When your spouse is seeking treatment for a substance use disorder, it’s normal to have questions about what to expect and how to show your support. While no two people in recovery are exactly alike, Mountain Laurel Recovery Center’s Pennsylvania residential drug and alcohol addiction treatment center has provided this list of tips as a general guide.
Addiction is often misunderstood, even by educated people with the best of intentions. Taking the time to learn the facts will help you know what to expect from this journey with your spouse.
You may find the following articles helpful in increasing your knowledge of addiction and recovery:
- How to Recognize Addiction in Your Loved One
- Is Addiction a Choice?
- Signs That You’re Enabling
- 7 Reasons Relapse Happens
- 10 Most Common Addiction Myths
Research Insurance Coverage and Payment Options
A common concern people have about going to rehab is how to handle the cost. If you can research your insurance coverage, this gives your spouse one less reason to avoid seeking treatment. The rehab your spouse is considering attending can be a helpful resource, as can the customer service representatives with your insurer. The Summit BHC article Does Your Insurance Cover Rehab? provides additional insight.
Drawing up a budget that shows how you’ll account for out-of-pocket costs can also help ease your spouse’s mind about the expense of seeking treatment. Depending on your circumstances, you might propose ideas such as cutting back on restaurant meals, selling unwanted items, seeking additional freelance or part-time work, dipping into your savings, or applying for a low-interest loan.
Choose Your Words Carefully
Managing things on your own while your spouse is away is going to be a bit of an inconvenience, but it’s important to avoid saying things that will make your spouse feel guilty about seeking treatment. If you need to vent your frustration, schedule time to chat with a trusted friend. Support groups such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon that can connect you with others who’ve gone through similar experiences can also be helpful in providing you with a chance to process your own emotions without adding to the stress your spouse is feeling.
Provide Regular Updates from Home
It’s typical for residential treatment centers to have a blackout period when treatment begins, during which clients aren’t allowed to receive visits or updates from home. This is so they can focus on establishing their sobriety with no outside distractions.
Once communication is allowed, make sure to write, call, or visit your spouse in rehab, regularly. You can show your support with words of encouragement such as:
- We’ve been through tough times before, and we’ll get through this together.
- I love you more each day.
- I believe in you, and I’m proud of what you’ve already accomplished.
- This is the first step in a brighter future for you and our family.
Keep Your Children Updated in an Age-Appropriate Way
If you have children at home, it’s natural to want to shield them from the struggles your spouse is experiencing. However, keeping kids in the dark can backfire by leading them to fill in the gaps with their own observations and incorrect assessments.
Schedule a quiet, private time to sit down with your children. Explain that your spouse has an illness and that they are getting treatment from doctors. Stress that there is nothing your children did to cause this and that it’s OK if they feel sad or confused about what is happening.
The National Association for Children of Alcoholics created the 7 C’s of addiction to help children understand a parent’s substance abuse problem and how it affects their own lives.
- I didn’t cause it.
- I can’t cure it.
- I can’t control it.
- I can care for myself
- By communicating my feelings,
- Making healthy choices, and
- By celebrating myself.
Reading books about addiction is another great way to help your children better understand what your spouse is going through as they process their own feelings. Our partners over at Canyon Vista Recovery Center created a post, 20 Books to Explain Addiction to Children, with titles for children in various age groups.
Attend Any Family Sessions That Are Offered
Addiction treatment centers often provide family counseling sessions to encourage open communication and promote healthier relationships. These sessions are typically attended by spouses and teens but may also include other family members if appropriate.
Even if you feel uncomfortable sharing your thoughts in a group setting, attending family sessions can provide you with new insight into the recovery process and help you better understand how your spouse’s addiction has changed your family dynamic. Since addiction is a progressive illness, it’s often hard to see all the ways your spouse’s drinking or drug use has changed your relationship until you get a third party’s perspective.
Focus on the Future, Not the Past
Recovery is a time of new beginnings. Keeping your focus on where you’re going together is better than dwelling on past mistakes and regrets. Making plans for a special trip or a new activity to share together can give your spouse something to look forward to after graduating from rehab.
While it’s fine to offer suggestions for places to go, people to visit, or new things to learn, try to let your spouse take the lead on planning your post-rehab activities. Some people feel energized and ready to take on the world when they graduate from treatment, but others want to ease into a new life more slowly. There may also be specific triggers your spouse has learned they need to avoid.