Support for Spouses of Addicts

Therapist explaining What to Expect from family Counseling

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It’s late and your spouse has been gone for some time. Later, you discover the empty pill and beer bottles hidden in the depths of your garage. Support for spouses of addicts is necessary to push through the marathon of recovery. Couples dealing with substance abuse can be heartbreaking.

The spouse who is addicted will make promises to stop their negative behaviors. However, many addicts fall back into these compulsive patterns. Support for spouses of addicts should be one aspect of the spouse’s recovery strategy. If you are living with an addict you deserve support as well. 

The spouse who has been devastated by the addiction might be hesitant to comfort the addict. Although, unless they start making changes, there could be serious consequences including divorce or legal action (such as loss custody of children).

Spouses of addicts should take advantage of support groups around them. There may already be a group in your area specifically for those dealing with substance abuse problems. The spouse can also seek their own individual counseling or join a twelve step program such as Al-Anonymous.

Addiction is a Family Disease

Addiction is a family disease that spreads from one person to the others. Addiction in the family can bring melancholy and discomfort of these painful realities. Addiction can be classified as a disease that manipulates the reward centers of the brain. A person under the grasp of addiction will be driven by their compulsive behaviors, despite attempts to quit.

Addiction can inspire:

  • Anxiety
  • Secrecy
  • Isolation
  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Financial issues
  • Misdirected anger
  • Stigmas of addiction

With substance abuse in the family, unhealthy patterns can include:

  • Self-medication
  • Poor coping skills
  • Misdirected anger
  • Negative communication
  • Inconsistent rule-setting
  • Misguided expectations
  • Ignoring warning signs

What are the Effects of Substance Abuse on a Married Couple’s Relationship?

Couples with substance abuse present in their relationships can drive negative interactions. Hurtful words and phrases can be the battle armor for these situations. If the spouse of the addict feels as though they are left out, they are usually on edge. That state of feeling can lead to shaming language, suspicion, and enabling. 

Codependency and enabling can be other risk factors. Enabling can look like:

  • Taking on the responsibility or feelings for your spouse’s behavior
  • Laboring to reduce their negative consequences
  • Accepting blame
  • Creating excuses for them

Codependency can manifest as:

  • Hypervigilance of the emotional changes of others
  • Excessive focus on your loved one as result of low self-esteem
  • Controlling others because you believe they can’t function independently
  • Compromising your own needs, wants, and beliefs to cater to your spouse’s wellbeing
  • Maintaining loyalty and commitment to a spouse that doesn’t meet your needs

Once an addict is in recovery, many of these negative interactions will be less present or eliminated altogether. A spouse that was isolated from their spouse due to embarrassment of their addiction will have to reconcile. This is a vital and often overlooked moment during the spouse’s journey in recovery.

Self-help groups such as Al-Anon and Nar-anon can provide support for spouses of addicts. These groups help spouses to feel connected with other people that understand what they are going through. The conversations individuals have will lead to them making peace with themselves and their spouse’s addiction. This can help in developing healthier ways of coping with stress. It can also assist couples as they work towards improving their relationship.

The spouse of an addict will develop tools to enhance relationships, communicate feelings about addiction attempts, and work on boundaries regarding personal relationships and time spent together or apart from each other. Aftercare programs also offer therapy services to couples once an addict enters treatment. During these therapy sessions, individuals can express how things have changed in their relationship.

How Does Addiction Impact the Spouse of an Addict?

The spouse of an addict will experience a range of emotions. These may include:

  • Feeling relieved or scared when they learn their spouse is going to enter treatment
  • Being in denial about the addiction even though they suspect that their spouse has a drug problem
  • Anger over what this addiction means to them and their family.

Some spouses feel guilty because of their spouse’s substance abuse problems. But, the truth of the matter is that there is nothing they could have done to cause the addiction. Expecting him or her to get better cannot happen unless he or she receives treatment and enters recovery. 

Apprehension and resentment can make life difficult for everyone involved with an addict who refuses help or using drugs again. You may not trust your spouse with addiction again. A spouse must focus on his or herself while trying to hold the family unit together. Self-care is a massive priority for the spouse of an addict.

Substance Abuse and Divorce

Substance abuse is more prevalent among individuals who are divorced, separated, or widowed. Many recovering individuals aren’t aware that the substances they’re using have disastrous effects not just on their psychological state, but also upon their brain function and physical well-being. Science continues to tell us more about how these substances affect both mind and body.

Substance abuse in relationships can:

  • Dismantle trust
  • Increase arguments and conflict
  • Create negative cycles of blame and shaming
  • Increase stress in the parent/child relationship
  • Increase rates of domestic violence, childhood abuse and neglect
  • Lead to financial hardship

If your spouse is addicted to drugs and you’re looking for help, you’ll find numerous groups and organizations available to provide assistance. If you believe that your spouse’s addiction is becoming severe, it is important to get help right away.

How to Stage an Intervention for a Spouse

Staging an intervention can introduce several uncomfortable interactions and intense feelings. It’s vital to set the stage in a neutral setting. If you feel stuck on where to begin, reach out to someone you know who may have experience with staging an intervention. Seeking the help of a professional interventionist would be key.

