Seven Steps to Take if your Spouse is Abusing Alcohol or Drugs

Alcoholism and drug addiction are serious problems. Both not only have a significant impact on the well-being of the addicted individual, but they adversely affect everyone else in their life as well. This is especially true for anyone married to an addict.

If your spouse is suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction, you may feel that there’s nothing you can to help them. However, nothing could be further from the truth. If you keep your wits about you and your emotions at bay, there are seven steps you can take to help your loved one come to terms with their addiction and get the help they need.

1. Recognize and Discuss the Problem

The first step in helping your spouse overcome an addiction to drugs or alcohol is recognizing the problem. All too often, those closest to the addict will look the other way or convince themselves that the problem really isn’t as bad as it seems. Unfortunately, turning a blind eye is actually a subtle form of enabling. By doing so, you are perpetuating the problem. Your spouse may also interpret your silence as condoning the behavior – unless, of course, he or she truly thinks you don’t have a clue, which is usually not the case.

If your spouse is consuming more than two alcoholic beverages per day, using any illegal substances, or even abusing prescription medication by not following dosing instructions, an addiction must be considered. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “it would never happen to your family”. Alcoholism and drug addiction can affect anyone, regardless of their age, gender, social status, income, or past family history.

If you believe there might be a problem, talk to your spouse about it as soon as possible. Don’t wait indefinitely for the perfect time – that will never come. But do choose a time when you have privacy, won’t likely be interrupted, have sufficient time to talk, and neither of you are tired or upset.

2. Confirm the Problem

Of course, not every attempt at speaking to your spouse will result in an admission of addiction. In fact, you can almost count on denial or significant minimization at first. One of the primary signs of spousal substance abuse occurs when the family member refuses to admit that they have been drinking or using drugs – even though you know they have.

If your spouse denies that they’ve been using or drinking, there are several things you can watch for to confirm your suspicions. These include:

3. Stop Enabling

If you suspect that drug and alcohol abuse are becoming a problem, or if your spouse admits to abusing alcohol or drugs, you will play a vital role in their recovery. Many family members actually enable the addicted spouse in a variety of ways. Enabling can take on many forms, such as purchasing their drugs and alcohol for them, calling in sick for them, making excuses for their addiction, paying bills for them or loaning them money, or providing childcare for them while they recover from a hangover.

As long as you enable your spouse, they won’t have any reason or incentive to stop. Enabling gives them the message that it’s okay if they keep using or drinking, even if you state the opposite. If you suspect that your spouse has a problem, it’s essential that you stop the enabling behaviors immediately.

5. Stage an Intervention

The use of interventions has received plenty of media popularity lately, thanks to reality television shows and movies. Despite that, they provide one of the best ways to convince addicts that they have a serious problem and that they need professional help.

In short, an intervention involves all of the affected friends, family members, and colleagues. Together, they confront the addict. Not only does this make it very difficult for the addict to deny the problem, but it also shows that several people genuinely care and will support them in getting treatment. Granted, interventions often make addicts very angry. They may perceive it as a “me against all of them” ordeal. But if the intervention is done in a loving, rather than blaming, manner, it can be extremely effective.

Most interventions involve directly talking to the addict. However, you (and everyone else involved) may also want to (or instead) write letters to your spouse letters, expressing how their addiction is affecting you, and your concerns about its effect on them. Either way, the ultimate goal of an intervention is to help them understand that they absolutely need treatment.

It’s best to have a treatment place already lined up before you do the intervention. This gives you the opportunity to tell your spouse that there’s a treatment place available to take them today, and then you can drive your spouse there immediately following the intervention.

6. Select a Treatment Option

When your attempts to speak to your spouse about their addiction are successful, there are plenty of treatment options from which to choose. Inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities certainly have their pros and cons, but there is no doubt that an inpatient or residential drug rehab facility is the best option-at least for the first 30 days. This type of treatment will give your spouse a break from the demands of day-to-day life in order to focus on rehab.

Most inpatient and residential facilities provide medically supervised detox before the actual drug rehab takes place. Detox is a process that allows all of the drugs and alcohol to safely leave the body. Medical staff is on hand 24/7 to monitor and treat for any associated side effects that may occur. After detox, your spouse will live at the facility for 30 to 90 days – sometimes even longer.

7. Attend AA or NA with your Spouse

Though you may be familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Nar-Anon (NA), you may not be aware that these meetings can be attended by entire families-not just the addicts themselves. In fact, by attending AA or NA meetings along with your spouse, you may be able to better understand the reasons behind their addiction.

Group meetings such as these may also help you understand how your spouse feels when they’re unable to satisfy their cravings for drugs and alcohol. You’ll also be able to understand the steps they are taking to improve their relationships with you and the rest of the family. In short, AA and NA are support groups for anyone suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction, They can play a vital role in the drug rehab process.

8. Stay Supportive

Anger, sadness and even the desire to leave your spouse may occur as your family battles the addiction. However, it’s important to remain supportive throughout the process and do everything you can to help your spouse succeed. In order for your spouse to remain confident that they can beat the addiction and regain control of their lives, they must know that their friends and family are behind them each and every step of the way. Though you can’t fight the battle for your spouse, you can certainly stand behind them and support them.

If you suspect that your spouse is suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction, you and your family don’t have to feel helpless and wonder what to do. By following the seven steps above, you can help your spouse successfully overcome their addiction.