Living with an addict requires as much understanding and patience as it does love. When we marry or decide to spend the rest of our lives with that significant other, we’re committing to go through thick and thin and sickness and health – sometimes, for some couples, these words become a bit too literal and put both patience and love to the test.
Not everyone is built strong enough to face the same challenges; not everyone knows the inner strength they might have hiding within. Finding out in time what we can, should or should not do when sharing our life with an addict is the first of many steps to ensure that the relationship remains nurturing for both. But, in case it doesn’t, hopefully we’ll know when to leave to avoid hurting our loved ones or ourselves.
Here are 8 things you should definitely keep in mind if your spouse suffers from addiction:
1 – Ask for advice from those you trust
As hard as it might be to come out and recognize what you’re dealing with at home, 2 or more heads will always be better than one. Trying to carry the burden as well as the hurt you experience when your spouse suffers from addiction can be draining, even damaging in the long term, if you hide the truth from the people you love and trust. Family, friends and even close family doctors can always provide different insight you may not have considered.
Different perspective or advice on what’s best for you, your relationship and your spouse can be extremely helpful when facing such a stressful stage in life. Our loved ones will always want the best for us. Depending on how you can handle marriage with an addict, outside-of-the-box thinking can guide you in the right direction, even if that means you should part sides or if, instead of leaving, the best thing is to stick around and bring support.
2 – Support but don’t enable
Seeing someone you love going through addiction is hard. In its own context, it can be one of the hardest things you could ever go through. Having an understanding of how addiction works will help you a lot to show the necessary support your spouse needs. You can show your support in many different ways, as long as it doesn’t become an enabling attitude. Doing your own research on the topic, finding programs that could help to reach sobriety, encouraging attendance at a 12-step meeting, watching conferences or documentaries and anything you can think of will always help and be appreciated in the future.
Your support will focus on getting that person through addiction, to recovery and will have you moving together towards a happy and healthy life. An enabling behavior will only make things worse, so it’s best not to cover up or justify the addiction in front of others. Giving in under pressure to accept ‘one more drink’ (Just One More) or abusing any substance under any circumstances shouldn’t be done.
3 – Don’t lose yourself
It is understandable that when living in this situation you could concentrate all your energy and mind on helping the other out of the addiction. As romantic, good and necessary as this is, you must never forget about yourself. Supporting and helping an addicted spouse can be exhausting, overwhelming and sometimes frustrating.
It is very important that you also keep yourself among the top priorities and not let the situation drag you down. Talking with friends, family or even a therapist should always be an option. Having an outlet for the steam that builds up within will stop you from exploding and clouding your judgment, and will definitely be of great help in your continued involvement in the process of recovery. Never stop taking care of yourself or you won’t be able to take care of others.
4 – Do your own research
Whatever you think you might know of addiction is not enough. Being able to understand addiction as an actual disease is of the utmost importance. It will lead to a better understanding of your spouse’s behavior and ultimately his or her recovery.
Learn as much as you can – the more information the better. Watch documentaries, read books, attend conferences and encourage your spouse to be involved in the research. Better understanding will always mean a better handling of the situation, and of course better recovery in the end.
5 – Patience is the key
As much as you’d love things to be back to normal or you wish you could fast forward to a better situation, you have to understand that as with everything in life, good things take time, and time requires patience. Addiction cannot and will not be an issue of days or months. It’s something that has to be dealt with for the rest of your life. Acquiring enough patience is one of the hardest things in life in general. But most of the support that we can bring to the situation will come out of that.
Without enabling, having patience and understanding will not only help your spouse feel more comfortable with his or her disease, deal better with their own frustration and shame surrounding their addiction, but it will also create a stronger bond in your relationship that will ease the whole process. Have patience with yourself and your spouse. That’s the only way everything can move forward to a better state.
6 – Prepare for a relapse and don’t blame yourself or anybody else
Between 40 to 60% of recovering addicts have a relapse (Rehab Relapse: How to Drop the Guilt and Get Back to Living Your Life Right) at some point. Remember, it’s not a matter of choice. Addiction is a disease and a relapse is as hard on them as it can be. Understanding that a relapse is actually an extremely common occurrence is something that will give you strength and prepare you for when the time comes.
It doesn’t mean your spouse or you failed, so don’t point fingers or blame anyone or anything. It doesn’t mean anything, other than the fact that the process is not yet complete and there’s still a long way to go. But with patience and love, things will find their way.
7 – Forgive
An addict doesn’t consume on purpose, not even when a relapse happens. An addict is never wanting to cause harm or suffering when abusing any kind of substance. Understanding this is very important when sharing your life with someone who suffers this disease. When a relapse happens while going through the recovery process, or even before attending a program, the addictive behavior is something that takes total control of someone’s life without leaving much room for a choice.
As the addict loses the battle against the disease, you have to understand that no harm is ever meant. Addicts love their spouses, in most cases, just as much as their spouses love them. Learning the value of forgiveness, not only towards your spouse but towards yourself, will be a steady first brick in the building of a newly recovered life. Moving forward without resentment will only benefit the relationship, the addict and you.
8 – Understand why to stay or why to leave
The hardest part of being married to an addict is knowing how far is too far. When trying to help, you might lose yourself in the relationship and that ends up being much more harmful than just leaving. How many times is enough? There obviously isn’t a rule to follow or a way to know exactly when to leave. But when the addiction starts to interfere in a very negative way in your life, that’s when the big question should start wandering through your mind.
If there is any kind of abuse – verbal, psychological or physical, if you feel like you don’t have the patience to deal with the whole situation or if negative feelings start to reign over helpful feelings, then you may want to consider leaving or distancing yourself as a viable outlet. At the end of the day, if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will. Leaving an addict can cause a huge amount of negative feelings such as guilt, but you should never stop taking care of yourself or your children. If you fear what might happen to your spouse if you leave, you have to decide whether the reason you’re still together is because of love or fear. In these situations, both emotions might be so close together that it can be hard to understand what’s really calling the shots at this point.
If your life revolves around addiction and you let yourself go, or if your children are suffering a lot more than what should be expected given the circumstances, it’s possible the time has come to stop for a moment and evaluate what you really want for the future – yours and your children’s. Detaching for the benefit of everyone can be really hard, but if you think it’s the right thing to do, maybe that should be the next step.
Sharing your life and living with an addict (The Ups and Downs of Being in a Relationship With an Addict) will probably be one of the hardest, if not the hardest, things you will ever do. And even though there are many things you can do to help on the way to recovery, it’s extremely important to never forget that you, your family and your children always have to come first. Having patience, respect and love are key elements to keep things moving forward. Love will always be what glues everything together and also what oils the engine of life to start and also to keep going.
You only have to be very wary of the way you feel, think and act to avoid love turning into fear. Fear can cause suffering without reward. The fear of loss or of what your spouse will do if you leave should never interfere with your decision. Whether you stay or whether you leave your spouse is, and always will be, a choice that lies in your hands. Just never forget that no amount of love for someone else should overshadow the love you have for yourself and your family.
If you’d like to ask any questions or would simply like to mention other tips that you consider helpful when married to an addict, please leave a comment below.
Photos are public domain from pixabay
Guest Author Bio
I’m Carl Towns, a 28-year-old wanna-be writer. I am also a recovering addict on the path of self-discovery. My goal is to learn as many things as possible and to seize every single moment I live, pretty much trying to make up for all that I missed on the years I was lost in drugs and alcohol (among other things). I’m in love with tech, cars and pretty much anything that can be found online.