3 Tips for Supporting a Spouse with a Drug Addiction

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When you get married, one of the first things that you promise your spouse is to stand by him or her in both good times and bad times and through both sickness and health. However, when you realize that your spouse has a drug addiction, those promises can really be put to the test. In fact, statistics show that 7.3% of divorces are caused by substance abuse. Sometimes a divorce or separation may be unavoidable, but if your spouse wants to get sober and both of you want to preserve your marriage, it can be done. Take a look at some tips that will help you support a spouse through the addiction recovery process.

Ask for Help

It's common knowledge that addicts have to admit they have a problem and ask for help before the recovery process can truly begin. That's true for the partner of an addict as well. If you're in denial about the extent of the problem or if you've been enabling your spouse, for example, then you're going to need to break old habits and learn some new skills, as well.

Often, partners of addicts deny the problem or enable the addict in an effort to cope with the problem—you may have been doing it without even realizing it. That's why many rehab facilities and addiction programs offer corresponding therapy for spouses and family members of an addict. Counseling can help you learn more about addiction so that you know what your spouse is facing, but it can also help you learn healthy coping skills so that you don't enable your spouse.

Counseling can also help you take better care of yourself. Your partner may need support during the recovery period, but you won't be able to support anyone else effectively unless you're emotionally healthy yourself. It's important to take care of yourself during this time— you won't do your partner, yourself, or your marriage any good by failing to make sure that your own needs are met.

Prepare Yourself for Change

As your spouse works through recovery, you'll see him or her change, and your relationship may change as well. You should be prepared to see sides of your spouse that you've never seen before.

You may find that new friends, like your spouse's sponsor or other people they meet in rehab or counseling groups, become very important to your spouse very quickly. He or she may also throw him- or herself into work or decide to work less and spend more time pursuing a talent or hobby. Your partner needs freedom to explore his or her options and decide how to make life work without drugs or other substances, so be patient with these changes. Keep the lines of communication open between you so that you're not blindsided by a major change.

Practice Forgiveness

Loving an addict means spending a lot of time practicing forgiveness. You may be angry for many reasons. If your spouse has been using drugs, he or she may have been lying to you about it, recklessly spending money, or behaving badly toward you. Even if you think you can put that behind you, as your spouse goes through recovery you may end up getting angry all over again when he or she confesses something that you didn't already know about or when he or she suffers a setback or relapse.

You don't have to be a doormat—in fact, you shouldn't be—but blaming and holding grudges serves very little purpose. Remember that addiction is a disease, not a lack of conscience or morality. Chances are that your partner already feels guilty his or her their actions. It's not that you don't have valid reasons to be angry, but it's important to process those feelings and then let them go, for your own sake as well as the sake of your marriage. This is another area where counseling can help you.

Saving a marriage when one spouse is suffering from chemical dependency is not easy, and you can't do it alone. But if both of you are willing to do the work, and if you have the right support, it can be done. For help, look for reputable treatment programs in your area that offer family support as well as support for the addict. You may wish to a visit a website like http://www.olalla.org to get started.