Nobody ever intends to become addicted to alcohol and drugs. Despite knowing that we’re in the middle of what the CDC refers to as an addiction “epidemic”, people continue to experiment with alcohol and drug abuse. Perhaps they assume that being aware of the potential for addiction will allow them to remain in control of their substance abuse. In many cases, people seem to assume that the individuals who become addicted are somehow weaker in character and will or otherwise more susceptible to addiction in some way. All substance abusers seem to assume that they’re somehow immune to chemical dependency, but that’s clearly not been the case.
As terrible as it is to live in the throes of active addiction, we often don’t consider what it’s like to be the person who’s married to or dating the individual suffering from addiction. Especially when the addict had been keeping his or her addiction a secret, the revelation that the individual has been sustaining a substance abuse problem—which entails lying, spending money, sneaking around—can have a catastrophic effect on a relationship. In such an emotional and stressful situation, figuring out what to do can be extremely difficult. Therefore, the following are some tips for what you can do when you find out your spouse or romantic partner is addicted to alcohol or drugs.
After learning your spouse is an addict, it’s natural to feel betrayed. How could he/she do this to me? The years of deception and blatant lying, not to mention putting the family at risk, feel incredibly personal. However, it’s important for you to remind yourself that his or her addiction did not occur as a means for him or her to hurt you. In fact, becoming addicted wasn’t the intent at all. Whether your significant other was addicted before you became romantically involved or became an addict over the course of your relationship, the implications are major and it’s difficult not to feel like the individual chose or continued to pursue chemical intoxicants instead of you. That’s really not the case, though.
The precursor to addiction is habitual substance abuse; after all, a person cannot become addicted without first abusing alcohol or drugs. In the substance abuse stage, the individual is typically able to enjoy recreational intoxication while maintaining all of his or her responsibilities and relationships. In most cases, it’s not until the substance abuse becomes addiction that he or she begins sacrificing things—jobs, financial security, relationships, integrity, and so on—and it’s not that the individual is decisively not choosing you. In the addict’s mind, choosing drugs requires no sacrifice. The disease compels him or her to continue using, which may or may not result in the loss of aspects of his or her life; however, that’s not something the addict actively chooses. It’s not personal; it’s the compulsion caused by the disease and the addict essentially has little choice in the matter. You might consider addiction to be similar to demonic possession.
Whether the addict is your romantic partner, child, sibling, parent, or friend, the best thing you can do for that individual is quickly learn everything you possibly can about the disease. One of the most important benefits of this is that it clarifies many of the misconceptions and gaps in knowledge that people have about addiction. After you’ve become knowledgeable, you’ll have a much better understanding of how and why your romantic partner became addicted in the first place. Additionally, it’ll help you figure out how you can best help him or her.
There’s this pervading us-and-them attitude toward addicts today, and many times people who demonize and discriminate against addiction aren’t even aware of it. In particular, people tend to see addicts as being lesser people, untrustworthy and selfish, self-serving individuals. Therefore, it might be difficult not to extend those views to one’s addicted loved one, or you may do it unknowingly. Don’t see your addicted significant other as being less than you in any way. Instead, consider that addiction is a disease that completely alters a person’s brain, functionally as well as structurally. Your spouse’s actions may be extremely hurtful, but he or she was not in total control of his or her thoughts or behavior.
Another common issue faced by couples in which one person is an addict is that the other, non-addicted party can’t be certain if or when recovery occurs. Being unfamiliar with addiction recovery, they would simply have to take the addict at his or her word, which is likely not enough since the revelation of addiction would naturally result in the loss of trust. Therefore, you should become involved in your significant other’s recovery; it will help you learn about addiction and recovery while also being able to monitor his or her progress. Attending support groups can help you learn more and how to handle certain situations. If the relationship is to survive the experience of addiction in the relationship, it’s important to be able to verify that recovery is progressing as this will help with re-establishing trust.
Similar to being involved in your romantic partner’s recovery, it’s essential that you’re supportive and encouraging of him or her while starting and progressing through the various stages of rehabilitation. It’s extremely difficult, not to say impossible, for a person to overcome addiction without some type of support network, and for people who are married the pinnacles of their support networks are their spouses. Your support, encouragement, and love are arguably the most valuable assets to your romantic partner in addiction recovery.
When a married couple has been affected by addiction, the effects are profound. However, when it’s one person who has been in active addiction while keeping it secret from the other, it’s typically through dishonesty and a lack of communication that he or she is able to maintain the secret. After it’s all out in the open and trust is lost, communication needs to repaired between the two. Therefore, as you and your significant other continue in his or her recovery, it’s essential to be constantly working on communication, especially honest communication that can help with regaining trust and respect.
If you or someone you love would like to discuss the recovery options that exist today, call Intervention Services toll-free at 877-478-4621. Whether it’s day or not, we’re available anytime and would love to help you or your loved one begin the healing journey today.