No matter who is involved, dealing with opiate addiction (or any addiction for that matter) is difficult and strains even the strongest relationships. When a person you love is struggling with addiction, you may be unsure about the best way to get them help. Unfortunately, when the addicted loved one is a spouse, things can be even more complicated.
On the other hand, you and your husband or wife have something good going for you: the promises you’ve made to love each other and help each other through difficult times. A spouse’s addiction to drugs will be one of the hardest trials in a marriage, but with the right game plan and education the two of you can tackle it together.
Here are some steps you can take and things to keep in mind to help your addicted spouse.
Start with Education
Between the internet and your trusted medical caregivers, there is a wealth of information at your disposal to help you. Arm yourself with knowledge to understand what triggers addiction, the behaviors of addicted people, and common courses of therapy and recovery.
If you are fully aware of the options available, you can have an informed conversation with your spouse when the times comes and feel set up for success.
The behavior of addicted people hurts their loved ones. Often drug addiction involves patterns of behavior like stealing, lying, and a generally volatile mood. You may feel like the person you fell in love with isn’t there anymore. You may be angry that they’re not living up to their duties in maintaining your household, and you may feel like they’ve chosen drugs over you, their loyal spouse.
It’s important to remember that opiate addiction is a disease, and that as tempting as it may be, an accusatory or confrontational approach is likely to increase the distance between you and your spouse, making the first step to recovery more difficult. Try to empathize with your spouse and communicate your concerns from a place of love. Let them know your aim is to help them return to health and happiness. Remind them of the beautiful things in your relationship and let them know how concerned you feel—without taking them to task in an aggressive way.
Stop Enablement and Denial
When you have opened the door of communication about addiction with your spouse, that’s the time to acknowledge it for what it is without compromise. No more giving rides, money, or anything of value that can contribute to their drug addiction. No more turning a blind eye to the problem or hoping it will go away.
When you love someone who is addicted, their problems are your problems, and they can dominate your life. The strong emotions you feel in dealing with your spouse’s addiction impede your own ability to lead a healthy life and work toward your own goals. As tempting as it is to let your loved one slide (this is often done with good intentions), you need to be firm—all the while staying true to the advice from the previous section.
Make it clear what outcome you expect: your spouse needs to enter treatment and see a doctor. Make them understand the damage their addiction is doing to your relationship, and that it can’t continue any further. They have a choice to make: your marriage or their addiction.
Don’t drop an ultimatum and turn your back on your spouse, waiting for them to decide. Make it clear that you are there to support them at every turn, but that it is their responsibility to make the choice to get clean and take the initiative.
Once you and your spouse are on the same page, it’s time to move into action immediately. The research you did in step one will have you fully armed with local treatment centers and doctors who are able to help.
This is absolutely the hardest part of the process—crossing the line from acceptance into physically going to get help. It can be scary for opiate addicts to imagine their lives without drugs. Fortunately, they have loved ones like you to help them over the threshold and into the care of professionals who can help.
BornFree Wellness Center is here to help you remain strong, invest in your marriage, and help your spouse beat their addiction. We encourage you to contact us with any questions you may have about medically assisted treatment or any other form of addiction recovery.