Addiction affects more than just the person who is struggling. Drug and alcohol addiction can affect relationships with family members, friends, coworkers, and romantic partners. Marriage is one of the most intimate relationships a person can enter, as a mutual commitment for both partners to love and support one another.
Drug and alcohol abuse impacts millions of adults in the United States each year. As a result of several factors, including the stigma placed on addiction, only about 1 in 10 people struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD) seek treatment. This means that millions of people, some of whom may be in a committed relationship, are facing addiction without professional help.
Drug and alcohol abuse can wreak significant havoc on a marriage. People who are struggling with addiction often hide or deny their actions, may act cold, or grow hostile. Some of the most difficult challenges that addiction places on a relationship are those most personal: a lack of honesty and trust. Partners with substance abuse issues can also become violent and abusive.
As a spouse, watching your loved one battle addiction can incite many feelings: anger, concern, guilt, sadness, and helplessness. Many spouses can become exhausted, drained, and unsure of whether or not they want to stay in their marriage.
Getting addiction help for your spouse can help you determine how you and your partner can move forward in your marriage and their recovery.
Beginning Steps: Gathering Information
Educating yourself about substance abuse and addiction can be one of the most empowering tools for a spouse in determining how to move forward in addressing your loved one’s addiction. A basic understanding of what addiction is, and the common signs of drug and alcohol addiction, can be a useful starting point.
Learning basic information about drug and alcohol addiction can also help answer some common questions spouses ask themselves in this situation, such as:
- How do I know if my partner is addicted to drugs/alcohol?
- What are the signs and symptoms of addiction?
- Are drugs and alcohol to blame for my partner’s behavior?
- How is my partner’s addiction affecting their health?
- How can I talk to my spouse about their drug use or drinking?
- How do I get my spouse to seek help for their problem?
While gaining a better understanding of addiction can be a helpful starting point, you may also need to seek resources better able to suit the unique needs of your situation. This can include talking to a treatment specialist about seeking help for your spouse.
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Addiction can make a marriage begin to feel like a sinking ship, but it isn’t always irreparable. Many couples who are facing addiction are able to work through the problem together and improve their relationship. Some spouses may not wish to save their marriage, but still want to get their partner the help they need to become sober.
Talking To Your Spouse About Their Problem
Many people with a drug or alcohol problem have difficulty making the decision for themselves to get help. Being in denial of a substance abuse problem is common, especially in people who are considered high-functioning.
Addiction is a disease that gets progressively worse over time, meaning it can become more visible and more harmful the longer it is left untreated.
Within a marriage, this can lead to several difficulties, such as:
- trouble keeping a job
- financial problems
- sexual dysfunction
- mood swings
- legal troubles
- problems with law enforcement
- aggression or abuse
Alcohol and drug abuse are not sustainable. Over time, these problems can become all-consuming, hurting your marriage, as well as all other aspects of your spouse’s life.
The first step most people take to confront a loved one is to talk to them about their concerns. Reactions to this sort of confrontation can vary. While some people can be responsive to concerns about their drinking or drug use, others may only deny the problem, shut down the conversation, or lash out.
Some may also claim they’ll get help and then not follow through, continuing to drink heavily or abuse drugs. If talking to your partner one-on-one hasn’t been effective, another option for getting your spouse help is to stage an intervention.
Staging An Intervention
Many people with severe drug or alcohol addiction need more than a single confrontation to follow through in seeking help for their problem. Some people may be able to admit they have a problem, but are not in a place where they want to get help.
If your spouse hasn’t responded to the voiced concerns of yourself, a friend, or another loved one, staging a group intervention may be a beneficial option.
Organizing a group intervention for someone with substance abuse problems can be an effective way for multiple concerned parties to come together and persuade the person to get help. This can be done with or without the assistance of a professional intervention specialist.
A professional intervention specialist is someone who is trained to help plan and conduct an intervention for people with mental health or substance use problems.
Some benefits of seeking the help of a professional intervention specialist include:
- Guidance: Intervention specialists are trained in how to guide the intervention process in an effective, structured manner to achieve a successful outcome
- Professional Management Techniques: This person will have experience in managing any violent outbursts or emotional responses from either the spouse or another intervention participant
- Planning: A professional can aid in the planning process, determining what each person will say, and laying out agreed-upon consequences should your spouse choose to not seek help
While many partners want to believe that they can convince their spouse to get help on their own, being unable to do so is not a failure. Addiction is a vicious disease that can make even someone you love unrecognizable. Having group support can increase the stakes of seeking addiction treatment and force a person to confront the reality of how much their substance abuse has harmed the people who care about them.