Rally the support of close friends and family members. Prepare what you intend to say during the intervention. It’s best to use “I” statements rather than “you” statements during the intervention to express how their addiction has affected you both. Educating yourself about addiction can prime you for the evidence of how their substance use is devastating. 

It’s important to lay out a plan for their recovery by being assertive. Even offering to transport them to addiction recovery services can help. The spouse may refuse to enter addiction treatment or deny their substance use, but it’s crucial to remain steadfast. Unfortunately, your determination will be tested. 

The Importance of Support for Spouses of Addicts

Supporting spouses of addicts is necessary, considering the massive effects of addiction on anyone. Spouses of addicts may be fighting this battle uphill. When the spouse of an addict takes time to step back, read books about addiction and attend support groups exclusively for spouses of addicts who are fighting through their spouse’s addiction issues, they can discover better coping strategies. Without this knowledge, spouses may feel helpless or inadequate to help their spouse with an addiction.

This is why it’s so important to find ways to deal with this crushing issue daily. Spouses must find a way to fight through these feelings if they are going to help effectively. Spouses take on both roles as husband or wife for one another as well as caretakers for people with substance use disorder during the course of their spouse’s addiction. This is emotionally taxing for both parties, mainly for the spouses of addicts.

How Can the Spouse of an Addict Explain Addiction to Their Children?

Explaining addiction to your children might feel like pulling teeth, staring into their confused eyes. You might feel like they’re looking for the most simple of answers, and you know you can’t give them that. After all, how do you explain addiction to someone who has never experienced it? 

Addiction is one of those misunderstood topics in modern day culture. Many people don’t even realize when they’re witnessing if not experiencing addiction themselves. Contrary to popular belief, there is no specific age group in which children suddenly understand the depths of substance abuse. They may be aware of the subtleties of their parent’s substance abuse.

The spouse of an addict is in a tough position in their relationship. Recognizing that their spouse has a substance use disorder brings on many different emotions and feelings throughout this journey. Spouses must find inner peace so they may work through these feelings in order to help effectively.

What are the Treatment Options for Your Spouse?

The spouse of an addict can deal the brunt of the responsibilities. After an intervention, your spouse could have decided to enter addiction treatment to preserve the relationship. The continuum of care was crafted to deliver evidence-based treatment options for recovering individuals. 

Drug and alcohol detox is the first phase of addiction treatment. Detoxification is the process of ridding the body of toxic substances. Substance abuse can often leave the person with malnourishment from the side effects of certain substances. Depending on the severity of their addiction, a patient can expect to spend 7-10 days in detox. Detox is an effective measure to treat the withdrawal symptoms from substance abuse.

Residential Treatment

Residential treatment is the most comprehensive form of treatment. Residential treatment can be carried out through a residence, hospital, or private facility. Residential treatment offers the patient a distraction-free environment, with the help of psychotherapy and medications. Trained medical staff are there to treat you 24/7.

Residential treatment programs can offer 30,60, or 90 day sessions. Patients can expect to participate in individual and group therapy. The cost of residential treatment programs often reflect this, especially due to the location and available amenities.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment programs are a less intensive yet effective form of treatment. Outpatient treatment programs provide a more flexible option for those who may not have the opportunity to commit to a residential treatment.

These treatment programs will typically offer psychotherapy approaches such as individual and group therapy. The amenities provided by outpatient treatment will vary, such as art, music, and equine therapy.

The average length of time a patient remains in an outpatient treatment program is 30 days, however, this depends on your case. Outpatient treatment programs are generally more affordable. Outpatient treatment programs offer treatment sessions 4-5 days a week, for 4-6 hours per session.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Dual diagnosis treatment can be characterized by the detailed approach towards treating mental health and substance use disorders. This is known as a co-occuring disorder. A large number of recovering individuals have a co-occurring disorder. The symptoms of substance abuse disorders often initiate mental health symptoms, and vice versa. 

Dual diagnosis treatment was not considered practical until recently. It was previously acceptable in the healthcare industry to treat the disorders separately. Treating both disorders is crucial to provide quality targeted care for patients. Recurring relapse is an issue within the addiction recovery community. 

Family Therapy

Family therapy can be offered in residential and outpatient treatment facilities. Family therapy offers an opportunity for the subject and their family to discuss their experiences with substance abuse. Family therapy could be the window for family members to express their relationships with the subject.

Improving communication among family members is a key highlight. Codependency and stigmas towards addiction can impact the course of addiction recovery. Maintaining a bright and healthy support system can do wonders for those on the cusp of addiction. 

Chances are the subject will never develop the tools to cope and communicate with their issues. Family therapy is moderated through a counselor, sometimes delegating homework and communication strategies. 

Family therapy can provide a chance to rewrite the stigmas attached to mental health and substance use. Addiction treatment can be isolating and uncomfortable for some. Having your family there to visit or work through therapy along your side can be the support you need.

Enhance Your Healing With Lifetime Recovery

Addiction is complex, so support for spouses of addicts is a necessary feature. You may be conflicted between memories of your honeymoon and the vomit you had to clean up from your partner’s binge drinking the night before. Addiction affects everyone involved. It’s important to know you’re not alone and this journey can bring many insights. Lifetime Recovery is here to be the support you need. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse, contact us today.

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Use this form to send us a message. One of our recovery specialists will get back to you.

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