A few weeks ago I received an email from a reader asking if he could write a guest post for my site for spouses married to an addict. Having battled an opiate addiction himself, he’s out to help other couples on the journey he and his wife have gone through.
He co-created RecoveryHelp to help people with substance abuse and their families.
I’m so grateful he reached out to me and have happily posted his article below. Thanks Caleb!
How to Help Your Addicted Spouse
Intimate relationships shared with our loved ones ought to be safe havens–places to seek shelter from the troubles of this world.
However, for those in relationships with partners addicted to substance abuse, intimacy is not a source of peace or safety, but a culprit of chaos, emotional upheaval and sometimes violence.
Of all types of relationships, addiction can cause the greatest divide between spouses or partners, burdening couples with stress over the failing health of both the addict and their love.
While in the past, these addiction and relationships were viewed as different issues for which healing would take place separately, the mental health community is now arguing for their unity as equal pieces to a cyclic process in which substance abuse is both the cause and result of relational dysfunction.
Therefore, if couples commit as a team to addressing the bigger picture with professional guidance, they will sooner find themselves free from the chains of addiction and relational struggle.
Help for your loved one
As the sober partner, often the responsibility to initiate the process of recovery for your loved one will fall on your shoulders.
The first step is to lovingly address the issue with your partner and to encourage their seeking professional help. If they are apprehensive about the thought of rehabilitation, suggest that they first be evaluated by a doctor to determine their specific needs.
Remind them of the courage and strength of character it requires to confess addiction and strive for change, as well as of your commitment to see them through this process.
The recovery process looks different for every individual. Receiving advice from a medical professional about which rehabilitation options will best serve your partner and will assist greatly when deciding on forms of treatment.
Choosing a treatment center with honest and upfront rates, experienced staff, variety of routes to recovery and the availability of aftercare are of utmost importance. This can mean the difference between success and relapse for your loved one.
Professional rehabilitation is the best way to jump-start addiction recovery for your partner, but the real work begins upon their release from the treatment center and entrance back into the “real world.”
Ensure a healthy, sobriety-encouraging home environment for your partner. Do so, first, physically by tidying the house, promoting mental clarity and positive feelings and preventing easy access to prescription drugs or alcohol. Replace the clutter and harmful substances with an abundance of healthy snacks and non-alcoholic beverages, comfortable areas for relaxation and recovery literature in easily accessible places.
Then, focus on the emotional well-being of the home environment by engaging together in supportive counseling.
Many couples find themselves confused and disappointed when fights and frustrations continue after the addict’s return from rehab. Oftentimes, there is work still to be done to improve communication and coping methods damaged by substance abuse.
This is critical, as lasting recovery requires improvement of relationships–lingering issues can create catalysts for relapse. Do not put off emotional healing.
If upon the addict’s release from rehabilitation, the relationship is so dismantled that their returning home is not feasible, a sober housing program may be able to provide a structured transition into normal life, and the space that partners might need to gain clarity.
When to stay, when to go
Though separation may be painful, togetherness is not always best. The reality of addiction is often severed trust, misplacement of healthy boundaries and sometimes danger.
It is important to know when to stay and when to go. If you, as the partner of an addict, are the victim of physical, verbal or emotional abuse, you should separate from them, report their domestic violence and seek shelter among friends and family immediately.
It may also be best to separate if you find that codependency with your partner enables their behavior–making excuses on their behalf, for example, will not help them progress toward recovery.
The journey to full addiction recovery may be long and trying, at times, especially for couples, but there is hope to be found in professional guidance, healthy home environments and proper boundaries.
Couples can again enjoy the mutual love and trust sobriety allows.