The goal of an intervention is to persuade the person struggling with addiction to seek professional treatment. Examples of others who may participate in a group intervention include family members, close friends, coworkers, or close neighbors. These should all be people who care about your spouse, can explain how they have been affected by your partner’s addiction, and want them to get well.
Types Of Treatment For Addiction
The most common recommendation for people seeking help for drug or alcohol dependency is to enter an inpatient treatment program. This is the most intensive type of treatment capable of addressing all medical, mental, and psychological needs of those recovering from addiction.
Many addiction treatment centers offer programs capable of suiting a variety of budgets and other personal needs.
Types of addiction treatment may include:
- Inpatient Rehab: Inpatient rehab programs are live-in treatment programs that offer 24-hour supervision and structure. Inpatient programs most often last between 30 to 90 days, depending on the needs of the patient. Treatment programs may offer a variety of treatment services, including: medical detox, behavioral therapy, family and couples counseling, medication-assisted treatment, group therapy, and aftercare support.
- Outpatient Counseling: Most people who complete a treatment program continue attending outpatient counseling on a weekly basis for continued support in recovery. This can be helpful for the continued management of drug or alcohol cravings and to address other mental health struggles. Additional marital or couples counseling may also be helpful to address past problems caused by your spouse’s addiction. A marriage counselor can help both you and your spouse determine how you can support one another moving forward.
- Support Groups: Community support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Narcotics Anonymous (NA) can be a helpful way for your spouse to connect with others in sobriety and build a strong support system. Research shows that attending support groups can reduce the risk of relapse and provide effective support for staying sober.
How Can I Support My Spouse In Rehab?
Getting a spouse to enter a treatment program can be an enormous relief and provide a sense of hope. While living with someone who’s addicted to drugs or alcohol can create a sense of helplessness, recovery is an opportunity to embrace hope, growth, and positive change.
For married couples, this includes an opportunity to work through the difficulties that addiction has caused in your relationship.
Many treatment programs offer family and couples therapy to make loved ones active participants in a patient’s recovery. This can create better understanding between couples and provide a safe space for each person to express their expectations and concerns.
Other ways you can support a spouse in rehab include:
Staying Connected: Visits, Phone Calls, Letters
Most rehab programs encourage patients to reach out to their loved ones while they are in treatment. Depending on the policies of the program, this may include phone calls, email, traditional mail, and visitation.
Although phone time is often limited for patients in inpatient programs, patients are typically allotted a certain amount of time per day or per week to make calls. Calling your spouse, or marking times in your schedule when you expect them to call, is a small but meaningful way to support your spouse in treatment.
Staying connected with your spouse can serve as a helpful reminder of how much you care about them, and further motivate them to continue their treatment.
Promoting Open Communication
It is common for communication to suffer between married couples when one or more partners is struggling with addiction. Addiction often creates an environment of dishonesty, mistrust, and manipulation.
Part of the recovery process from addiction involves repairing relationships, making amends, and asking for forgiveness. Much of the harm your spouse’s addiction has caused your relationship can be addressed in couples counseling, where the counselor can offer suggestions to help improve your communication.
Ideas for encouraging open communication with your spouse include:
- asking them what you can do to support them
- sharing your hopes and expectations for your relationship
- talking to them about important events or happenings in your life
- working on amends and forgiveness together
The overarching goal for improving communication between couples in addiction recovery is to encourage open and honest communication. For some people, this can take some time, and that is okay. Repairing a relationship takes time, patience, and understanding.
Taking Care Of Yourself
Perhaps the most important way you can support your partner in rehab and recovery is to take care of yourself. Self-care can be crucial to managing stressful situations.
Taking care of yourself can refer to very simple things like making sure you are eating enough, staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep.
Additional forms of self-care for a spouse may include:
- going to Al-Anon support groups (for families and loved ones of someone with addiction)
- participating in relaxation and wellness activities (e.g. yoga, meditation, mindfulness classes)
- participating in a hobby or activity that you find pleasure in
- going to a counselor to talk about your own mental health struggles, your feelings about your marriage, and how you are feeling about your spouse’s recovery
- staying connected to friends and other close acquaintances
- sticking to a normal routine that feels comfortable for you and the rest of your family
- reminding yourself that your needs matter, and putting your needs first
People who are recovering from addiction find motivation and strength through the people they care about the most. Taking care of yourself and your own needs is not only important for your own well-being, but can also be a positive influence for your spouse in their recovery.
Find Addiction Help For Your Spouse Today
At Vertava Health, we offer a variety of treatment programs and services that consider the involvement of family and spouses as an important source of support in our patients’ recovery.
Our addiction programs strive to inspire hope and motivation in our patients and their loved ones throughout the recovery process. If you are concerned about your spouse’s drug or alcohol use, you’re not alone in this fight.
Contact one of our Vertava Health treatment specialists to find addiction help for your spouse today.