Marriage and Addiction
Marriage is never easy, but living with a spouse’s addiction can be extremely difficult. Your spouse may be acting like an entirely different person, and you may feel lost with nowhere to turn.
Although there’s no quick fix for addiction, there’s always hope for recovery. Whether you’re trying to convince your spouse to seek treatment or you’re adjusting to life after he or she has completed residential care, there are several things you can do to support the recovery process.
Misconceptions about addiction run rampant, so it’s important to make sure you understand the nature of your spouse’s illness. Here are some articles you might find useful:
- Recognizing Addiction: How to Know When Your Loved One Needs Help
- Tolerance, Dependence, and Addiction: What Common Substance Abuse Terms Mean
- Can Withdrawal Be Fatal?
- Chronic Pain and Substance Abuse
- What to Look for When Choosing a Recovery Center
- Returning to Treatment After Relapse
Set Healthy Boundaries
Boundaries are essential in any relationship, but they are critical when you have a spouse with an addiction. Appropriate boundaries will depend on your individual circumstances, but some examples of healthy boundaries you can set include:
- Not calling in sick to work on their behalf
- Not covering for them when they can’t make social engagements because they are drunk, high, or hungover
- Not asking for money from friends and family because they spent too much on drugs and alcohol
- Not allowing them to see your children while they are under the influence
- Not bailing them out of jail when they’ve been arrested for a substance-abuse-related offense
Sticking to your boundaries won’t be easy. Your spouse may blame you for making things difficult, but it’s important to avoid falling into the trap of codependency.
Due to the stigma surrounding addiction, it’s common for people with a spouse who abuses drugs or alcohol to be ashamed and embarrassed. However, addiction is a chronic illness. It’s not a character defect, and your spouse’s addiction does not reflect badly on your marriage.
Instead of trying to handle things on your own, enlist the help of supportive family and friends to plan an intervention. Together, you will have a better chance of getting your spouse to seek treatment and stay on the path to recovery.
Create an Environment that Supports Recovery
If your spouse has agreed to seek treatment, you can help by creating an environment that supports the recovery process.
- Don’t keep drugs or alcohol in the house. Your home should remain substance-free at all times. If you must take prescription medications with a high potential for abuse, such as opioid painkillers or benzodiazepines, keep them in a locked box stored someplace where your spouse can’t find it.
- Socialize while sober. Until your spouse’s sobriety is firmly established, it’s smart to avoid social engagements where there are likely to be drugs or alcohol. This may mean rethinking certain events or declining invitations altogether.
- Avoid music, movies, and television shows that glamorize substance abuse. Media that depicts drinking or doing drugs as something that’s fun and a normal part of life can trigger cravings in someone who is already vulnerable.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Often, substance abuse begins as a way to temporarily distract oneself from painful emotions. If you provide opportunities to talk about emotions honestly and without judgment, your spouse will feel less of a need to return to this unhealthy coping mechanism.
- Model a healthy lifestyle. Eating healthy food, getting regular exercise, and making time for sufficient sleep helps the body heal from the damage caused by substance abuse and makes it easier to resist cravings. These wellness-focused behaviors also offer mood-boosting benefits for the entire family.
Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself
When you love someone with an addiction, it’s easy for their problems to take center stage. However, it’s not healthy to ignore your needs. No matter how hectic things get around your spouse’s addiction, self-care is not selfish.
Try to schedule time each week for activities you enjoy, whether that means getting coffee with a friend or taking time to engage in a favorite hobby. Seeking counseling on your own or attending a support group for individuals who have a loved one with an addiction is also a smart move. Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are two of the best-known groups, but there may be others available in your community.
Take Advantage of Family Services at Waypoint Recovery Center
As part of our holistic approach to recovery, we include family services in our South Carolina residential drug and alcohol addiction treatment program. Group and individual counseling sessions discuss healthy communication skills, rebuilding trust, and improving the overall family dynamic. We believe addiction is a disease that affects the whole family, so we are here to offer the services you need to heal and move forward together.