If you’re married to someone who’s chemically dependent, you don’t need to be told about the dishonesty, betrayal, financial hardship and legal problems that come with substance abuse. But because living with an addict can undermine your confidence, you may need encouragement to get help for your marriage — and for yourself.
With so many Americans addicted to drugs, alcohol or activities like gambling or shopping, the number of people who are married to addicts could be well over 12 million, estimates Psychology Today.1 Drug abuse doesn’t have to lead to the end of a marriage. Getting help from a professional rehab center could transform your relationship with your spouse and stop the cycle of addiction.
Marriage and Addiction
Spousal drug addiction doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Both partners are usually involved in the addiction in some fashion, whether they realize it or not. A spouse will often unknowingly help the addict continue the self-destructive behavior, a process called “enabling.” Enabling can take many forms:
- Lying to employers when a spouse misses work because of drug abuse
- Helping out financially by paying bills or legal fees that should be your spouse’s responsibility
- Buying drugs for your spouse in hopes that he or she will use at home instead of on the street
- Making excuses to family or friends for the addict’s destructive behavior
- Vowing to take action if your spouse doesn’t quit using, then failing to follow through2
In a nutshell, enabling behaviors include any actions that protect the addicted spouse from confronting the reality of substance abuse. If your spouse never has to deal with the consequences of using drugs, he or she probably won’t be motivated to quit.
When to Intervene?
For many years, addiction treatment specialists have advocated the philosophy that addicts must be ready to quit before they seek treatment. Today, many therapists are advising the spouses of addicts to do whatever it takes to get their partner into treatment — ready or not. Getting your spouse into rehab could be the motivating factor in helping him or her get sober.
So how do you know when to step in and insist that your spouse enter rehab? Here are a few signs it’s time to hold a formal intervention:
- Your spouse’s health is suffering from his or her addiction.
- Your spouse has become physically, mentally or sexually abusive.
- Your children are doing poorly in school or have started experimenting with drugs.
- You’re putting your own health, career and future at risk to help your spouse continue a destructive habit.3
Helping your spouse get into a recovery program isn’t an enabling behavior. Searching for rehab centers, attending counseling sessions with your spouse, going to 12-Step meetings and holding an intervention are ways to show loving support.
As you’re helping your partner recover from addiction, it’s equally important to help yourself. The drug rehab program you choose should offer a full range of therapeutic services for family members, including couples counseling, individual therapy, peer support groups and addiction education. 12-Step groups like Al-Anon for the partners and spouses of alcoholics can provide tremendous support as you go through the recovery process with your addicted loved one.
Finding Help for Drug and Alcohol Addiction
With exclusive residential and outpatient facilities in Southern California, Michael’s House offers a haven for recovering addicts and their loved ones. We provide separate programs for men and women to help our patients focus fully on their recovery. If you or your spouse suffers from the effects of addiction, call our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day. Our admissions coordinators are ready to answer your questions and help you find treatment.
1 Gadoua, Susan Pease. “So You’re Married to An Addict: Is Divorce Inevitable?” Psychology Today. 11 Sept. 2011.
2 Plattor, Candace. “When You Enable an Addict You’re Not Helping, You’re Hurting.”
HuffPost Canada, HuffPost Canada. 15 Sept. 2014.
3 “Addictions.” For Your Marriage, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Accessed 26 Feb. 2018.