Being the husband or wife of a drug addict can be mentally, emotionally, and even physically taxing. Of the married people in the U.S., 24 million are either an addict or married to one. Addiction brings additional struggles and strain to a marriage, an already complex relationship. However, despite the circumstances, it is possible to help your husband or wife with a drug addiction. If you take care of yourself, encourage treatment, remain supportive, and pursue therapy as a couple, your marriage can survive drug addiction.
What Is Addiction?
Addiction is often considered a chronic disease and requires professional help, such as medical detox and rehabilitation, to overcome. With addiction, the brain’s structure changes, impairing self-control and decision-making among other functions. As a result, the individual is unable to stop using the drug despite negative consequences.
Someone who uses drugs but is not addicted is able to control their use, including stopping the use entirely (particularly without treatment).
How Can You Tell If Your Husband Or Wife Is An Addict?
Can a marriage survive drug addiction? Answering this question depends on a couple of factors, one of which is spotting an addiction. It may take years to discover that your husband or wife is an addict, especially if they are good at hiding it. Some symptoms can fly under the radar, such as:
- Your spouse needs to use the drug daily
- Your spouse having intense urges for the drug
- Your spouse increasing their consumption of the drug
However, if your husband or wife is exhibiting any of the symptoms below, it is cause for concern and could indicate addiction:
- They choose their substance over everything else, including you
- They continue to use their substance despite negative consequences to relationships, health, jobs, etc.
- They frequently miss important social occasions or shirk social responsibilities
- They experience trouble at work or a high turnover rate
- They argue more frequently with you and these conflicts may escalate and turn physical
- They show little interest in your marriage and grow emotionally distant
- They partake of risky activities or other activities they normally wouldn’t
Addiction does not impact the addict only. The health and behavioral changes, such as paranoia, aggressiveness, and impaired judgment that occur as a result can create an environment that greatly affects you. Being the husband or wife of a drug addict can be stressful.
The Impact Of Addiction On Marriage
Marriages in which one spouse is a drug addict are often very unhappy. Being the husband or wife of a drug addict is difficult, if not dangerous at times. The effects of addiction on marriage can be separated into two categories: economical and psychological.
The couple may experience financial problems due to the high cost of keeping up their habit. The drugs may be paid for with money that was diverted from other needs (food, heat, clothing) or long-term saving plans (investments).
The addiction may lead to legal repercussions, such as child custody concerns if the couple separates or divorces, or arrests, and trouble with the law because of illicit substances or driving under the influence.
The husband or wife of a drug addict may become the victim of domestic abuse. According to the American Psychological Association, heavy drug use increases someone’s chances of becoming an abusive partner.
Drug addiction in marriage can lead to a toxic cycle of conflict and use, which looks like:
- The addiction causes conflict between the couple
- To reduce the stress created by the conflict, the addict uses more
- As a result of using more, there is further conflict about the addiction, and so on
As mentioned under symptoms, the conflict may escalate and become violent. Even if it doesn’t, there is an erosion of trust in the relationship.
Domestic abuse is not limited to physical acts. A husband or wife of an addict may experience verbal and emotional abuse too. The addicted spouse may emotionally withdraw from the other. The user may even have an inability to show affection or communicate unless they are currently under the influence of their substance.
What Should You Do As The Husband Or Wife Of An Addict?
If you recognize the symptoms of addiction in your husband or wife, the most important thing you can do is acknowledge to yourself that it exists. Denial of addiction can be dangerous as it allows present conditions to worsen which may lead to the marriage deteriorating. Of marriages that end in divorce, 7.3 percent are due to substance abuse.
However, a marriage in which one person is an addict does not have to end in divorce. Marriages can survive drug addiction. Once you acknowledge that your spouse is an addict, you can take the necessary actions to help them and help yourself. These actions will help you stay healthy, help your spouse to receive the treatment needed to overcome addiction, and will help you both maintain and repair the relationship.
How You Can Help Your Husband Or Wife With Drug Addiction
Focusing entirely on your husband or wife with addiction is not the solution. While it is important that you are supportive in their pursuit of sober living, you must also care for yourself.
