Living married life with an addict is not easy. For starters, people addicted to substances are sometimes unpredictable and irrational. To avoid frequent conflicts, it helps if both parties can assume pleasing personality traits such as tolerance and patience because there will be many instances when the addict would want or need these qualities in them.
It is also important to understand that drug addiction does not only affect the person taking the substance but everyone who belongs in their inner circle: friends, coworkers, and family. Some of the effects involve financial problems and suspicion toward others who may possibly give drugs to their loved ones, such as doctors. The spouse might experience guilt when he/she thinks about how they married someone who has developed an addiction.
The first thing to understand is what drug addiction actually is. It’s not just someone “being bad” or “trying to get high.” What it boils down to is that an addict has little-to-no control over their substance abuse, no matter how much they want to change. Addiction is a condition that manipulates the reward centers of the brain, driving the person to feed their cravings despite the negative consequences.
Certain substances are highly addictive, even after a first attempt – leading into dependence before a full fledged substance use disorder. While this isn’t an easy concept for most people to, physical addiction sets in only after two or three months of regular drug use, psychological addiction develops much sooner.
What Are Common Causes of Conflict in Relationships?
Another broken door? Hidden beer bottles and smoking bowls? Conflict in relationships can form from differences in:
- Conflicting love styles
- Matters of taste
- Substance abuse
- Lifestyle changes
Common causes of conflict in married couples are when one is married to a drug addict. Arguments with the spouse may include accusing the other of causing the addiction, asking why they married someone who is taking drugs, and blaming any problems that may have occurred on his/her end.
A common conflict in these cases would be when discussing money; if both parties in the marriage married each other for financial stability, then married life might lead to more debt than it would if there was no addiction involved. Marriage can also affect relationships with family members because of how close they are to the addict. The children will feel hurt by their parent’s words or actions, resulting in even more potential conflict.
If you feel comfortable, address the main source of the tension. It helps to focus on listening to the other person’s point of view. Resisting the urge to argue or defend your position is beneficial. When you demonstrate empathy through interest, your partner is likely to mirror this. If the conflict persists or worsens, seek support to resolve these issues.
How Does Substance Abuse Affect Relationships?
Substance abuse is recognized as the disease that spreads the most in the U.S. today. It affects both married couples and married parents, as well as children who are too young to understand what is happening around them. It’s noted that drug use among married couples was also lower compared to cohabiting partners.
Being married means sharing all the good times and the bad times together, but it also means working through problems as a team–even if one of those problems happens to be substance abuse. It can definitely test the strength of married relationships and married commitment when confronting anything from heroin or marijuana dependence to alcoholism or meth addiction.
The first thing married couples should know is that their marriage isn’t over if their spouse is an addict—it has just taken on a different form. Fortunately, there are ways married couples can cope with an addict in their lives. Whether he or she becomes sober after rehab or chooses to continue using substances, married spouses have several options for staying together, including therapy.
Being married may not shield married addicts from substance abuse, but it does mean they have someone who will stick beside them through thick and thin, good times and bad times alike. As a result, spouses of addicts need support too–whether it’s professional help or emotional support for the issues brought about by their spouse’s addiction. On the other hand, there are many people married to addicts who manage to stay married and live happy lives no matter what their addict spouse chooses.
Substance Abuse and Divorce
Substance abuse and divorce are interrelated, and married addicts may not be able to sustain their recovery in the long run. So what’s the connection?
Studies show that married couples who abuse substances are more likely to get divorced than married couples who do not abuse substances. Some studies indicate that married partners of substance abusers have a 60% chance of getting divorced in five years after finding out about their spouse’s drug addiction.
Despite all the negative consequences married couples face (such as financial problems), married people tend to be happier than unmarried individuals, with married men typically reporting more happiness than married women do.
Marriage tends to make men happier than it does women; this is probably due to society expecting different things from wives and husbands or simply due to differences between men and women in how they react to being married.
Marital breakdown is associated with failure in recovery from substance abuse. It was found that married women recovering from addictions lost their sobriety when they found out about their spouse’s relapse.
Why does this happen? This happens because married addicts find it difficult to maintain sobriety while married to another addict. Addiction creates risky behaviors in addicts that put them in harm’s way. They may get into fights, have unprotected sex which could lead to pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, steal money from friends and family members––or even strangers––and do other things that married people do.
What Are Signs of Substance Abuse if You’re Married to an Addict?
The signs of substance abuse if you’re married to an addict will differ on the frequency, type, and potency of the substance. But whatever the substance, here are some signs of substance abuse you should be looking out for:
- Change in mood swings (dramatic and unexplained)
- Frequent absence from family activities or together time
- Increased secrecy or privacy, especially on their electronic devices or accounts/computers.
- The decline in personal hygiene
- The decline in work performance or other responsibilities
- Increased risk-taking behaviors
- Disappearance or lack of funds
Staging an Intervention When You’re Living With an Addict
Staging an intervention when you’re living with an addict is a crucial step in the recovery of both your partner and yourself. The process can be an extremely difficult one, but it’s necessary for both you and them to get on the road to healing.
No two interventions are ever alike, so each person will have to find their own way through this special type of chaos. One thing is always certain; however, every addict benefits from the help provided by family and friends during an intervention.
Here are some steps that will help make things go more smoothly:
- Prepare Yourself. Make sure you’re ready before you attempt anything like this. Prepare yourself mentally for what could become a long, drawn-out process that may end in heartache or success (hop). Seek guidance from an experienced professional interventionist.
