Being in a relationship with another person is challenging in the best of circumstances, when you add the complication of addiction to drugs, alcohol, and/or food, life can seem to get out of control very fast. In fact, addiction is number 6 on the list of reasons that cause divorce and separation in the United States. However, knowing that your spouse or loved one struggles with an addiction does not necessarily mean that you are headed for irreconcilable differences. If you can help your partner find his or her way into treatment for recovery for their addiction there is hope for a very happy life ahead.
How do you know if your spouse or loved one has an addiction and it is time to start Addiction recovery? Instead of simply wondering or talking about it with friends and family members, ask yourself the following questions:
- Can your spouse have just one or two drinks at a social occasion without getting drunk?
- Are you always the designated driver because your spouse is always too drunk to drive or because your spouse had “one” too many?
- Are you often left alone to put together the toys for the kids because he/she is passed out on the couch again?
- Is he/she often the brunt of jokes in your social circle because he/she drinks/drugs/eats to excess?
- Are your needs being neglected because your spouse is busy with his/her substance abuse?
- Is your spouse disconnected from the kids/you/family members because he/she is out with other people who are drinking/drugging/over-eating?
- Do you spend excess time worrying about your spouse – where he/she is, who he/she is with?
- Are you concerned about your spouse’s health? Has your spouse’s health noticeably been worse? Has your spouse been calling in sick to work?
- Has your spouse been declining social invitations to stay home and then eating at home or drinking alone or drugging alone?
If you answered yes to multiple questions then the most important next step is to understand that addiction is a disease and it is not your fault and it is not the fault of your spouse. No one is to blame.
It is important to listen to your intuition when you think that something is wrong, it usually is! Remember that you want to help your spouse get sober but you cannot make him/her get sober.
First, find help for yourself. Remembering the first rule of thumb that you cannot change anyone’s behavior but your own, it is important to care for yourself.
Do: Get a counselor or therapist who specializes in addiction treatment and recovery Learn about addiction and addiction recovery – Read- Read- Read Be clear when communicating with your spouse about your emotions Be loving and remember that your spouse is ill and needs help Join a support group, Al-anon is a good place to start for family members of alcohol addiction and Nar-Anon for family members of Drug addicts, and Food Addicts for family members of Food addicts needing recovery.
- Nag or try to tell your spouse what to do
- Enable your spouse by allowing them to avoid the consequences of their behavior
- Cover up for your spouse or make excuses for his/her behavior or absence.
- Blame yourself or Blame your spouse – Addiction is no one’s fault; it is an illness.
- Drink or do drugs with your spouse
- Compromise your safety, the safety of your children, or your values at the hands of the addict
It is embarrassing to admit that I was once doing almost all of the things on the Don’t list to my spouse in an effort to get him to admit that he was an alcoholic and needed addiction recovery. I thought that he should do what I thought was right in seeking help so I nagged him. My constant attention and nagging pushed him away and made the situation worse for both of us.
I would get frustrated and feel defeated and drink with him because I thought of the old adage, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”
If I could go back in time and do it all differently, I would, but I cannot. I cannot change the past. However, I do not live in the past nor do I live with regret because I like to believe that life offers us learning experiences through all the people in our lives and all the events in our lives. So, I move forward knowing now that I can help others with my life experiences.
I am no longer married to the man that I was married to twenty years ago. If I had handled things differently, perhaps we would still be married. Perhaps we would both be sober. Who knows? However, I do know that I can live my own life by offering hope of living a sober life and leading by example and I can offer a loving helping hand if he or anyone ever asks for help with addiction recovery.