For Addiction
Addiction has many contributing factors. The Center on Addiction describes it as a chronic and progressive disease. It’s controllable but not curable. Genetics, environmental, and social factors all play a part in addiction. You can not contribute something you did or didn’t do as the reason for your spouse developed an addiction.
Sometimes addiction creeps into a marriage. It doesn’t matter how it evolved, what matters is finding your spouse help and recreating your role.
You Can’t Control Their Actions
As the sober one, you have probably done many things to try and “help” your addicted partner. You have hidden Alcohol bottles and money from them, you’ve flushed drugs down the toilet, you have picked them up in the middle of the night, and you have attempted to negotiate their drug or Alcohol consumption asking them to only drink on the weekends or to only smoke Marijuana.
Wanting to manage your addicted partner is normal, however its a type of codependent behavior. You do it out of love and with hope of protecting them from serious consequences. However, it solves nothing. Coming to terms that you can not bargain with nor negotiate addiction is difficult. You need to accept that it is unmanageable and you can not control them or their addiction.
Your spouse needs help and you can not tackle that task on your own. According to the Mayo Clinic, one way you can help them into treatment is by holding an intervention. During the intervention you’ll sharing your concerns in a constructive way. You will express how their addiction has impacted you and how much you want to see them get better.
Planning an Intervention
A successful intervention takes planning. DrugAbuse.com suggests the following preparation action steps:
- Research: Learn the definition of intervention.
- Contact Professionals: Decide if you want to use an interventionist. Be mindful of success rates with professional involvement.
- Create a Group: Decide who will sit in the intervention and share letters. Using family and friends that the addicted person trusts is advised. Avoid people who may trigger anger or frustration. Appoint a group leader.
- Formulate a Goal: Successful goals are specific, clear, realistic, and timely.
- Location: Because safety is a concern, the intervention should be in a neutral location. Planning how the addicted person will get there is also important.
- Treatment Plan: Have a treatment center ready to go to that day.
- After Intervention Plan: There is a chance that your addicted loved one will refuse to participate in the intervention and turn down treatment. Good interventions plan for this scenario and describe to the person living with addiction what will occur if treatment is not accepted. The consequences need to be clear; describe what the consequences look like.
Practicing the intervention is ideal. The group can rehearse different scenarios. The objective is to stay calm and formal.
Living With an Addicted Person
If you choose to continue living with your spouse while looking for treatment, Addiction.com offers the following tips to help you in getting them help:
- Ask For Help: Do not suffer in silence. Reach out to family and friends that you trust.
- Demonstrate Support: Encourage your spouse to attend a recovery meeting and read recovery literature. Offer to attend a meeting with them.
- Learn About Addiction: When you learn more about addiction, you’ll discover it is psychological factors that drive addictive behavior. The more you learn, the more supportive you can be.
- Promote Patience: It can take time for your spouse to find a recovery path that works for them. You may be anxious for your partner to change and may begin to feel frightened and impatient. Change often takes place gradually. It will also take time for your spouse to realize their behaviors are harmful to your marriage.
- Take Care of Yourself: Support groups, counseling, nutrition, and exercise are vital to self-care.
Help Yourself First
Recovery is also for families. There are many support groups and educational programs for families struggling through addiction. By attending therapy or support groups, you can learn how to overcome challenges and clearly see you are not to blame.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA’s) Behavioral Treatment Services Locator is a great resource for finding local treatment centers. You can also locate primary care providers, mental health professionals that can help with referrals, community outreach programs, and 12-step programs.
Remember, you are not to blame for your spouse’s addiction, but you can help them in their recovery by getting yourself healthy.