More than 20 million Americans over the age of 12 currently suffer from a substance abuse disorder.
Forty-six percent of Americans also have a friend or family member with a substance abuse disorder. For many of these people, the person dealing with substance abuse is a spouse.
If you’re part of this group and are the spouse of an addict, keep reading.
Listed below are ten tips will help you provide them with the support they need to recover while still prioritizing your own health and well-being.
1. Avoid Denial
First, it’s important to accept that your spouse does, in fact, have a substance abuse problems.
There is a lot of stigma surrounding addiction. Because of this stigma, many people deny that their partner has a problem and avoid finding them the help they need.
If your partner is showing clear signs of addiction (secrecy, obsessive behaviors, changes in appearance, etc.), face the problem head-on and let them know that they have your support.
2. Do Your Homework
If you’re someone who doesn’t have any past experience with addiction, it can be hard to understand what your partner is going through. In order to provide support, you need to do some research of your own and learn more about addiction.
As part of your research, be sure to look into the recovery timeline associated with your spouse’s drug of choice.
Knowing what recovery may look like for them can help you prepare for difficult situations and provide the greatest amount of support as they detox and work to make lasting changes.
3. Avoid Codependency
Sometimes, spouses of addicts develop an unhealthy dependence on their partner and their partner’s illness. This is known as a codependent relationship.
They may attach their sense of purpose to helping their spouse overcome their addiction, or they may develop extreme emotions around their spouse’s behaviors. For example, they may obsess over their spouse’s actions and experience panic attacks or fits of rage when they catch their partner using.
This behavior is not only damaging for you, but it also hinders your spouse’s recovery.
4. Avoid Nagging, Preaching, or Lecturing
It can be tempting, but it’s important to avoid nagging, preaching, or lecturing your spouse about their behaviors.
Chances are they’ve already said to themselves everything you’re telling them now. At a certain point, they’ll stop listening, and they may end up rebelling and turning to harmful behaviors since they don’t feel supported at home.
5. Avoid Enabling Behaviors
At the same time, it’s also important to avoid enabling your partner. Don’t purchase alcohol or drugs for them, and don’t try to shield them from the consequences of their actions.
It’s common for spouses to make excuses for their partner’s addiction (such as calling in sick at work). Doing this just makes it harder for them to give up their addiction, though.
6. Find A Support Group
If you’re struggling with codependency or are just feeling overwhelmed by your situation, finding a support group can make a big difference.
In the same way that addicts often feel alone, it’s easy for spouses of addicts to feel isolated and misunderstood.
Connecting with others who are in your same situation can help you feel supported as you help your spouse work through their addiction. You can also gain advice from people who have gone through something similar.
7. Know Your Limits
It’s important to provide your spouse with support as they work through their recovery. But, at a certain point, you may need to make a difficult decision.
Every spouse of an addict needs to draw a line in the sand. When this line is crossed, you need to detach yourself from the situation and leave the relationship.
The line is different for every couple. It may have to do with finances or abuse.
Make it clear to your spouse what the line is and, if they cross it, follow through and let them experience the consequences of your actions. Your separation doesn’t necessarily need to be permanent, but they need to understand that you have your own limits.
8. Accept That Your Relationship Will Change
Addiction changes relationships; there’s no getting around it. The changes may come on gradually or seem very sudden.
Your partner may take on new hobbies or develop a new circle of friends. Accept these changes and allow your partner the freedom to try new things.
Keep in mind, too, that you and your partner will likely need to spend some time getting to know each other again. This isn’t a bad thing, and it can eventually help you strengthen your relationship.
Consider planning a trip away together. Or, simply set aside some time each day to catch up and talk about how you’re feeling.
9. Expect Setbacks and Don’t Take Them Personally
Setbacks and relapses happen. In fact, they’re highly common among people struggling with addiction.
Accept early on that there’s a good chance your spouse may relapse. Don’t hold it against them and don’t take it personally.
Continue to provide support and encourage them to get the help they need to make more permanent changes.
10. Take Care Of Yourself
Finally, make sure you’re prioritizing your own health and well-being.
It’s easy to become consumed by your partner’s addiction and stop caring for yourself. But, remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup. If you’re not practicing regular self-care, you’re going to have a hard time providing your spouse with the support they need.
In addition to joining a support group, be sure to take time to be alone and do things that you enjoy.
Take steps to support your physical and emotional health (eat well, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, etc.). This will put you in a better position to continue caring for your spouse without getting burned out.
Are You the Spouse of an Addict?
If you’re the spouse of an addict, these tips can help you help them through recovery without sacrificing your own well-being.
If you need additional support, or if your spouse is in need of a more in-depth recovery program, contact us at SMC Recovery today.