In a codependent marriage, the husband or wife of an addict will try to save their spouse and forget their sense of self in the process. They may even go so far as to undermine their spouse’s efforts to become sober as sobriety means they will lose a form of control over their spouse.
To avoid codependency and to help your marriage survive drug addiction, try and do the following:
Don’t Enable Their Addiction
When you enable your husband or wife in their addiction, you are allowing them to continue their substance abuse and avoid the consequences.
If you have previously enabled them by covering for them, apologizing on their behalf, explaining away their actions, allowing them to shirk responsibilities, or even purchasing or acquiring their substance for them, you must stop.
If you are not sure about the difference between being supportive and being enabling, think of it this way: Any action you take, whether lying, apologizing, or excusing that allows them to remain in denial is an enabling act.
Put Yourself First
Being the husband or wife of a drug addict can be incredibly stressful, tiring, and daunting. Wanting to help them is healthy and normal but you must make sure to look out for your own well-being and health first. You cannot spend all your time and energy on your husband or wife.
Continue with your own interests, activities, and hobbies, as well as:
- Stay active
- Maintain friendships outside of your marriage
- Make sure not to isolate yourself
- Seek support
Educate Yourself On Addiction
The understanding of addiction has changed over the years. It is now considered a disease and a mental disorder. Knowing the terminology, signs, symptoms, and reasons for addiction will help you with perspective and will allow you to respond better to your husband or wife.
Learn About Treatment Options
Hand in hand with educating yourself about addiction is learning about the types of treatment available since no one treatment will suit everyone. Look for certified and accredited treatment options that are evidence-based.
Most drug addiction treatment programs begin with detoxification. Detox is the physical process (preferably medically monitored) of removing the substance from the body and is the first part of the recovery process. During detox, the physiological effects of the addiction are resolved. Depending on the level of addiction, detox can last anywhere from a day to weeks.
Some treatments will involve you in the process. Therapies that focus on both individuals in the marriage, not just the addict, have a higher success rate at achieving long-term sobriety.
Encourage Your Partner To Get Treatment
Overcoming drug addiction without professional help is unnecessarily painful and difficult. Encourage your husband or wife to seek a treatment option that will allow them to live a healthy and sober life.
If your husband or wife seeks treatment, be supportive. Even if you are not directly involved in the treatment, offering support could look like:
- Calling them on the phone
- Sending care packages
- Speaking with staff about expectations and next steps
- Being kind, honest, and empathetic
- Telling them what their recovery means to you
At some point, as the husband or wife of an addict, you will have to confront your spouse. It’s a difficult but necessary step. You should set clear boundaries as a means to protect your mental and physical health.
The addict must know the consequences of their actions and what they are willing to accept or not accept. For instance, it may be that you withdraw financial support if they continue using. Boundaries should not be seen as punishment. You are setting boundaries out of a desire to take care of yourself and hopefully encourage your husband or wife to seek help for their addiction.
Join A Support Group Or Get Counselling
It cannot be said enough, being the husband or wife of an addict is difficult and their lifestyle has repercussions for you. Seek support from an individual or group who can understand your experiences and will help you through this season in your life.
Prepare For Relapse
A relapse means your spouse has returned to their previous negative behavior (drug use) after positive change. Relapse is a normal (though not unavoidable) part of addiction. The majority of addicts will relapse at least once in their pursuit of living a sober life.
Behavioral couples therapy is one approach to therapy. It is designed to provide the couple with problem-solving and communication skills needed to overcome the patterns that allow addiction to continue in the marriage. Additionally, this therapy focuses on encouraging behaviors that promote care and self-help.
Where To Seek Help For Your Husband Or Wife With Drug Addiction
Encouraging your husband or wife to seek treatment is one of the most important things you can do to help. In your treatment research phase, you may feel overwhelmed with the number of options and types of treatments available. We address some of the common questions about addiction treatment, rehab, and recovery through free resources available on our site. We encourage you to check them out as part of your research.