By: Caleb Anderson
Caleb developed an opiate addiction after being in a car accident. He’s in recovery today and wants to inspire others to overcome their addictions. He co-created RecoveryHope to help people with substance abuse disorders and their families.
Read on to hear his amazing advice for couples affected by addiction.
Alcoholism and drug addiction negatively affect relationships. When a spouse is an addict, the couple likely has poor or absent communication. The addict may be physically or psychologically abusive, unfaithful, or overly controlling. The addiction may create financial strain. Overall, the situation is stressful and lonely for the spouse that isn’t suffering from the addiction. If your spouse is an addict, you can try to find him or her treatment and find ways to heal together. But you also need to know when to walk away.
While you can’t force your spouse into treatment, there are things you can do to help him or her realize the addiction is out of control and treatment is necessary. For starters, stop enabling your spouse. The only way for him or her to realize there’s an issue is to experience the consequences of the addiction in the fullest extent. If work or a family event is missed, don’t make excuses.
When talking about the addiction and your concerns, be specific. Instead of saying, “You need to stop drinking because it’s unhealthy,” say, “Being drunk prevents you from attending dinner, and it’s hurting our marriage.” To that point, discuss the negative consequences specific to your marriage. Tell your spouse what will happen if he or she doesn’t seek help, but only say it if you mean it.
Have other family and friends bring up the addiction with you. The more people involved, the bigger the impact, but the individuals should be people your spouse knows and trusts. Carefully time these meetings when your spouse is sober and calm. Ideally, it should be soon after an addiction-related issue has occurred so that a consequence is fresh in your spouse’s mind.
When you’re ready to mend the relationship, it’s advisable to get help from a counselor or therapist. Going through the steps to heal together will be difficult, but a trained professional can help the two of you to stay on track and achieve success. Even with help, it will be stressful and take a period of adjustment. You may need couples therapy along with one-on-one sessions.
Outside of therapy, there are things you can work on to move your relationship into a healthier place. First, treat your marriage like it’s a new relationship. Everything changes after addiction issues, including you, your spouse, and your relationship. Go on dates again. Whether it’s once a month or once a week, make sure you have time alone together to bond.
Having a healthy, positive living environment is also important in order to promote sobriety. This could mean finding a new place to live to boost your spouse’s recovery, or visiting with your spouse while they temporarily live in a halfway house if they are finishing up treatment.
When disagreements arise, try to stay positive and avoid fights. If you need to take a break from the argument, then do so. Some issues are best discussed with your therapist, who’s an impartial third party. Every day, work on forgiving your spouse, but accept that it takes time to gain new trust.
Calling it Quits
Deciding to stay or leave is not an easy decision to make. Despite knowing that you’ve tried everything, that your self-esteem is shot, and that you’ve lost ample amounts of time trying to fix your spouse, you still love him or her. You worry what will happen to your spouse if you leave. Ending the marriage may make you feel like you’ve failed. However, consider the cost of staying. Your self-esteem, mental health, sense of well-being, and even physical health could be comprised.
Abuse in a relationship should never be tolerated, whether it’s physical or psychological. Consider leaving if your spouse lies, cheats, or steals. If your partner continues to worsen despite your best efforts, it may be time to leave. If you have kids, consider how the addiction affects them and if staying is worse than leaving. Do you feel supported, appreciated, and valued? If not, it may be time to walk away.
Remember that your life is also being negatively affected by your spouse’s addiction. There are ways for you to help your spouse to get treatment he or she needs, and if your spouse works on maintaining sobriety, the two of you can work on healing your relationship. However, you have to know when it’s time to walk away. You deserve a happy and fulfilling life.