Substance abuse issues can fracture even the strongest of marriages.
If you are worried about your spouse’s alcohol or drug use, know that you are not responsible for their actions. However, there are several steps you can take to encourage your spouse to get the help they need while helping your family to heal.
Effects of a Spouse’s Addiction
If your spouse is abusing drugs or alcohol, you may be experiencing a wide range of emotions. For example:
- You’re worried about your family finances due to the money your spouse spends on alcohol or drugs or the effects of an addiction-related job loss.
- You’re tired of making excuses or lying to others to cover up your spouse’s addiction.
- You’re frustrated because you are doing extra household chores since your spouse no longer contributes to running your home.
- You’re upset because your spouse ignores or mistreats your children.
- You’re embarrassed to socialize together because of how your spouse acts while under the influence.
- You feel disconnected as a couple due to the effects your spouse’s addiction has had on your sex life.
- You believe your spouse is no longer the person you once fell in love with.
- You feel guilty because you can’t “save” your spouse from the addiction.
- You feel angry because your spouse seems to be choosing drugs or alcohol over you and your family.
What you’re feeling is completely normal. Addiction is a disease that affects the entire family, with the people who are closest to the person suffering from a substance use disorder experiencing the highest number of negative effects. Over time, the stress of living with a spouse’s untreated addiction can lead to anxiety, depression, mood swings, insomnia, headaches, stomach aches, unexplained chronic pain, and a number of other physical or emotional symptoms.
Planning an Intervention
Addiction isn’t caused by a lack of willpower, so your spouse can’t simply decide to stop using drugs or alcohol. Evidence-based addiction treatment is necessary.
If your attempts to talk about the issue one-on-one have been unsuccessful, an intervention may be needed. An intervention is a structured meeting where friends and family come together to confront a person who is suffering from an addiction. They state the behaviors they have witnessed and collectively stress the need for treatment.
Working with a professional interventionist is often the best way to approach the intervention process, especially if you are worried your spouse could become angry or aggressive when confronted. A certified intervention professional is someone who has extensive education and experience helping to plan successful interventions. Often, this person is in recovery themselves and thus has a detailed understanding of how addiction can change the brain.
When a spouse is suffering from an addiction, the non-addicted spouse can fall into the trap of enabling the substance abuse to continue. For example, you might justify your actions by saying your spouse is under a lot of stress or that it’s not fair to make your children suffer for something they have no control over.
Enabling makes things easier in the short term, but creates long-term problems by preventing your spouse from feeling the full repercussions of living with a substance use disorder. To move forward, you need to set boundaries that hold your spouse accountable while protecting you and your children.
Some examples of reasonable boundaries to set include:
- You will no longer make excuses or lie on behalf of your spouse.
- Your spouse will not be allowed contact with the children if they are under the influence.
- You will no longer handle all of your spouse’s responsibilities around the home.
- You will keep your finances separate and not allow your spouse to use money you earned to pay for drugs or alcohol.
Seeking Support for Your Family
Since addiction affects the entire family, it’s important to get help for you and your children as well. This could include family counseling, individual counseling, and attending a 12-Step support group such as Al-Anon.
If you have school-aged children, it may be helpful to meet privately with each teacher and let them know about your family’s difficulties at home. There may be resources available through the school that could help your child. Additionally, keeping your child’s teacher in the loop will make sure you are promptly informed of any academic or behavioral problems that could be related to the stress caused by your spouse’s addiction.
How Mountain Laurel Recovery Center Can Help
At Mountain Laurel Recovery Center, we provide supportive and compassionate care to men and women who have been diagnosed with substance use disorders. Our Pennsylvania drug and alcohol addiction treatment center provides detox services, residential care, extended care, and family programming to help clients build the foundation for lasting sobriety.
Complete our online insurance verification form or call to speak with an admissions counselor who can answer your questions about the treatment options available to your spouse.