Being the Spouse of an Addict

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spouse of an addict

Your spouse is an addict, and you are at the end of your rope. Every attempt to encourage your partner to get help, whether it entailed tears, prayers, pleading, and yelling, has failed. As their spouse, you feel sad witnessing their descent into addiction. This is your partner in life, the parent of your children, but no matter what you try, you can’t win.

What does the spouse of an addict to do? What can you do to maintain your own sanity and health? If you find yourself in this difficult situation and need some encouragement and tips, please read on.

Living with an Addict

If you have a husband or wife struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction, you know firsthand just how hard daily life can be. Some of the common effects of living with an addict include:

  • Being constantly lied to or deceived.
  • Worrying about whether they are dead or alive.
  • The addicted spouse becomes withdrawn and emotionally absent.
  • Unstable employment and money problems.
  • Legal problems.
  • Domestic violence.
  • The spouse becomes unreliable and irresponsible.
  • The spouse’s addiction results in health problems.
  • The home becomes an unstable environment for kids.

Support and Coping Solutions for Spouses of Addicts

There comes a point when the focus turns from worrying about the addict spouse to worrying about yourself. The spouse of an addict suffers a great deal, as they become swept up in the chaos, fear, and unpredictability. Too often, the spouse’s health and wellness begin to suffer due to the daily stress of living with an addict.

Here are some helpful coping tips:

  1. Practice self-care. It is very common to find that the addict sucks all the energy out of you. This leaves you feeling weak, depleted, and hopeless. To remedy this, be sure to put aside some time to pamper yourself. Consider a day spa experience, a mani-pedi, or a weekly massage. Do things that lift your spirits and reduce stress.
  2. Stay connected to friends and family. Whether you are the husband or the wife of an addict, it is essential to maintain your social connections. This provides an outlet for sharing your feelings with trusted loved ones, who can then offer their support.
  3. Join support groups. There are free support groups available that provide a safe, confidential space to find others in the same predicament. Check out Al-Anon, Nar-anon, Families Anonymous, SMART Recovery Family and Friends, and Learn to Cope.
  4. Get regular exercise. Exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself during this difficult and taxing chapter in life. Exercise boosts mood and reduces stress. Find a couple of activities you enjoy and integrate them into your daily routine.
  5. See a therapist. Find a therapist in your insurance network and schedule weekly meetings. The therapist can offer specific guidance, reading, and assignments to help you cope and to avoid codependency or enabling behaviors.

Is it Time for an Ultimatum, a Divorce?

If you have lost all patience for your spouse’s addiction and its effects on your home life, you may be ready to throw in the towel. Some spouses will offer an ultimatum at this critical point: to get treatment, or else. That tactic may be effective with some spouses who are still coherent enough to understand what is at risk. For others, though, the threat is not as powerful as their addiction and will yield nothing.

Filing for divorce is a serious action that should not be done in haste. If you feel the marriage is truly shot, do try to get some couples counseling before you give up on it. Better yet, consider attending a marriage retreat that is specifically designed for couples with addiction issues.

Try an Intervention

When all your efforts to get your spouse into treatment fall flat, why not consider an intervention? An intervention is a planned gathering between your addicted spouse and close family members. A trained facilitator guides the entire process, from planning to rehearsing, to facilitating the meeting itself.

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The addiction specialist shows you and the other family members how to behave and respond during the meeting. It is common to practice the event ahead of time to better prepare your remarks. The specialist then asks the participants to write letters to the addict. In the letters, each person will share their feelings about how the addiction has directly affected them.

At the actual intervention, after reading the letters, the specialist will ask the spouse if he or she is ready to receive treatment. Hopefully, they will say “yes”, but either way you have expressed your feelings and have verbalized your expectations.

How Treatment Helps a Spouse that Struggles with Addiction

If, and when, your spouse is ready to get help, the next step is to enroll in a treatment program. Rehab starts after the detox and withdrawal phase is completed, which is typically at the treatment center. Once detox is complete, the spouse transfers to the rehabilitation program.

Addiction treatment centers on therapy, and there are various types of therapy:

  • Individual therapy sessions. These private sessions allow the spouse to discuss openly any issues they may have, allowing the therapist to provide guidance.
  • Group therapy sessions. These are groups of peers in recovery that meet to discuss topics related to addiction and recovery.
  • Couples therapy sessions. There are several types of therapies that benefit couples, such as:
  • Behavioral Couples Therapy (BCT)

BCT has each partner commit to a contract. The addict agrees to abstain from substances, and the spouse agrees to provide the needed support to help them succeed. 

  • Alcohol Behavioral Couple Therapy (ABCT)

ABCT is tailored for couples that are both struggling with addiction. They’ll acquire new tools for improving communication, self-control, and problem-solving.

  • Couples Recovery Development Approach (CRDA)

CRDA is a holistic approach to couple’s rehab therapy. It involves workshops that address both the individual spouse’s recovery and the couple’s recovery.

  • Family therapy sessions. Many adults with substance use disorder are parents. Therefore, it is helpful when teenage or young adult children participate in family therapy sessions with the addict’s parent.

Capo by the Sea Couples Marriage Retreat

Capo by the Sea offers an all-inclusive marriage retreat, providing equal attention and expertise for all couples. Our team is committed to helping couples strengthen their bond and have an enjoyable sober life together. If you are the spouse of an addict, reach out to us today and ask about our marriage retreat at (888) 529-2114.