- Don’t Rush into the Intervention. When you first realize that your loved one has a problem with drugs or alcohol, it can be easy to want to “jump on it” and do something right away. Sit back and take time to think about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. Write down some notes if you need them, just don’t waste all of your time trying to put together this perfect speech that will fix things right away.
- Only Invite Close Friends and Family. It’s vital to invite people who understand your subject and can offer insight into their substance use.
- Use “I” Statements. “I” statements are used to describe how your partner’s substance abuse and how it affected you. It’s best to learn about how addiction and how it changes people.
- Find a Neutral Environment to Host. A neutral environment is necessary to set the stage for the intervention. This can eliminate distractions.
- Have a Plan for Treatment. If you’re married to an addict, crafting a plan for treatment sets the foot ahead for maintaining sobriety. They may refuse treatment, but it’s important to remain patient. You might need to host more than one intervention.
Living with an Addict: Are There Treatment Options?
Drug addiction is a long-term (and lifelong) disease, and your spouse will likely need to attend support group meetings, like Alcoholics Anonymous, for the rest of their life. If they are doing well in an outpatient program, then you should still consider staying married if that’s what you both want.
If your spouse has a moderate to severe case of addiction, then they may benefit from some time away from the environment that has made them dependent on drugs. Rehab facilities are often quite expensive, but there are some options out there for those who cannot afford residential treatment. Your state government likely has a list of places where you can send your loved one to get clean, either at no cost or reduced cost.
If the addict in your life refuses to get clean until he or she is locked up long enough to detox and be forced into rehab by court order, this may be an option worth considering. Residential treatment centers have staff on hand around the clock to ensure that the addict is not able to use drugs or alcohol during their stay.
Outpatient treatment for addiction works for those who do not pose a safety threat to themselves or others but have a desire to quit using drugs. These individuals may also have a moderate case of addiction and aren’t putting their home or work life at risk yet. Outpatient treatment still requires the addict to be around people who are not using substances, which can help him or her remain clean.
Outpatient treatment programs will typically offer psychotherapy and detox, but other amenities may vary. The average length of stay at outpatient treatment is 30 days although, longer stays function on need basis.
Traditional Couples Therapy
If your spouse needs some time away from you in order to get better, then traditional couples therapy can still be helpful while they are getting treatment. In this scenario, the therapist will meet with both of you at separate times so that each one of you can voice your opinions about your relationship without feeling intimidated by the other spouse’s presence.
Holistic Addiction Treatment
A holistic approach can include couples therapy, but it goes beyond just that. The therapist will work with you to identify triggers for your spouse’s use, help you manage your own feelings around his or her addiction, and teach coping mechanisms. He or she will also work with both of you so that the addict learns new approaches to sobriety. Yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy, and even reiki can be included within holistic addiction treatment.
Dual diagnosis treatment for addiction and mental illness is what you need if both conditions are present. A therapist can help your spouse tackle his or her substance abuse problem, while a psychiatrist manages any co-occurring disorders like depression, post-traumatic stress disorders, and borderline personality disorder. Dual diagnosis treatment was not implemented until recently.
Aftercare programs are essential to ensure that your spouse stays off drugs for good. It’s not enough to just enter rehab and leave after 30 days or 90 days, or six months. You have to work on staying clean long-term, which is best done with the help of a sponsor, an accountability partner, 12-step meetings, therapy sessions, and even outpatient services.
Stay firm about saying no if your spouse asks you for money for drugs, even if he or she promises never again will you be asked. This enables him or her to rethink any promises made without considering how much power you hold over his or her addiction.
Are There Other Resources for Spouses of Addicts?
An Al-Anon support group is a great place for married people to come and discuss the everyday problems and challenges of having an addict in their family. They can listen to your struggles, help you see how it’s hard on everyone involved, including the children, and provide guidance as well. Many married addicts who can find it hard to attend support groups and will feel more comfortable attending with their spouses.
When an addict is disgusted with his or her use of drugs or alcohol, this feeling can make them want to go back to rehab, but when they relapse again, they will feel even worse about themselves and be driven even further into addiction. Always remember that addiction is a disease and––no matter how much your married addict hates the things they are doing––they cannot stop using on their own.
Telling them what to do won’t help; in fact, it’ll only push them away from getting the help they need. If you’re married to an addict, it’s important not to yell or humiliate them because you drive them back into substance abuse.
Self-Care for Spouses of Addicts
You’re married to a drug addict. It’s not an ideal situation by any stretch of the imagination, but it is what it is. If you are married to an addict, there’s no question that your married life has been changed for the better or worse because of your spouse’s substance abuse problem. Addicts make poor decisions while they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and this often leaves their spouses to deal with the messes these choices create.
Self-care for spouses of addicts is important, if not vital. If you neglect yourself and your needs to the detriment of your married life, it will be impossible for you to maintain a healthy married relationship with an addict.
Some suggestions for self-care include:
- Being in nature
- Balanced nutrition
- Group activities
- Practicing self-compassion
Having a married addicted person means that your married life is filled with uncertainties and worry. It is easy for you to become overwhelmed by everything that’s going on around you.
Lean on Northern Illinois Recovery for Support
For spouses of addicts, patience becomes one of their most useful tools in coping with these uncertain situations. Addicts can see many low points before they ever reach recovery. There are no certainties in married life anymore, only the cold hard reality that your spouse may die due to substance abuse problems or that they could cause serious injury or even kill someone else because of their substance abuse problem.
Northern Illinois Recovery aims to support you or your loved one during these challenging times. Reach out to one of our facilities to begin the new path in your journeys.