How To Help A Spouse Struggling With Addiction

You promised to care for each other in sickness and in health. You pledged to remain together in moments of both joy and despair. But your vows probably didn’t address how to face the challenges of compulsive substance abuse. Do you know how to help a spouse struggling with addiction?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), addiction has impacted over 20 million people in the last year. Also known as substance use disorder, addiction causes a person to lose control of their thoughts and behaviors.

Most experts view addiction as a chronic, progressive disease. This means that it cannot be cured. But people who receive proper care can manage their symptoms and regain control of their lives. On the other hand, if a person doesn’t get the right type of treatment, their symptoms are likely to become more severe.


Signs of Addiction in a Spouse

The first step in learning how to help a spouse struggling with addiction is understanding how to identify the signs of this disorder. The following behaviors may indicate that your spouse has become addicted to alcohol or another drug:

  • They need to use the substance to deal with stress, relax, or simply get to sleep.
  • They rarely go more than a day or two without using the substance.
  • They have lied or otherwise been deceitful about the amount and frequency of their substance use.
  • They are secretive about their whereabouts and activities.
  • They seem incapable of having fun or experiencing pleasure without using the substance.

Some additional signs of addiction may also include:

  • Someone becomes angry, anxious, or irritable when they cannot use a substance.
  • A substance being used when driving, in combination with other drugs, or in other circumstances where it is clearly unsafe to do so.
  • A person is experiencing personal, medical, legal, or work-related problems because of their substance use, but they continue to use the substance.
  • Attempts are made to stop using the substance, but these attempts do not result in discontinued use.

No single sign or symptom is definitive proof that your spouse has developed an addiction. But someone who exhibits the characteristics listed above may be in crisis, and they should get a professional assessment.

Helping vs. Enabling

When you are learning how to help a spouse struggling with addiction, it is equally important to understand what you should not do. Certain behaviors may seem helpful, but they can actually make the problem worse. This is known as enabling.

To avoid enabling your spouse, keep the following in mind:

  • Don’t try to ignore the problem.
  • Don’t make excuses for your spouse’s behavior.
  • Don’t try to protect your spouse from the consequences of their behaviors.
  • Don’t put their needs ahead of your own, or those of your children.
  • Don’t give them money, especially when you know (or strongly suspect) they will use it to buy alcohol or another drug.
  • Don’t blame yourself or anyone else for your spouse’s behaviors.

Though it may be difficult, it’s also essential to not resent your spouse. Addiction is a disease. People who have developed a substance use disorder don’t act in such a destructive manner because they want to. They act this way because they are compelled to do so, and because they have lost the ability to control themselves.

How to Help a Spouse Struggling with Addiction

To help your spouse, you should focus on the following:

  • Keep them safe. Do your best to prevent them from driving while they are under the influence of substances. Try to get them to eat nutritious food. Be sure they seek medical help when they need it. (Addiction can cause a person to neglect their health.)
  • Reassure them. People who struggle with addiction often experience considerable shame and guilt. Let your spouse know you don’t define them by the disorder they’re struggling with. Leave no doubt that they have your love and support.
  • Educate yourself. Learn about the disease of addiction. Explore treatment options. Talk to professionals. As you increase your understanding of this complex matter, you will be much better prepared to offer meaningful help.
  • Convince them to get help. Addictions don’t simply disappear. The longer your spouse resists treatment, the greater their risk becomes for serious harm. Express your concerns. Share the treatment information you have gathered. Prepare to have multiple conversations. Don’t give up.
How to Help a Spouse Struggling with Addiction

The Importance of Support in Recovery

Your spouse will need your support during and after they get treatment. Recovery from addiction is a lifelong process. Here’s how to help a spouse struggling with addiction as they work toward recovery:

  • Maintain a substance-free household. Having easy access to alcohol or any other substances can be an overwhelming enticement. Your home should be a safe, supportive, and temptation-free environment.
  • Encourage your spouse to participate in outpatient treatment or join a support group. You should also see a counselor or find a support group. You have both been affected by your spouse’s addiction, and you both need help to build a healthier future.
  • Find fun, substance-free activities that you both enjoy. Active addiction takes up a lot of a person’s time. Once they’re in recovery, they need to find ways to fill the hours they used to spend acquiring substances, using them, and recovering from their effects.
  • Be patient. Your spouse will have successes, and they will likely experience setbacks, too. Plan to be present and supportive for the good times, the bad times, and the in-between times, too.
Patient at Bupropion Addiction Treatment Center in FL

How to Support a Spouse in Detox

Detox is a short-term process that allows people to safely rid their bodies of alcohol and other addictive substances. Detox can be a vital service. It can also be a difficult time.

Depending on the policies of the facility, you may be able to write letters to your spouse, send emails, or talk to them on the phone. Some facilities permit in-person visitation during detox.

Talk to the members of your spouse’s treatment team. They can tell you the best ways to support your loved one while they’re in detox.

What Follows the Detox Process

Once your spouse has completed detox, they may transition into one of the following levels of care:

  • Inpatient treatment: At this level, they will continue to live at the facility while they receive care.
  • Intensive outpatient program (IOP): During their time in IOP, they will take part in a few hours of treatment a few days per week. When they’re not in treatment, they do not need to be at the facility.
  • Outpatient treatment: This may consist of weekly, biweekly, or monthly sessions. Outpatient treatment can be an excellent source of long-term support.

Depending on your spouse’s specific needs, they may also attend 12-Step meetings or participate in other structured support services.

Find Addiction Treatment for Your Spouse in Florida

If you are looking for an effective guidance on how to help a spouse struggling with addiction, the Ambrosia Behavioral Health team is here for you. Our center offers a full continuum of customized services for adults whose lives have been disrupted by addictions to alcohol and other drugs. Your spouse deserves personalized care, provided with compassion and respect. At Ambrosia Treatment Center, that’s exactly what they will receive. For more information, reach out to our admissions page today.
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