I get a lot of questions from partners, family members and friends of addicts. They wonder how they can help those they love AND maintain their own sanity. They want to learn more about addiction but are confused on how to support their loved one.
Living with addiction is challenging, but not hopeless.
Caleb Anderson is my guest blogger this month. He personally understands addiction and its impacts on marriage. Read his post for encouragement and suggestions; Marriage and Addiction: Can it Work?
If you love someone struggling with an alcohol or drug addiction problem, you know it is a terrible disease that directly impacts that person’s life and relationships. If it happens to be your spouse fighting drug dependency, you not only watch from afar but fight for recovery from the front lines.
Psychology Today contributor Susan Pease Gadoua, LCSW, notes that spouses of drug addictions not only deal with the everyday problems of marriage but must also watch their partner spiral into irrational behaviors and physical illness. Dishonesty, recklessness, and infidelity are unfortunately common pairings with drug addiction. So, is a marriage weighed down by substance abuse worth saving or is divorce the only answer?
The confrontation conundrum
For the non-drug addicted spouse, confrontation can be difficult. Not only must relationship issues be faced head-on, but bringing up the drug addiction may create an uncomfortable awkwardness. However, if the relationship is to be saved, the negative behaviors must be brought to light. There is a right time and the wrong time to discuss addiction. Avoid the temptation to open up the conversation in a rage after an incident. Remain calm and wait until your partner is sober enough to think with reason. This article by Harvard Health Publications offers more information on what to do when a loved one has an addiction.
Asking for assistance
There is a good chance that your spouse’s behavior hasn’t gone unnoticed by others. You can seek the advice of a close friend, parent, or sibling, who may also work as a mediator in case the conversation gets heated. The Mayo Clinic suggests consulting with an addiction professional, like Laura Longville LAC of Walking in Grace, Inc. to help you organize an intervention. This person may be a substance abuse counselor, psychiatrist, interventionist, or social worker, depending on your situation, budget, and availability.
Working out relationship issues with a drug user is difficult; even more so when they have participated in a physical or emotional affair. Infidelity and drug addiction often go hand-in-hand as the user consciously (or unconsciously) seeks a sense of acceptance for their actions. Often, “the other person” is another individual in the throes of drug addiction. If you love your spouse and want to work things out you must be prepared for a rainbow of emotions felt on both sides. Anger, betrayal, devastation, and disgust are the most common. It is up to you and your spouse to decide if your marriage is strong enough to handle both addiction and infidelity.
Seeking a solution
Once the proverbial elephant in the room has been acknowledged, you and your spouse can begin looking for treatment options. Choosing the right addiction rehab center is paramount to successful recovery. There are two primary types of drug addiction treatment: inpatient and outpatient. Inpatient treatment provides an immersive substance abuse treatment experience. Outpatient treatment, which typically lasts at least three months in duration, is an option for those who need to remain at home during treatment, whether for familial obligations or to maintain their professional status. Regardless of which type of rehabilitation is chosen, the individual should consult with a medical provider for a supervised detox.
DrugAbuse.gov reports that withdrawal symptoms peak one to two days after last drug use. It is only after this time period that true healing can begin. If the marriage is to be saved, drugs and/or alcohol must no longer be a part of the equation. It isn’t easy, but an otherwise healthy marriage can be resurrected with patience, understanding, and a strong commitment to treatment and aftercare.
Guest post by Caleb Anderson
Caleb developed an opiate addiction after being in a car accident. He’s in recovery today and wants to inspire others to overcome their addictions. He co-created RecoveryHope to help people with substance abuse disorders and their families.