Helping a Spouse with Addiction

The dreams held in your heart on the day you said "I do" can feel shattered when your partner falls prey to substance abuse and addiction. Your tears, nagging, threats and pleading have all failed to change the situation and now you feel powerless and despondent. Yet, it is not true that there is nothing you can do to help your partner. In fact, there is a lot you can do.

First of all, you need to recognize that all the efforts you make to cover up for his/her addiction are counter-productive. By paying off debts, lying to friends/family/co-workers, and attempting to rescue them from every possible danger or consequence you are actually enabling their addiction. You need to end the co-dependent cycle.

Secondly, become informed about addiction. You can talk with a mental health provider in order to gain understanding about the condition, just as you would talk to a doctor about your spouse’s physical condition. Recognizing the disease’s symptoms, drivers and compulsions will help you to escape the guilt, shame and isolation that only add to your marital strain. You will also become more confident about confronting your partner. Once you understand what you are dealing with, you can explain to them the way you see the addiction destroying the person you love most in the world as well as the relationship you share. Tell them you love them and that is why you want them to get help.

After spending months or years pre-empting every situation and covering over every consequence in your spouse’s life, you are bound to feel worn down and worn out. You will help your spouse by taking care of yourself. See a medical doctor and get a check-up. Reach out for the help of others. It could be friends or family members and it probably should include a counselor or support group, but you need a place to share your own feelings and struggles. Your partner’s addiction isolated you and you need to start moving in the other direction toward connecting with others in a healthy way.

Part of your spouse’s recovery will likely include the recognition that he/she needs help from outside themselves. You have the very same need. Your ability to look to someone other then yourself to provide the strength for walking down this road will make all the difference in your ability to stay the course.

Believe it or not, your marriage can survive this trial. Recovery from addiction is possible and you can come out the other side a more committed couple. Your relationship is worth fighting for. Don’t give up too soon. Eventually, your spouse will see your own ability to change and will find the hope that they too can live differently.