Addiction is a disorder that is complex and pervasive. Most of us know someone, or of someone, who is struggling with addiction. For the families and spouse of an addict, it is difficult to watch the addiction take hold of their loved one and often destroy the family and relationships. It is always hard to watch someone you love spiral out of control. Often, the husband or wife of the addict feels helpless when it comes to helping their spouse. It doesn’t have to be that way. Addiction in families is a difficult and painful time for everyone, but there are ways to your spouse.
What Exactly is Addiction?
Addiction comes in many forms. It can be drugs, food, or even to behaviors like gambling or sex. Your spouse may be an alcoholic. You probably know them better than most people and can tell something is going on. Because of this, every addict’s journey to recovery is different. It is not a one size fits all type of process. There are general guidelines you can follow to help your spouse, but they may not all work all the time.
Addiction is a disorder of the brain. Addiction changes the brain and while much progress has been made in understanding the complexities around addiction, there is still more to learn. An addicted spouse may not be ready to admit there is a problem. They may be embarrassed and afraid. The addiction may be a way for the spouse to avoid something else that’s happening and they may not feel comfortable talking about their problems.
Please keep in mind that getting clean and sober is not a fast process. Many addicts face setbacks and relapses. It is important to be compassionate with your loved one, but not to enable them to continue what they’re doing. Psychology Today reminds us that compassion is what’s often missing from addiction treatment, but so necessary. Being compassionate is different than enabling the addiction to continue and it is an important distinction.
There may be times where your loved one needs to go to drug rehab. You need to encourage rehab and treatment. Your spouse may get angry and feel like you are trying to control him or her. You need to communicate clearly and consistently that you are trying to help and be supportive.
Having ‘The Conversation’ With Your Addicted Spouse
Trust is often lost when in a close relationship with an addict. However, it’s important to work on rebuilding that trust on both sides. If you want to help your spouse make progress, you have to show that you trust and have faith in him or her.
Remember that addiction is a disease, or disorder of the brain, and your loved one is not making the choice to have an addiction.
Additionally, it’s imperative to set boundaries for your spouse or family member and you must stick to them. You can no longer enable them or let them ruin their lives. While no one expects you to be an addiction expert, you’re now informed enough to make educated decisions regarding their recovery.
Preparing for the Next Step
Encourage your spouse to seek treatment. You may have to help him or help find appropriate treatment options. Helping to move your spouse in a positive direction is not enabling. Your spouse must take the steps, but that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t be there supporting along each step.
You should find a therapist or counselor specializing in addiction for yourself. They may recommend Al-anon or Nan-anon support groups. You don’t have to go through this alone. You may need joint counseling, as well; ideally after they complete a drug rehab program.
There are many intervention options throughout the country, in all states, including Southern California, if you find it necessary. Interventions don’t require a professional, although they can be helpful. In some situations, many struggling addicts and alcoholics are just waiting for someone to notice that they need help and don’t know what to do. These individuals are typically willing to seek treatment without trying to ‘pull teeth’.
As the spouse of an addict, you may need to stop using recreational drugs and alcohol. It may not be forever; it may just be a couple months. Many couples are able to recover, make it through, and the non-addicted partner could return to casual drinking without any issues.
Family therapists will help you set up complete aftercare plans together so you do what’s right for your family. It’s polite and encouraging to set a healthy example and be supportive in any way you can. You may need to change your lifestyle as your spouse recovers. This does not mean that you cover for your spouse and the problems he or she has created. Your spouse needs to understand and deal with the consequences of his or her addiction.
Finding Recovery for Your Partner at Odyssey Recovery
Remember to respect your loved one’s privacy. Do not take it upon yourself to keep others informed about what’s happening with your spouse’s recovery. It is up to that person to decide when and how they want to talk about it.
Most importantly, don’t give up hope. If your spouse is trying to recover, then he or she wants to be free of addiction. It is not a simple or easy task. Your spouse will require a lot of support. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), friends and family are vital. They encourage addicts to enter and continue with treatment. Sometimes just knowing they have people that support them is enough to help an addict to continue moving through recovery.
Call us at Odyssey Recovery now — either to start someone special’s journey or simply to get more information at 1-(800) 823-8640.